Not So Random Thoughts on Church Growth and Breaking Attendance Barriers

growth chart
Let’s start this conversation with a couple of questions around motivation…
Why do you want your church to grow?
– Unbiblical reasons for growth – What are they and how can you avoid them?
– Does your church know your motivation – Do they know you have a passion for lost souls?
– The old coaching slogan rings true its not about Xs and Os it’s about Bobby’s and Joe’s
When your church grows who will get the credit?
– Deep dependence on God over and above strategies, structure, systems, stories, services, and sermons.
– Prayer and praise
That all being said healthy things grow.
Focus on healthy structures, strategies, systems, stories, services and sermons.
1. Structure
– Are you structured for growth or control?
– Are you structured for what you have now or what you want to be?
– Will your skeletal structure handle the extra weight of growth?
2. Strategies (marketing)
– Think saturation – it’s not a one time thing. It’s a slow and steady rain.
– How do people hear about your church? Personal invite, signs, internet search, Facebook marketing?
– How systematic are you in this?
– If someone sees a car decal or does an internet search and wants to get more info about your church how easily assessable are you? Is there a main phone number? Are there normal business hours?
3. Systems (Your systems need to be repeatable and systematic)
– Sunday systems – What is the plan from the time a person steps on your campus to the time they leave? What is your first impression plan? What kind of vibe are you going for in worship? If you are a non believer would you understand it and would you come back for more of it? If your members have non believing friends would they consider it a safe place to invite them?
– Assimilation system – Remember you can grow a church by increasing the number of guests and also by simply increasing the retention rate of your current number of guests. So what is your assimilation plan? What is your retention rate? How many unique touches does a guest get the two weeks after their visit? Are there clear next steps for guests? (Ours are baptism and bible groups) Remember you have to have a plan but then you have to work the plan!
4. Stories
– We get what we celebrate or we get what we tolerate – the choice is ours as leaders
– We rotate four categories of stories on our story board…
1. Invite stories
2. Bible group stories
3. Generosity stories
4. Service stories
– Overtime people will begin to get the message. These are the things that get a pat on the back around here. Your church members are like your kids. When you brag on good behavior you will get more good behavior.
– You have to lead the way in sharing your own stories. My people know by name the guys I’m praying for and am witnessing too. They know that my number one burden is for the lost. The church hoppers figure out real quick that they are not our target. The good ones that are church hopping for the right reasons might stay. The bad ones will quickly leave. Either way I don’t invest a lot of time and effort in them. If they are coming here thinking I’m going to dinner and play golf with them they are coming to the wrong place. I reserve my time for lost guys, future leaders, and family. The already churched that will come that you want to stay will get that. The others will leave.
5. Services
– Is there a standard of excellence?
– Do you start on time and end on time?
– Do they know their kids are taken care of well. Unchurched are concerned that their kids are safe, having fun, and learning about God – in that order.
– Remember a church for the all ready reach will give grace to bad singers and bad sermons because they have a relationship with that person. But someone just dropping in that does not know the people on stage will quickly leave when it is below standard.
– I asked our elders why they thought we grew so fast after I came. They said “everything changed”. Don’t die a death of small cuts. There is a thing called death by incrementation and many a church has died as a result of it.
– Be big and bold with change.
– Adopt a culture and theology of change.
– Sometimes we change stuff just for the sake of change
– Andy Stanley calls this “new and improved.” What is new and improved this year over than last year at your church?
– Living things are constantly changing
– When you stop changing you are dead
6. Sermons 
– This matters big time. In the end we will grow our church by the effective preaching of the Word. I’m convinced that we can do all the other stuff but if our sermons stink it won’t matter. People still come to church to hear “Thus says the Lord”.
– The sermon needs to be biblical. (We choose to do mostly books of the Bible with one or two topical series scattered in.)
– The sermon needs to be relevant. It’s possible to package expositional sermons in relevant ways. (Example – Bad Bosses – Kings, Culture Crisis – Daniel, When Life Gets Hard – Holy Week, etc. etc.)
– Relevance with the sermon many times comes down to packaging. Things like graphics, modern illustrations, bumper videos.
– The sermon must be evangelistic.
In the end remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. Know that no matter what size your church is there will always be more to do. You are building a house that will never be finished until Jesus comes back.