Church Growth…How do we grow our churches?
September 3, 2007 25 Comments
I attend a small SBC church. We usually have around 80 or so for Sunday morning worship. The majority of our congregation is elderly. We have 5 or 6 active younger (30’s to 40’s) couples. So, as you can imagine, attracting new people has been a hot topic of conversation. A short article in our local association monthly newsletter touches on the growth issue and got me to thinking after I read it.
So how do you grow your church? I think the first thing to remember is that God is the one who will grow His church. Matthew 16:18 say “….on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It is His, not ours and we must always remember that. As such, we need to pray that our congregation will become obedient in all that He commands and trust that He will send the workers in His timing.
With that in mind, I want to make a few observations. In our discussions of how to attract more people it seems the first thing that comes to mind is offering more programs. On the surface that sounds like a good direction to go. After all, “If you build it, they will come” (loose semi-quote from the movie Field of Dreams). Right, just offer the right programs, publicize it and the people will show up. There are two major problems I see with this approach. First, as a small church who are you going to get to work these programs. In small churches the people who are willing to work are probably being overworked. You know the old 80-20 or maybe now it is the 90-10 rule. Can you see the catch-22 situation here: You don’t have enough people to work new programs to attract new people and you can’t attract new people without offering new programs. What do you do? Second, the people who come for the new programs are committed to the programs, not the church. By this I mean that as soon as something newer and “bigger” is offered by another church they may leave and attend where that program is offered. I am not sure that it is possible to stop this because some people just want to be part of the “hot new thing”. Considering the time, money, and other resources (which are usually very limited in small churches) you have to decide if it is worth it. After all, we are commanded to be good stewards of the resources God gives us.
The article referred to a PhD dissertation that “hypothesized that churches who offered more programs would grow more than churches that offered fewer programs”. Interestingly, the research found the opposite was true. It found “that the more programming offered, the less churches grew”. So how should we use this information? It seems we should focus our efforts on only a few areas and do them really well. Not stretch ourselves so thin. This would have the effect of simplifying things for our people and simple is usually better in my opinion (think the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid). One suggestion from the article is that we can offer more options within our existing focus but not more programs.
What do you think – add more programs or simplify and excel at what we do well? If you go to a small church, how has your church dealt with this?