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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.

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Your Virtual Back Office

I saw a commercial last night for a business software program (which will remain nameless) that says it’s like having a ‘virtual back office.’  I was instantly intrigued because, after all, that is a catch phrase we have been using.  After watching the commercial, I realized that yes, it is like having a ‘virtual back office’ with just one problem; You still have to do ALL the work!

This fired me up to spread the concept we have created with even more fervency.  Much like that software, we also provide a ‘virtual back office.’  However, our concept has one vast difference.  We are a virtual back office.  When you partner with us, you are not relying on yourself to input info into the software correctly.  With our concept, you input the information, and our experts take care of making sure the info is handled correctly.  You just sit back, and know that your books are correct, and reports are readily available when you need them.

You are good at what you do.  We are good at what we do.  Let us handle the business so you can focus on your business, ministering to your church.

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Franchise Model for Church Plants

I own a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy.  Med Shoppe’s are franchises and in the years I have owned the store, I have come to see the many great aspects of the franchise model as well as the bad.  For the past few weeks, I have been working through in my mind how to take the franchise model and utilize it for church plants.

Now I am not naive enough to say that this is the end all solution or the next big trend.  I am also not saying that it is a perfect example, but rather an idea to think about as we work to grow churches and spread new plants across the state, nation and world.

I do realize there are some blatant obstacles right up front.  Because plants are designed to reach ‘indigenous people groups’  there is not a perfect box that we can fit everyone into.  There is no magic model that we can take everyone and try to force them into.  This is evidently clear as we see churches in other parts of the world.  Our Americanized church looks quite different from their church, and vice versa.

What then can we learn from the franchise model that will help our church planting efforts?

1. A franchise model is easy to duplicate.

While each church will have its own character and culture, there are a few things that we can take from a franchise model and duplicate across an operation.  By putting a process in place and duplicating that process, we can insure that new churches are being planted that will have a greater chance of success.  This process is not intended to create a box and make everyone try to fit, but rather, a system that allows for planning, development, launch and growth in a systematic way that has been time tested and proven to produce the intended results.

2. A franchise model offers planters a greater economy of scale.

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear the term franchise is the golden arches.  It would be difficult to find someone that has not heard about the company.  If you look at their sign, it often brags about their accomplishments, ‘over 1 billion served’.  As you drive down the road and see one red sign with golden arches disappear into your rear-view mirror, you will quickly see the next red and yellow sign down the road touting the same accomplishment.

What is it about the franchise model that makes it so appealing?  Three words – Economies of Scale. By utilizing a franchise system, the company is able to reduce their costs of distribution so low, they can provide their product at a price so low, and still make a profit.  How then can we apply this concept to church planting?

By using a franchise system, where we have an easily duplicated model, we can bring the costs of operations down to where the financial burden on a planter is greatly reduced.  I am sure most planters will find this news very appealing as they are seeking out sources of support.

3. A franchise model offers the ability to share resources.

A great aspect of a franchise model is the ability to share resources across the system.  Often, the cost of these resources will put them out of reach for an independent organization.  By deploying a franchise system, the cost or resources can be spread across the organization enabling the resources to be available in ways that otherwise would have been cost prohibitive.

One huge resource that could be available from (Shamless Plug!).  Our resources are designed to help churches by taking care of the administrative tasks of the organization.  Everything from bookkeeping and web design to answering the phone, we have systems designed to help.  Our system was designed to be easily duplicated while flexible enough to meet the needs of individual churches.

As you can see, there are many advantages in utilizing this model for church planting.  I welcome your comments, thoughts or experiences to help us refine this concept.

Church Management

Do you Expect Your Pastor to be Superman?

I am reading a book by Charles Barna, ‘The Power of Team Leadership’.  Just a few pages into the book detailed exactly why our company exists.  In the book, Mr. Barna is stating the case that our (churches) have set the standard required of their leader so high that successfully accomplishing it would be unnattainable.  He states that we are all expecting our pastors to be able to do everything, and be responsible for everything.  It doesn’t take long to see where the break point is going to be in this situation.  No wonder 80% of pastors state they have felt burnt out and needed to take a break from ministry.  Barna re-itterates his point my stating that Jesus choose 12 men to spread the message of Christianity, also stating that if He had depended on one person, we may not have Christianity today.

Why do we put such high expectations on our pastors and leaders?

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Maintaining Balance Part 3 – Your Church

Let’s face it.  In many cases our modern churches have become much more than just a gathering place to worship.  We have added daycare, schools, coffee shops, bookstores, free wi-fi, etc., etc., etc.  Now there is nothing inherently bad with these things, and for the most part they are great tools for reaching new people and providing Christ centered education for our children.  However, who is responsible for keeping these things operational and when do we get back to the church being a group of believers assembled together to worship God?

Today, I’d like to focus on maintaining balance in Your Church.  The statistics are staggering:

  • Pastors have the second highest divorce rate of any other profession.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.

And the most Staggering Statistic:

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Maintaining Balance Part 1 – Your Church Website

I am hoping to present a multi-part series this week about balance. One consistent trend we are finding when meeting with pastors is that most, if not all, are responsible for wearing many hats at their church. The days of the pastor only being the spiritual leader of the church have passed. Modern pastors are now responsible for much more.

With a large, growing number of clients, we have had many experiences both good and bad. I’d like to start today with your church’s web presence. Our society now communicates online. The average age of Facebook users is 38 and Google receives billions of search queries per day. It doesn’t take long to see that your presence on the web can be a crucial component to communicating your message.


Does Your Church have a Web Presence?

According to “Your Church Magazine”

Currently, 80 to 85 percent of people are finding their church based on websites

If you read further in this article you will also find that

85 percent of church websites are poorly designed, 10 percent are merely adequate, and only five percent can be considered really good

So what does this mean for you ?
– People are “shopping for churches”
– Just like everything else, people looking for churches are going online first and basing their decisions on their first impression
– Investing in a quality website is just like investing in your building, you would not allow your building be in shambles why would you allow your website to be ?
– You might need to take a hard look at what kind of impression your website is making based on these key factors: visual design, functionality, navigation, interactivity and content.

Taken from information from

Based on these statistics, how would you rate your church’s web presence?  Do you have a website out there that hasn’t been updated in 3 months, did you let one of the youth design the site because he had a ‘class’ in it?  Do you have any idea how many people visit your site on a daily/weekly basis?