I grew up attending a growing Church. Unfortunately it quickly went into decline. Praise God it finally started growing again and is still growing today.
I eventually went on to Bible College and became a Church leader. As a preacher I have led 6 Churches while in college and since graduation. All of them have grown while I was leading them. One of them only grew by one family, which was big considering the situation. The others doubled in size or more. I have had the privilege of leading dozens and dozens of people to a saving relationship with Jesus.
While in ministry I have attended numerous conferences held at growing Churches to learn what they are doing. I have read about growing Churches and attended them while on vacation. I read books about church growth, evangelism, outreach and Church programming on a regular basis and have done so for the last 20 years. About 1/2 of my bookshelf contains books about reaching out to lost people as a Church and as a pastor.
Church growth is a topic I am very familiar with and I have learned a few simple principles through the years.
1. Church leadership is the single biggest factor in Church growth. The pastor, the elders, the deacons and “unofficial” leaders either hold the Church back or unleash it for outreach. I firmly believe the reason that most Churches do not reach more people for Jesus is because of their leadership.
2. A quality Sunday morning worship is a top priority. Growing Churches understand that Sunday morning is not about fellowship but rather about worship. Fellowship happens in other venues like Sunday School, small groups and simply fellowship events. Each week the Church gets together for a few hours for worship. Everything else is accomplished the other 6 days, but a great worship experience that engages non-believers is essential.
3. Healthy systems keep the Church moving forward. The human body has different systems – the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, etc. Each one must function properly for the body to do everything. The same is true in Christ’s body. There are systems that each Church has to accomplish the Lord’s will. There is an Outreach system, an Assimilation system, a Volunteer Ministry system, a Small Groups system, a Discipleship system, a Leadership system, a Finances system and a Worship System. Each Church is doing every one of these ministries, but growing Churches act intentionally. A flawed system will mess up the whole body. An ignored system will derail the whole train of growth.
4. Growth is painful and we like to avoid anything painful. I heard a camp manager once say, “The Church will not grow because it has looked at the price tag and determined it was too high.” I know what he means, because growth means change. Change is hard. I might have to give up my seat, listen to another style of music, connect to someone other than on Sunday morning, I might have to serve more, give more and be pushed to grow spiritually. Some people will hate it and complain and probably leave. The list could go on and on. It is hard on everyone – I think it is hardest on the leadership which leads me back to #1.
5. People must be clear about the eternal need for Church growth. Christians need to be clear that we believe the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3). Motivated by eternity we share Christ with our friends and family and we will pay any price to see them saved. Rick Warren once was quoted as saying, “The Church that refuses to reach out and share their faith is basically telling the world that they can go to Hell.”
There are dozens of other principles I could write about Church growth but these are the big ones. In fact, most other issues fall under one of these. These principles are the ones that I try to work on in the local Church. A Church must be constantly asking itself hard questions concerning these issues. If it doesn’t, the doors will not close immediately, but usually it will ride along at the same size for years without ever asking why. Or maybe I should say, they don’t care why.