Every year we conduct surveys in our church.
We love data.
Well, let me rephrase...We love data that affirms what we’re doing. We grudgingly appreciate data that tells us we aren’t doing well.
As one of my favorite 80's cartoons used to say,
“And now we know. And, knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!!!”
Man that was a good cartoon.
Anyway, a few years ago our survey revealed a not so fun trend. We had stopped growing.
For years, our church had grown at a steady pace...until it stopped.
During the fall months, we actually went backwards for the first time in something like 25 years. Ouch.
So, what do you do when you aren’t growing as a church?
I’d bet that most of us have been there or are there right now.
Specifically, what should you invest in when it feels critical to invest in the right areas?
We all know of churches that have permanently shut their doors. We don’t want to be that church!
So, let’s talk about where to invest when your church isn’t growing.
1. Kids and Students
Ok. Sure, as a student pastor I’m a little partial here, but I assure you this isn’t about my personal job security.
I have had so many conversations through the years with families who started attending our church because of our kids or student ministries.
Sometimes they are families who attended a different church that didn’t have a strong student ministry.
But often times, they are families who either stopped attending church or never really had.
The last time I checked our numbers, close to 25% of the students in our student ministry come from families who don’t attend our church.
My point is that a thriving kids and student ministry can be one of your strongest avenues of growth.
If your church isn’t growing and you’re unsure where to invest, I’d start by investing in kids and students.
What do people experience when they come to your church for the first time?
A few questions:
You get the idea.
First impressions are HUGE.
If your church isn’t growing, it may have something to do with what first time guests experience.
All I’m saying is that hospitality matters.
If you want to make some headway in this area, I would suggest hiring a few people outside your church to give you a “secret shopper” experience.
Their feedback may just help you see what you can’t see because of your familiarity with your church.
One of the reasons our church wasn’t growing was a lack of compelling vision.
We had sort of gotten into a rut of just doing church.
Of course, church is very important, but our work wasn’t fueled by a compelling vision of what God was calling us, as a specific body of believers, to do in the world.
When our key staff got away for a few days and explored vision and mission, we rediscovered what God was calling us to do in our city and the results were catalytic.
We became excited and energized and this renewed vision has propelled us forward.
If you are stalled out as a church, it may be time to get away with key staff and ask,
“What is it that God is calling us to do in our region?”
When we rediscover purpose as a congregation, the results can be pretty amazing.
4. The Community
Most of the time, people who don’t go to church aren’t terribly interested in church.
If we want to attract these people, we need to get outside the walls of our church.
It’s no secret that a huge part of the explosive growth in the early church was the way Jesus followers loved each other and served people in their communities.
Perhaps one of the most strategic things you can do as a church to jumpstart growth is to invest in your community.
Consider asking community leaders,
“How can we help?”
By serving the community in meaningful ways, you may just discover a renewed sense of purpose as a church, as well as renewed interested in your church from people in the community.
One of the basic longings of the human heart is belonging.
We all need a place where we are known and loved.
Churches that offer a strong sense of belonging are magnetic.
If you’re not growing, I would suggest investing in relationships.
Start with your staff team, because the culture of the church flows out of the staff team.
When’s the last time your staff team shared their stories with each other?
When’s the last time your staff team hung out after work or grilled out at someone’s house?
And what about the volunteer team or the team of elders and deacons.
The bottom line is this: When we love working and serving together, it is contagious.
If we invest in relationships in our church, we might just become the kind of church where people experience a deep sense of belonging.
So there you go, five ways to invest if your church isn’t growing.
I hope this has been helpful.
If you’re in a place where your church isn't growing, feel free to reach out with questions in the comments.
Or perhaps you’ve rekindled growth in your church after a season of decline.
We’d love to hear about what worked in your church. Feel free to share ideas in the comments below as well. Thanks for reading.