4 Reasons Why Your Church Isn’t Growing

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Discover four obstacles to church growth and tips to overcome them.

I’m no church growth guru with a magic wand. My last name isn’t Chan, nor does it rhyme with Schmatterson (I love you Mark Batterson). I’m an Associate Pastor at a LifeChurch.tv campus in the state closest to what heaven will be like (Yes, Texas. Uh…go Rangers). I’m a SIMPLE dude serving a BIG God with a SOLD OUT group of people that are passionate about seeing their city changed.

OK, so enough about not having all the answers. Here are 4 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing Like It Should Be:

1. You don’t know your sweet spot. You aren’t the church down the road. You aren’t Saddleback or New Spring. You are _____ (fill in the blank). God has called you, Pastor A, to lead Church B and Leaders C, D, E and P, to influence Community Z. You have a set of strengths or gifts and so do all the key leaders and everyone else in your organization. God has given your church a specific calling, a sweet spot. Question is, have you really tapped into it? Figure out your sweet spot. Get in your zone. Clarify your calling. Then go and do your thang like no one else! Once you get in this zone, you can say NO to the softball league you loathe, NO to the fruitcake baking ministry you are average at, and YES to whatever is it the good Lord has created you to do.

Tip: As you begin to clarify & develop your sweet spot, don’t just write it out on Saturday and tell everyone what it is on Sunday. Develop a shared vision that everyone can own and go after it!

2. You are not personally inviting people. Seriously, you are one of the key leaders in your church. If you are not living, breathing and (dare I say….no I won’t say it, but it rhymes with hooping) inviting people, the rest of your crew isn’t going to invite people either. People are smart and they know when you aren’t smoking what you are selling! I try to invite someone to my church every single day. I know that sounds crazy, but I promise I’m not annoying about it. I don’t do it every day, but I am genuinely interested in the people that I engage with in the community. I’m aware of their need for other people and more importantly their need for a God that is nuts about them, regardless of their messed up lives! Every day I am looking for the hurting, the messed over, and the broken. I don’t always invite every single person to church, but I’m trying and I’m praying for change in the community. I believe this- if the ones I invite will just come check it out, their lives could be drastically changed forever! Do you believe the same about your church? What will it take to get you there and get you inviting people??

Tip: I carry invite cards everywhere I go- in my car, in my borderline girly man bag satchel, everywhere. I always have a story to retell about how scared I was to invite this guy or how nervous I was to talk to that couple. I’m pretty sure people from my church hear about the stories and are challenged to do the same thing. Heck, even if they don’t, I’m inviting a lot of people!

3. You aren’t ready for the growth. Deep down, you know that because you aren’t yet in your sweet spot (reminder: by this I mean that your church doesn’t know what it is uniquely positioned, called and expected by God to BE and DO), you really aren’t ready to see the real growth you know you should be seeing. It’s like in the eighties when people put patches on blue jean jackets. How silly would it be to put the best patches on a jacket that doesn’t even fit (especially if it was a Beastie Boys patch)?? Yeah, that would be silly!  In the same way that you wouldn’t put cool patches on your 80′s jacket, you can grow if your church isn’t ready for growth! You’ve got to know who you are as an organization AND be comfortable in your own skin. Side note- I think the 80s reference is a bad example, but I couldn’t resist!

A better example would be the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). Simply put, the faithful servants were given more! Pretty simple, right? I know this isn’t exclusively a church growth principle, but I’d put money that the truth applies here. Why would God give you more people if your church isn’t being faithful with the ones you have? Why would God send a HUGE influx of new people if you are hoarding everything to yourself as a leader and not empowering able and called people, other than yourself to minister, lead, guide and develop others? Just think on that for a moment. Marinate on it even… then go get ready to grow!

Tip: I’m not suggesting that just because you aren’t growing doesn’t mean you haven’t been faithful. I don’t know your situation and don’t know your heart. I would challenge you to ask, “Are people at your church ready for the growth or is it still just about them?” If people still think it is all about them, you are in for a long, uphill battle. Sometimes you need to separate the men from the boys before you kick everyone’s rears into gear (go back and study Gideon in Judges). Develop the right people, get the right vision, get it inside of you and go for it!

4. People don’t have clear “Next Steps” to take. The buzz of your cool (or not so cool) band will wear off after awhile. People need a place to belong and they need to know what is a good Next Step for their life as a follower of Christ. New believers need clear Next Steps. People that have gifts to use need clear Next Steps to know how to use those gifts. Those that are leaders need to know how to be empowered and released to lead others. Those that don’t have healthy relationships with other believers need to know how to find those relationships.

