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Is Your Church Stuck or Just Small?

I spent a lot of years trying to unstick a church that wasn’t stuck.

I thought it was stuck because it wasn’t getting bigger. And I’d been told in virtually every church leadership conference and book that if my church wasn’t growing numerically, we were stuck.

I didn’t want to pastor a stuck church.

I still don’t.

So I went to all the conferences on how to get unstuck. I read all the books. I applied all the principles.

None of them worked.

Pastors of fast-growing churches are always writing helpful blog posts with lists of all the things churches must be doing wrong if we’re not experiencing numerical growth. So I read a ton of blog posts listing 10 Ways to Get Your Church Unstuck, then applied those principles to my church.

They didn’t work either. 

So I prayed longer and harder.


Then I starting reading stories of pastors and churches that stopped trying to grow but just implemented the principles of church health. As soon as they did that, without trying to help God grow the church—boom!—the church started growing like crazy.

So I relaxed and stopped worrying about church growth. Our church worked on getting healthy instead and …

Nah, that didn’t grow the church either.

Finally, I left the modern church-growth movement behind and went back to the source. I read, re-read, preached and taught about the growth of the church in the book of Acts.

Still nothing.

The Question No One Told Me to Ask

Then I looked at my church again.

And I asked myself a question none of the conferences, books and blog posts ever suggested.

“If I took numerical growth off the table, would I call this church a healthy church?”

The answer was surprisingly obvious.


The church I pastor is one of the healthiest churches I know.

Which led to a follow-up question.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.