5 Barriers to Church Growth

Decision No. 2: I want to see my church grow.

Does thinking about the next barrier you’re facing scare you into inactivity? Don’t get discouraged. God never gives us a vision without supplying what we need to fulfill it.

When you’re asking the right question, and you know in your core that both you and God want your church to grow, nothing can stop you—but growth barriers can definitely slow you down.

So whether you are growing a small church in the suburbs or a megachurch in a big city, you need to be able to recognize the top five growth barriers and know how to meet them head-on.

Growth Barrier No. 1: Space

Space is the most fundamental barrier we all face—and the easiest to overlook.

As church leaders, we love full rooms, so we say, “Pack ’em in, there’s still a few seats!” But the truth is that when a room reaches 70 percent of its seating capacity, it’s full.

Period.

Here is a four-step exercise to perform frequently as your church grows:

Step 1: Determine how many seats you have in your main worship space.

Step 2: Multiply that number by 0.7 (70 percent).

Step 3: Determine how many people you averaged in attendance over the last month.

Step 4: Is the number in Step 3 greater than the number in Step 2? If the answer is yes, you’ve got to open up more seats or find a larger location—fast.

At The Journey, I learned this lesson the hard way. Our first location in Manhattan was at a small comedy club-type theater. At capacity, the space could hold 110 people.

Seven months after our launch, we were averaging close to 80 people each week; we would bump up to 100 every now and then, but our number would always return to below 80.

Why? It’s because we were full. We just didn’t want to admit it.

People stopped inviting their friends because they perceived there was no more room. Some regular attendees stopped coming because it was hard to find a seat. Eventually, we caught on and moved to a space that was three times bigger—and our church began growing again.

I’ve seen many pastors of churches with fewer than 250 attendees start second services in an effort to circumvent this barrier. Starting a second service too early usually does more damage than good, so don’t think of it as an easy fix.

For example, let’s say a church of 120 decides to start a second service. Inevitably, one service will have 100 people and the other one will have 20—it’s impossible to equally divide two services, although careful choice of service times does play a part. Over time, the 20 people will be disappointed with the small crowds and filter back into the larger service.

The better choice for a church of 120 is to find a larger space and grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service. I encourage churches to be willing to move.

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Nelson Searcy
Nelson Searcy is the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church in New York City. Started in 2002, this groundbreaking church sees the majority of its growth coming from new believers and currently has locations in Manhattan, Queens, San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. Nelson is the author of over sixty church-growth resources. Nelson is an experienced church planter, coach and church-growth strategist. He is also the founder of www.ChurchLeaderInsights.com, the Church Leadership Training ministry of Nelson Searcy and The Journey Church.