Next Steps don’t have to be programs. They don’t have to be a 1, 2, 3 ministry. However, they do need to be simple and intuitive. If someone has to jump through 18 hoops to get in a small group, they are probably going to give up after hoop number 5 or 6. Make it clear, make it simple. Everyone has a place in the body of Christ!

Tip: Challenge EVERYONE to take a Next Step in their faith. For some, it may be as simple as picking up a Bible. For others, it may be restoring a broken relationship. If ALL people are not always taking some type of Next Step in their faith life, it is highly unlikely that they will continue to be a sold out, kingdom building, church growing, follower of Christ!

What are the most common personal challenges for church leaders when their church just isn’t growing the way it should be? Love to hear you thoughts in the comments below!

Chad Missildine Chad Missildine is a Pastor with LifeChurch.tv in Fort Worth, Texas with a focus on leadership & community development. In three years, he has helped develop the first LifeChurch.tv campus outside of the Oklahoma metro area to reach a weekly attendance of over 1,000 people. Prior to ministry, Chad was an entrepreneur in real estate, luxury home construction & business. He blogs regularly at TheWayItCouldBe.com, encouraging cultural impact through personal transformation.

More from Chad Missildine or visit Chad at http://thewayitcouldbe.com

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  • http://www.jacook.org Ja Cook

    I love these! All of them just kind’ve slapped me in the face…especially the 3rd one. It’s so easy to focus on why you’re not growing and miss the fact that you’re just not ready to grow. Thanks for sharing these!

  • http://www.kmjohnsonspeaks.com/ KM Johnson Davis

    This is great! Short sweet and to the point…funny how when facing the 18 hoops I tend to give up after 3 or 4! ;) Stay Blessed! ~K.M. Johnson

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      K.M., thanks. Don’t give up!

  • http://www.wearecourageous.com Bobby Minor

    Chad awesome stuff! The sweet spot is really key to it all. If a church hasn’t clarified who they are uniquely called and equipped to reach there will always feel like something is missing. The church where I pastor made a decision over two years ago to drop our Spanish language service and determined our sweet spot was 3rd generation Hispanics and beyond. The ones that may speak or understand Spanish but prefer English. Since we’ve identified our sweet spot we’ve grown from the 180’s (January 2010) to over 600 this past Easter with a weekly average in the 400’s with over 60 baptisms in the time. I will add that while we have identified our sweet spot we welcome and embrace everyone.

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Bobby, so great to hear you guys are in your sweet spot! Keep leading strong and thanks for the comment.
       

      • hdoden

        So, how are you to go about finding this ‘sweet spot’?

    • http://www.facebook.com/WellnessConsultant.Minister.Jeani Jeani Dickens

      A church I visit is in a prominent Hispanic Community & I have oft wondered should we have an interpretuer for our Spanish Speaking population that also visit a prominently white, English speaking fellowship/church? Perhaps I have thought we should go forward sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit Lead are my thoughts yet I want all the tools that may be available for us to use All to & for Gods Glory! I like what you have said in your post, the 3rd generation! Hmmm……Thank You! Blessings!

  • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

    THANK YOU!!!! You spoke to me in simple small words even I can understand…now to just DO IT! Tweeted and FB’d this by the way. If @bobbyminor likes it thats an endorsement!

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Thanks Clark!

  • Archie pennington

    Chad you might be a simple dude but you are full of an awesome God! Thanks so much for some really good, practicle, ideas that all churches both large and small can use. More importantly good points for an old war-horse of a youth pastor like myself, to follow. archie

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Archie, you war horses have led the way! Thanks for the kind words.

  • DivaDThatsMe

    You asked: What are the most common personal challenges for church leaders when their church just isn’t growing the way it should be?

    Putting down their pride to evaluate why.

    Excellent article, btw :)

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Diva, GREAT insight. Thanks for sharing…
       

  • onfire4God

    Some good thoughts, but I almost stopped reading more than once because of the cutesy comments. Get to the point and skip all the chatter. It’s a waste of time and isn’t helpful.

