Is Your Church at a Growth Barrier? Ask This Simple Question.

break through barrier

Most every church I know wants to grow – numerically.  Pastors and church leaders, with hearts of gold and a vision for making disciples in the name of Jesus, want the church to not only survive, but thrive in their region.  They want to be good stewards of the ministry God has placed before them.

Yet, we find too many churches stuck at one of many well documented attendance barriers.  The most common of these transparent, yet very real barriers is 200 – so monumental, few churches break through it.  Nearly half of church going Americans attend a church under 100 in attendance. Reasons for this barrier include small leadership mindset, difficulty breaking the single cell family leadership cycle, financial difficulty in staffing for growth, etc  Other attendance barriers, each with their own set of issues,.include 65, 500, and 1000.

As Nelson Searcy, Pastor of Journey Church in New York, says, pastors and church leaders often ask the wrong question when they are stuck.  They ask, “How can I get my church to grow?” Nelson contends that we can’t “get” the church to grow, that’s the work of the Spirit.    A better question is “What is keeping my church from growing”?

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Here’s the right question: ‘What is keeping my church from growing?’


The focus on this second question allows us to set our hands to the task of removing obstacles and re-building broken systems. It’s hard work, but doable.  Focusing on the 200 barrier for a moment, in what ways might we answer the question, “What is keeping my church from growing?”

Here are five potential areas to which you might look to remove blockades in your ministry:

Pastoral Leadership Development and Personal Growth

The pastor, must learn and grow.  Indeed, a pastor must take on new skills in order for the church to move to a higher level. If a pastor tries to please everyone, there’s always trouble.  Leading a church of over 200 is quite different than pastoring a church under 200.  There’s more need to minister through others, lead through others and help set the vision for how the church can accomplish the mission to make disciples.  Personal growth typically requires some very structured steps, such as a reading plan, a series of classes,  a season of coaching, or an official mentorship.

Attitude of the Congregation

The church must be prepped with a vision for numerical growth – a vision of what reaching people looks like.  The church must be open and willing to allow the pastor to spend time reaching out to new people while other, more mundane church administration is overseen by volunteers.  The congregation must be ready to allow others to participate in leadership.

Revived Evangelistic Efforts

Pastors, leaders and congregation as a whole shouldn’t be as concerned with growing the church as they are with fulfilling the Great Commission.  Build a culture of reaching out, going out and living the Great Commission out.

Less Meetings, Less Micromanaging

Leadership must turn the congregation lose for ministry in many different ways.  The board must trust the pastor to lead the charge in breaking through the barrier in attendance.  The board and church officers must be nimble enough to make timely decisions and changes. The work of ministry must be spread out onto the shoulders of all the members.

Structuring For The Future

Work to build the structures for a ministry twice your size.  Create the systems and attitudes that come with a church operating with twice as many people in weekly attendance.  These systems include how people park, how they are welcomed, how hospitality is offered, how child care is handled and the quality of the worship service itself.

Here’s more quick reading about breaking barriers in church attendance:

Carey Nieuwhof 

Nelson Searcy 

Thom Rainer 

Bill Easum (on breaking the 200 worship attendance barrier) 

Bill Easum (on breaking through the 500 attendance barrier) 



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