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5 Ways to Break Through Barriers to Church Growth

By Pat Pajak, associate executive director, IBSA Church Strengthening Team

Has your church growth leveled off or even started declining? Every church faces growth barriers at various times in its lifecycle. Most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500, and 1,000. By learning to identify and break through these barriers, you can keep your momentum and continue growing for God’s glory. What is keeping your church from growing? Healthy organisms grow. If you feel stagnation setting in, barriers are inhibiting your growth. Implement a plan to remove them.

1. Space – Space is the most fundamental barrier you will face and the easiest to overlook. As church leaders, we love full rooms, so we say, “Pack’em in, there’s still a few seats!” But the truth is when a room reaches 80 percent of its seating capacity, it’s full. The answer is multi-space usage! Be creative.

2. Self-Development – Growing churches are led by growing leaders. When you stop growing, your church is not far behind. The sermons are stale. The congregation’s passion for ministry wanes. The staff stops growing. The church stops growing. A reading plan is the single best avenue for personal growth. Set a reading goal of a book a month, and spend focused time in the areas of theology, church history, and philosophy, in addition to reading your Bible.

3. Sharing – Churches stop growing when they become inwardly, instead of outwardly, focused. If you notice a decline in your number of first-time guests and an increase in inwardly focused programs, beware! You are about to fall victim to the sharing barrier. Healthy growing churches will have a ratio of four to five first-time guests to every 100 regular attendees. Watch this ratio carefully, and take its decline as a warning sign. Promote, Advertise and Invite!

4. Worship Service – Your worship service is the front door through which most people are introduced to your church. If not done correctly, it can become a growth barrier. Intentionally create a worship service that looks like and acts like a church twice your size. Welcome every guest. Energize your worship time. Create the excitement that would be present in a bigger crowd. Develop the habit of looking at your service through the eyes of your guests and regular attendees.

5. Staff – To keep your church moving forward, you will need to hire people on faith. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. It doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need. When you approach staffing by faith, you’ll be much more prepared to handle the growth God brings you.

If the IBSA Church Strengthening Team can help you with any of the above areas, please contact PatPajak@IBSA.org or (217) 391-3129.