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      On fire, thanks for the comment. That’s the great thing about the Internet; you don’t have to keep reading. :)

    • Minister Jeani’ Dickens

       We are made in the image of God and God has many personalities. We are a body of Christ with many members……………..Jeani’D {minister of healing, charity, and a wellness coach}

    • J Bill

      Loved the comments. Showed your human side. Too many pastors are reverent which translates badly to stuffy and in their minds above the rest of us minions. You’re relating a helpful message and not sharing a Vatican writing surrounded by Cardinals. Get over yourself people.

  • Ben

    Chad Good stuff!

    I wanna mention here that many churches do not grow, beside the point you mention, pride… and also pastors today the consider the church to be their church and not Jesus’. And when you try to challenge God you gonna lose, it does not matter how many member you have in your church!

    Ben

  • hanser007

     Thanks for the thoughts.  I am challenged because I feel we are somewhere in the process of finding our sweet spot.  We may just not be ready to grow but somehow God is ready before we are sometimes – I guess I mean we can learn on the fly too.- not sure why someone gets mad at cutesy comments.  I guess that’s just not their sweet spot… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/steroidsuk steroids uk

     asking people to invite their friends along works well.

    dianabol

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Steroids, that is a BIG one! Even more of a challenge is getting them to do it…

  • Philip Hargrov

    Wow I enjoyed this, a great eye opener. The Sweet Spot? I like that….Now its time to work the plan and find out why we were missing the spot.

    • http://twitter.com/chadmissildine Chad Missildine

      Thanks Philip.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Z7GMTWXF3W7RKZ4I2FJC7AESWM shadow

    I like your article and agree with it. What I have run up against was “you cannot be baptized unless you take these required classes, agree to tithe, go join a small group (which all hate divorced women), agree to give x amount of time, ect ect. Please don’t put so much pressure on your visitors. I ran after the 3rd church did that to me.  I want to learn about Jesus and be saved and baptized, yet I am not even allowed that step without all these demands i, right now, cannot do. Please stop doing that.  Would you demand that a tiny newborn baby get out of that bassinet and scrub the floor and do the laundry?

    • Chad Missildine

      Shadow, great thought. That is a big commitment in a low commitment kind of culture. We are all about people making commitments, but try to meet them where they are. We are asking people to take a “next step” somewhere and work on the others. It’s recognizing that discipleship isn’t just a series of classes that you can check off a list, rather it is a lifelong process that often looks different for everyone.

    • Pownewlife8

      Shadow, I understand where you are coming from. This was a huge turn off for me when I would go and visit a church. It’s like asking someone to buy a house that they no nothing about. The Lord wants us to be informed so we are able to make a sound decision and this is with Faith in everything that we do. For without Faith it is impossible to please Him. I’ve been in churches that asked me to join the first day I went to visit. I strongly believe in obeying the word of God and when it says search things out, you need to search things out before making a move. This is a great article to share with others.

    • Eaglepastor

      Hey…sounds like you have been hurt.  Very sorry about that.  Our church has many women who are divorced/single and our small groups love women regardless of their marital status.  We encourage people to be saved and baptized and then invite them to our class called THE NEXT STEP>  Some take the class before becoming a member.  But don’t let their ignorance keep you from the GROWTH  God has for you.  We are not talking about scrubbing floors, we are talking about spiritual GROWTH and every believer should have that as their goal.  The purpose of our salvation is not to get us to heaven.  The purpose of our salvation is for us to grow to become just like Jesus. You need to get in a church that is less judgmental and more growth minded.  :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/WellnessConsultant.Minister.Jeani Jeani Dickens

    I am so Glad to have found this site today, one I can relate to & understand & share with ohers our various comments & thoughts. I am a wellness coach and also a minister, especially in the area of healing & health but one with a heart for those who are lost souls, broken hearted and in bondage. We lost our building and soon afterwards my husband had a stroke and we lost most of our income. Our litle Fellowship was growing and since all of these happenings I have been feeling the need for and listening for guidence from the Holy Spirit, a willing vessel for my Lord to use.This is a good place as I find my way back into the calling Jesus gave me as a child. I was in the world, lost as I like Jonah rebelled against my calling. I was so happy when I was in my “sweet” spot. Now since my husbands stroke it seems he has no more desires to re-estabish ourselves with a body of Christ and go on in what God has called me to do. I am 61 now & after raising my children I decided to re-marry and I am so heart broken and feel the man whom I married almost 9 years ago no longer shares my Passion for Christ and my calling. Please keep this in prayer that God will move on his heart and Guide our footsteps! I feel so out of sinc and held Back from doing Gods will. I do think the stroke may be part of this uninterest.

