How to Grow a Small Church
It is God’s design and will that our churches grow and multiply! This is seen clearly in the early church model.
John 15:16 – “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.
Acts 2:47 – “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 9:31 – “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
Ephesians 4:16 – “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted (fitted and held together) by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual (proper) working in the measure of every part, makes for (causes) the increase (growth) of the body unto the edifying (building up) of itself in love.”
Growing a church can be a tremendous challenge, but there are proven ways to take your ministry to the next level. The following tips apply to small, struggling churches and can apply as well as to average size congregations that may have reached a plateau in their growth.
How to Grow a Small Church
- Be passionate. To build a successful church, you must be passionate about your ministry. Men and women who accomplished great things in the Bible were passionate and committed. Elijah was passionate and unafraid when he confronted Ahab the king (1 Kings 17-19). As a result, he saw a nation touched by God’s power.
- Pray. No great work has ever been accomplished for God without spending much time in prayer. It was said of Jesus, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). It was also said of the early church, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer along with the women” (Acts 1:14). However, prayer alone won’t grow a small church. My spiritual overseer taught me that great preaching and great praying alone will not build great churches. Some of the best preachers and committed prayer warriors continue to pastor small churches. After God brings the people, it’s up to us to keep them.
- Structure for growth. God will bring people, but if you don’t structure for growth they won’t stay. Each new level or plateau requires change. Often trouble comes forcing us to restructure our ministry.
Acts 6:1-7 – “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
New structure and delegated responsibility allowed the New Testament church to grow while also removing pressure from the apostles. Pray about how you should organize your church including developing leadership for different areas of ministry like elders, deacons and ushers.
- Keep your building in good condition. No matter what type of building you rent or own, keep it looking the best you can. Painting and cleaning do wonders for both inside and out your building. Always keep the grounds and parking area clean and well manicured. The first impression your meeting place gives can make a huge difference to visitors.
- Update church information. Make sure all signs and displays are accurate. Sunday school and service times should be clearly listed, especially if you have multiple services. Also, make sure relevant information is kept up-to-date on marquis, advertisements, websites, brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc.
- Be accessible. Pastors and church leaders must be accessible to members and visitors. Make sure your contact information is displayed clearly so people can reach you. If possible, hold regular office hours so they won’t have to call you at home (unless it’s an emergency). If you live far from the church get a local number where you can be easily reached.
- Think big. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you are going to grow your church, you must think and act as if it is larger than it really is. Prepare and conduct your meeting as you would if you were a large church.
- Advertise. Most news outlets (online or not) offer free public service announcements and news releases. Advertise every event you have, even a pitch-in dinners and the like! Create an announcement with information about the event and take it to your local newspaper, Christian radio or TV station. If promoting a concert or guest speaker, submit a picture with the news release. Media outlets will often include a small photo if they have room. Always display events, special sermons, and classes on your church website, blog and social media accounts.
- Be consistent. If you have certain time schedules for your services, make sure you keep them. I never canceled a service for fear that someone who had been thinking about visiting our church might come and find it closed. You could potentially lose a good member or family who was serious about being a part of your church.
- Be punctual. If you tell someone you are going to meet them at a certain time, be there. If you have meetings scheduled to start at a certain time, start then – Be Punctual! People can get in the habit of arriving late to church. If they arrive late and find the service is already underway, it will teach them to be on time. On the other hand, if visitors arrive at the advertised time and find the service delayed and hasn’t begun at the scheduled time, they will not be punctual the next time, if they return at all.
- Pursue excellence. Paul wrote, “That you may approve things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:10). We must be the best we can in all we do. We must be professional in appearance, preaching, teaching, and in conducting the service. Think about what you see when attending a small church compared to a large one. You wouldn’t expect to visit a large church and see the order of service, worship, timeliness, etc. conducted in a haphazard manner. If a small church wants to grow it should do no less.
- Visitors. Visitors are very important to the growth of your church. For every visitor make sure you:
- Welcome them. It’s important for all visitors to feel welcomed, cared for and accepted (Romans 15:7), but not embarrassed. Visitors should never be put on the spot or feel like they are on display.
- Get contact information. Fill out a card or sheet with each visitor’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address.
- Follow up. Send a letter or email thanking them for attending your church. By the end of the week, call or visit them if at all possible.
- Members. If someone misses two or three weeks in a row, call or visit them – they may be going through a rough time. Jesus stressed the importance of this in Luke 15. I would rather have people complain because we loved them too much than because no one ever cared enough to call on them. If someone leaves to attend another church, let them go. If they have strayed from the body or God, we must go after them. A phone call doesn’t take that much time. Ask how they are doing, pray with them and show you care. You’ll be amazed by the results. As the church grows, this duty can be delegated to someone in leadership. Organization and reorganization as you grow is a must.
- Special events. Have as many special events as you can. Try to plan an event at least every four to six weeks. Larger churches typically have special events on a regular basis. People have often told me they visited our church because they noticed we had things going on all the time – Something was happening! When we had special events, I called everyone on our mailing list, including those who had visited before, and encouraged them to come. We usually ended up having a good turnout which encouraged everyone.
Have regular planning sessions with your leadership. People are attracted to different things. A pastor who built a large church from scratch told me, “We do some carnal things to get people in the church because people are carnal. Once we get them in, we can work the carnality out of them.”