We have all heard the data, the majority of churches in the United States are plateaued, not growing, or in decline. Statistically speaking, most of the pastors and leaders in the United States are in churches that are not growing. The numbers are even worse when you look at the percentages of churches that are growing and adding new believers as opposed to Christians from other churches and other areas. What can be done? I believe there are a few steps we can each take in our local context to make a difference. What better time than the Easter season? You will have more visitors this one Sunday than any other time of year.
First, we need to look at what is causing the lack of growth. Do people know about your church? There is a church in my neighborhood that I didn’t realize was even there until I drove past it. I would never have driven past it except for some road work. I had no idea that church was even there. They are in my neighborhood, and I had no idea it existed. It obviously isn’t in the most visible location, but if you are in that situation, it’s doubtful you can just move to a new building. Instead, you need to let people know you are there. Get your people out of the building and into the neighborhood. Block parties and prayer walking and visiting with the people around your church. Invite them to Easter service.
If people can see or know about your church, do you have a place for them? If your church is 80% full, you are maxed. I know that someone is bound to argue with me on this point, but it’s just a reality. If people can’t find a place to sit without feeling awkward, if they can’t find a place to park, if the Sunday School class is too full, they won’t come back. I have known a lot of churches that get full and then just stop. They are making budget, they are full, so they don’t really worry about growth anymore. They become a social service instead of Disciple makers. The goal is not to fill the building, the goal is to build the Kingdom. Want to be Kingdom minded? Take 20% of you people and start a new church. New location, new building, new name, new church. We need more churches. You will have more room to bring people into the family and another location to make disciples.
The other option to space is often used and never enjoyed. Adding a second service. I have been in many churches that are new and this is a necessity to get the giving base high enough to get a loan to build or add on to the building. I’m not going to say this is good or bad, it’s just a reality. It might be your reality. No one likes multiple services. It’s taxing on the Pastor and Worship leadership, it is more logistically trouble and people don’t get to see everyone. It stinks, but it reveals a bigger issue. In my opinion, maybe the biggest issue we don’t grow. The issue is . . . wait for it
This is OUR church. I don’t know about you, but I’m more interested in the church that belong to Jesus. Now, people won’t admit they are control freaks and won’t let anything change in their church, but here are some clues. First things exist the way they do because the people like it that way. The way that Sunday School runs, the parking, the seating, the schedule, the leadership teams, all tailored to the existing membership. If you have committees or teams or elders or deacons, who are they? Are they made up of people who have been at the church since the doors were installed? Have they been in the same roles for ever? Do they run the church? Where do you plug in new people? Are there new ideas and visions on leadership? Maybe the “new” leadership is simply the family of the old leadership. Unless you are the kids of an elder or deacon, you are not fit for leadership? Too often a church is run by a family and not the Spirit.
For a church to reach people for Christ, it may be uncomfortable for members and require some work. Church members will need to put aside some preferences, give up some luxuries for the cause of Christ. It may be difficult at first, but keep pushing forward. As people accept Christ and the Baptism waters are stirred, the joy will eclipse those comfort feelings. If we take a hard look at what the current practices are and what needs to change to bring new believers into the family and begin to disciple them, I think the choice will be easy. Easter brings us a great opportunity to begin to move in the right direction.