5 Barriers to Church Growth

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Growth Barrier No. 2: Self-Development

Growing churches are led by growing leaders. So, if you’ve stopped progressing personally, your church is not far behind.

Jimmy Britt, pastor of Rocky River Community Church in Concord, N.C., recently realized the power of this truth.

Jimmy had grown his church to 150 when he got stuck. After learning about the barrier of self-development, he set up a personal growth plan for himself, focusing on leadership ability and spiritual maturity.

Sure enough, when he started growing as an individual, his church started growing again. An organization can never outpace the inherent qualities of its leader.

When a pastor isn’t growing:

  • The sermons are stale.
  • The congregation’s passion for ministry wanes.
  • The staff stops growing.
  • The church stops growing.

An intentional reading plan is the single best avenue for personal growth.

Set a reading goal that will stretch you—perhaps a book a month—and spend focused time in the areas of theology, church history and philosophy, in addition to reading your Bible.

Also, schedule time to attend key conferences and plan opportunities to seek out and meet with mentors. Personal development is essential not only for your own health and balance, but also for the growth of your church.

Growth Barrier No. 3: Sharing

Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused.

If you notice a decline in your number of first-time guests and an increase in discussion of inwardly focused programs, beware! You are about to fall victim to the sharing barrier.

In my experience, healthy growing churches will have a ratio of five first-time guests to every 100 regular attendees. So, if you are averaging 200 people per week, you should average 10 first-time guests per week.

Watch this ratio carefully, and take its waning as a warning sign.

When this barrier starts blocking your growth, here are some ways you can break through it:

  • Teach on relational evangelism.
  • Set an example by telling stories of how you’ve invited people to church.
  • Do servant evangelism outreach.
  • Challenge staff, volunteers and attendees to invite friends.
  • Read an evangelism or church growth book with your staff and key volunteers.
  • Ask someone who has experienced life change to share his or her testimony.

Growth Barrier No. 4: Worship Service

Your weekly worship service is the front door through which people are introduced to your church. If not done correctly, it can become a big barrier.

To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size. If you are a church of 100 people, intentionally create a worship service that looks like it’s for 200 people. Take your preaching up a notch. Energize your worship time. Create the excitement that would be present in a bigger crowd. Moreover, it’s essential to get in the habit of looking at your service through the eyes of your guests and regular attendees. What kind of impression are you giving them?

Improve the quality of your service in the following ways:

  • Tweak your transitions.
  • Set up feedback and develop evaluation mechanisms.
  • Visit larger, growing churches and benchmark against what they are doing.
  • Attend cutting-edge seminars and leadership conferences.

Jeff Gunn, pastor of CrossWalk Lutheran Church in Phoenix, saw incredible growth when he was able to overcome this worship service barrier.

A few years ago, Jeff started a new congregation in a long-standing community that was being transformed by new development. As a strong communicator, he grew the church to 100 people in no time.

But Jeff didn’t have a worship leader. In his Sunday services, he was cueing up and playing recorded music.

When Jeff made the decision to improve his services by bringing in a worship leader, he quickly broke the 125 mark and grew to more than 200 people. As he’s learned, sometimes you have to get out of your own way and do what needs to be done to create a quality experience for your attendees.

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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.

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