How Churches Prosper and Grow

For several weeks I’ve been talking about reasons churches fail to grow and sometimes close their doors. Now today I want to discuss how churches grow. What is it in their DNA that accommodates and even encourages growth?

Of course, in many cases church growth comes for a variety of reasons, but there are also some fundamental factors that tend to induce church growth. They include the following:

  1. The church is clear on what it believes…In fact, most successful churches are clear on their beliefs. I’m a member of a very large church and it has been on a growth pattern for over 30 years. One of the things our pastor decided to do regularly is teach a “What We Believe” class to new people interested in joining the church.

To the extent possible, he wanted everyone to understand the main doctrines of the church. Of course, this doesn’t induce growth by itself, but when most people understand the church’s mission, values and main doctrines, it makes it easier for them to embrace the church and motivates church members to invite others.

  1. The church is friendly…There is nothing worse than visiting an unfriendly church. When people are welcoming it attracts others. Hopefully, most homes are friendly places, and you expect the same from your church home.
  2. The church empowers its people…When people are part of the decision making process at the church…when they’re allowed to do things to serve without someone looking down their collective necks…they tend to assume ownership. This can mean anything from doing janitorial work to Facebook postings to visiting the sick, etc.

 Of course, it requires that church leadership also give up some control. I’ve often said that a church can have engagement or control of its membership, but it can’t have both. This assumes also that the church acknowledges the contributions of its members and celebrates their success!

I remember one church that had a very successful campaign…so successful that they created a multi-page booklet to commemorate the event. The only problem was that in the entire booklet the person who chaired the campaign wasn’t mentioned once. He got over it, but he expressed that it bothered him.

  1. The church cares for its pastor…At least part of caring for your pastor is empowering your people to help. Pastor burnout is real, and so is pastoral attrition. When the church cares for its pastor, usually as a person with a spouse and children who can’t physically do everything, then pastors tend to remain enthusiastic about the church.
  1. The church has an outward focus…When churches are insular and focused on themselves, they tend to become territorial and selfish. It is quite contrary to the idea of service that Jesus intended. By contrast, an outward focus asks questions constantly like, “How can we reach more people and how best can we serve them?”
  1. The church’s music and messages are powerful and relevant and not compromised…Today, most people are not looking for watered down, feel good messages. They are dealing with serious issues and need something to hold on to. They want the truth presented in ways that help them both understand and cope with daily living…and they want music that soothes their souls and expresses their deepest feelings.
  1. The church challenges its people…If you learn about the life and sacrifices of Jesus and His disciples, you should be challenged. However, beyond the teaching there should be opportunities to challenge people to stretch and serve in a variety of ways. That could be giving to a church campaign or volunteering in one of many ministries.