Many ailing churches are desperate to stem the loss of members. Jesus settled the limits of what he would do to attract a crowd (Matthew 4:1-11), but some churches have not. Church growth is about sharing Christ, not increasing numbers for the sake of numbers.
What is the Issue? More than 100 churches close their doors each week. Thousands of other congregations have declining memberships. Anxious to grow, many congregations adopt wacky methods to attract protentional members:
- Easter Bunnies skydive into parking lots on Easter weekend.
- Visiting fire trucks assist with baptism.
Do these activities promote genuine church growth? Are they consistent with the methods of Jesus?
Background. After World War II, church growth surfaced in a variety of forms:
- Evangelism Explosion
- Sunday school growth spiral
- Seeker services, et.
Growing churches usually show concern for life-changing relationships with Christ, but casual comments reveal lesser motives:
- We need a pastor like ______ Church.
- Our service doesn’t attract young people.
- We need to grow ourselves out of this problem.
Comments like these, expose concern for the church as an institution, not the spiritual needs of people. As the religious expression of America’s “bigger is better” culture, church growth is competitive. “Growing out of a problem is a nice way to say new members can increase our cash flow.
Christians often confuse numbers with the presence of the Holy Spirit. If a church is big, the Spirit is present. Small says the opposite. Consequently, many churches strive to be larger for the sake of size and pride. The message of Christ and the needs of people on the outside are overlooked.
Emerging Trends. Small and medium-sized churches can take heart because trends are changing. America’s love affair with bigness has diminished. People now leave major cities in large numbers, looking for a better quality of life in smaller communities. The rise of “farm-to-table” restaurants tells us consumers may value food quality over the low price of mass-produced food. Small is beautiful.
Some Christians may want a megachurch, but others want a house church or a neighborhood church. Size may not be a limiting factor in attracting new people. All-sized churches can be effective.
If this trend is accurate, churches do not need to copy programs from other churches or plan activities full of glitz and glamor just to get a crowd. They do not have to sacrifice the integrity of the gospel to stem the loss of members.
What You Can Do
Here are a few things you can do to grow and to be faithful, no matter your size:
- Be authentic. Transparency and genuineness are essential in spiritual matters. The unchurched run from insincerity, especially in spiritual matters.
- Strive for quality worship. People long for Bible-based sermons, uplifting prayers, and on-pitch music in a succinct format. However, you may worship, make it the best.
- Live out of your strengths. One small church adopted the motto, “Where we know each other by name.” They used their small size as a strength and doubled in two years.
- Be Friendly. Two worshippers visited six churches. Members in only one church greeted them personally. Be that church.
The Bottom Line.
It is hard to imagine Jesus rejecting turning stones into bread and then celebrating the resurrection with a sky-diving bunny. Church growth is about sharing Christ, not increasing numbers for the sake of numbers.
Things churches should avoid:
- They believe they must be a certain size to be effective.
- Adopting gimmicks for the sake of numbers.
Things churches must do:
- Improve worship quality and friendliness.
- Use existing strengths.
- Focus outward.
- Share Christ.
For a Deeper Read
This Substack article inspired the article above.
It is easy to put spirituality into a meme. This business book explains true authenticity. The reader can make applications to faith.
Does your church have a strategic plan? And if it does, have you recently reviewed it to ensure that it reflects your response to the challenges presented by the post-pandemic 21st century?
The Center for Healthy Churches is here to help you build a strategic vision and plan that reflects your church’s mission and hopes for the future. This isn’t just an outline of where you want to be as a church, but how you are going to get there.
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