    • Drolandgs

      They let you remarry? I am divorced and alone and the churches in my small town won’t even let me inside because of my “sin of divorce”. Their words, not mine.

      • Prophetess_moody

        when “they” shut you out Jesus always has a place for you in the presence of your enemies, He just preached through me today ” A diamond in the Hand of the Rock” & that Rock is Christ! you are that precious gem, he removes the dirt from around you even that’s thrown at you, cleanse u with His Word & let you shine like a diamond! He’s the prongs holding you together now Shine on precious gem, forgive & Love, Shine on precious gems, you & the 61 yr old, other commenter, Love Prophetess MM,”on my face” ministries….

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FVWUCP4BCD3ZU5B6OM2YP7MRMU peggy

          th ank your word of expresses really touch .my heart

      • Rtapastor

        God is a forgiving God.  He did not intend for us to divorce.  However, the only unforgiveable sin is blaspheming of the Holy Ghost.  Re-marry or marry the one God tells you to.  Be equally yoked and press on.

    • Arevseven

      I pray that by now you have found that comfort, and answer that you have been searching for. If you have not dont give up. God sees and knows your hearts desire is to please Him. Keep the faith! Hold your head up, for Jesus is the healer of the heart as well as the natural body. He is able to restore the ministry that He has given you as well.

  • Lesiasrealty

    When foundering pastors have to be overly concerned with
    Ministry finances n personal finances as well it becomes hard to focus on souls not impossible but a distraction from fulfilling the assignment! They have responsibility of caring for Gods house there homes there children there children college there retirement who will be able to keep Gods house going! It’s all part of it not just preaching it’s oversight of sectar of Gods kingdom in earth without his help the true pastors could not do it! So many hurting people even pastors themselves. When shepherds bleed.

  • Taitomataki

    i think with some bible verses will be more and more intresting. but good thoughts anyway.

  • Revwandac

    Good article. Thank you.  I will study all week going                                              

  • Gnsmchurch

    Wow! What an eye opener..thank you so much! Game on, And I whole hardedly except the challenge to just “Stretch my Faith” Stay Encouraged.

  • Danilobritanico33

    It seem you find the right comment on this article especially on the point no.2 where some people ignore to invite people in the church, we cannot establish a full grown church if we don’t have people around us to participate in the ministry’ logically inviting people in the church prove to be an integral part of a growing church mindless people think it is only the work of a pastor to invite people around by this idea it lessen the inability of every church member, furthermore in point no.3 you got the right idea the church has no proper program on discipleship, even they invite people they never know what should be the next move. it is hard to find nowadays a
    competent person to involved in followup we need need to follow up our invited people so as to grow the church.. i am very thankful for this wonderful teaching that you imparted us God Bless You..

  • Floydboothe83

    you go two worship god if you don’t belive in him your watseing your time playing church playing a christan every one needs two belive things will get done

  • peter wang

    church is the church of God, the mission is of God, we are the tool of God. trying to be good tool of God needs the faithfullness, openness and humbleness…….

  • RA

    LOVE THIS!! Really helps me to get back into focus why we are here in the first place – we’re not a staff of business suits, sitting in lofty “penthouses of faith”, looking down on the little people and trying to come up with gimmicks that will draw them and their money to us… it’s all about God’s calling (sweet spot), vision, and loving people enough to hang with them and invite them in… thanks! :)

  • Pks112944

    Is your church growing

  • Pastor B.

    Coming from a Pastor from another generation….You have very good insight! May God bless & develope your thoughts among those who will receive it!

  • Emilia Sabonket

    yes post as emilia sabonket or as a guest thanks

  • Lloyd Kennedy

    Yes you are right in saying small churches Must give All their people things to do and steps to take in their walk in Christ, too often folk move on because there is a lack of encouragement or trust from the leadership, after I Prayed to the Lord to be Active in His Kingdom, The Spirit lead me to another local church body who Immediately got me Involved in being part of a small group, gave me many chances to help out and serve inside and outside the church. The Lord answered my Prayer! Now after 2 yrs I am really excited about what God is doing and continuing to do through me, Often the work God wants us to do is Out of Our Comfort Zone but this is where we all get Much Closer to the Lord. I believe there Must be a Balance in all things Church, when This Balance is Out, the local church can’t grow as it should. Loving one another is the Key! Every Believer Must be Included no matter who they are or what people think they Can’t Do.