As the leader of a small church, you know that managing the church is not limited to preparing your sermon or urging people to tithe.
Unlike in a mega-church or other well-established church, you don't have the luxury of stable resources in small churches. Growing your congregation demands even more time and effort.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Small churches may face additional struggles, such as limited time and manpower, a lack of vision, and wildly fluctuating attendance, to name a few common challenges.
It is precisely during these trying circumstances that many pastors give up.
Fortunately, with God's grace and the church's help, you can salvage a struggling church through the right approaches and strategies.
Here are nine practical ways to help your small and struggling church grow:
From a Church Leadership Perspective
You simply can’t overestimate the impact that leadership has on church members–whether positive or negative.
Church leaders can change the course of the church's fate with a single decision. Here’s how leaders can grow their small church:
1. Do a church audit
The first step to moving out of the church's struggling stage is acknowledging that the church needs help. That also means identifying critical areas in your church operations that need to improve.
This is where church audits can help a struggling church.
Church audit is a technical term to review the church's financial standing. However, church leaders can apply auditing principles to examine the church's overall welfare. Specifically, you can look into the following components, such as:
- The church's organizational system and its gaps
- A review of the church's financial status
- Church growth and church growth plateaus
- The church's role in the immediate community
- The SWOT of your church in a post-pandemic world
You can look into more specific details to review the church's operations internally. You can even hire an external auditing expert to do unbiased audits of your church.
What matters now is that you identify the causes of your church's struggles. Most importantly, you now have an idea for your next steps.
2. Set SMART goals and objectives for church growth
Now that you've identified key areas that your church needs to improve, it's time to establish clear goals for church growth.
Setting the standards for your church growth means you must articulate it in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) terms.
Also, we used the word “goals” first rather than “objectives.” At this point, you need to think of long-term solutions to your church's struggles.
Setting long-term goals can direct your church where you need to move forward. Here are a few examples of long-term goals:
- Be a leading digital church in the country by 2023.
- Develop missionary church leaders.
- Increase tithing and donation by 50%.
You can map out specific objectives from these goals to help you achieve your outcome. For instance, you can have these objectives:
- Goal # 1: Be a leading digital church in the country by 2023
Objective: Set up social media presence on Facebook and YouTube
- Goal # 2: Develop missionary church-leaders
Objective: Conduct quarterly leadership training for aspirants
- Goal # 3: Increase tithing and donation by 50%
Objective: Establish more channels for giving
These are simple examples to exercise your leadership acumen in setting goals and objectives. This is as important as it gets.
By clarifying and articulating your goals, you know where your church will move forward and how it can grow.
3. Involve the church's stakeholders
That practically means encouraging everyone to participate in helping your church move out of the struggling times.
Let's face it: you can't do it alone.
Yes, you may be the person in charge. But there are certain activities that other people with more time and specific skill sets can handle.
Involving church members makes them more emotionally and spiritually invested in the church. Even if the church struggles, they'll most likely support you because it’s their church, too.
You can consider these transformative church involvement activities:
- Building church leadership teams.
- Training more leaders to help in specific church niches.
- Developing your church volunteer base.
You can find more leadership ideas by listening to the Modern Church Leader Podcast to help your small and struggling church grow.
From a Financial Perspective
Financial woes hold back small churches from growing. Without sustainable funds flowing into the church, it's hard to see how a church can survive.
On top of auditing your church's finances (see point #1), your priorities should be generating revenue for the church and managing the finances. An excellent place to start is to reflect on these Bible verses about stewardship.
Nonetheless, here are the steps you can take to help improve your church's financial standing:
1. Provide value first through marketing
Marketing can be so valuable to your church. It's about providing value and sustaining that relationship between the person and the church.
Here are low-cost marketing strategies that you can use for your small church:
- Putting up prayer request boxes at church and strategic places.
- Sharing Bible messages through the church's social media accounts.
- Guest preaching or networking at other churches.
These are simple practices that give value to others first. Sooner or later, these seeds you have planted will return as fruits for your small church.
2. Fundraise as a professional
One of the best ways to generate cash for your small church is to fundraise.
As a rule of thumb, remember these tips in fundraising:
- Set clear fundraising objectives and targets.
- Document all transactions; monitor cash flow.
- Make giving easy for donors.
- Use the church's name for all fundraising activities.
- Show gratitude to givers.
If you need more financial help, you can complement your fundraisers through pledge campaigns. It's another way to raise funds for your church's more extensive projects, like a building project.
Check out Tithe.ly's Pledge Campaign Guide to help you get started.
3. Monitor the church's finances
Many small churches struggle with their finances because they lack a reliable system to monitor the church's budget.
It's even more crucial to closely monitor every cent that comes in and out of your church's budget. That's why you must consider the following points:
- Master the basics of budgeting.
- Have secondary and tertiary approvals for any expenses.
- Request for external audits of finances.
- Set aside money for the church's emergency funds.
- Invest in Church Management Software for the church's finances.
From a Pastoral Perspective
Small churches may struggle because the church has not satisfied the people's spiritual needs. It's true that only Jesus can truly satisfy. However, the church is responsible for fulfilling its part in serving God's people.
Poor pastoral services—boring sermons, a lack of hospitality, inadequate childcare or benevolence— contribute to the spiritual struggles of churches.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your pastoral services:
1. Enhance your church's ministries and church services
Your church's ministries will always be at the forefront of all pastoral services.
No matter how small or struggling your church may be, it's always a wise decision to invest in improving your ministries. Any upgrade in the ministries makes your church better.
For small and struggling churches, it's best to focus on vital ministries such as the preaching team, worship and music ministry, and ushering committee.
Don't excuse your church from not executing a worship service well just because you're a small church. Always aim for an excellent church service.
2. Invest in church visitors and first-time churchgoers
It’s critical to invest in new visitors and first-time churchgoers.
Here are a few ways to keep church members coming back:
- Assign your ushering committee to welcome visitors.
- Engage them in a simple conversation.
- Make acknowledging the guest's presence a part of the worship service.
- Ask for their contact information.
- Invite them to other church events.
If you're searching for ways for your small church to persuade first-time churchgoers and guests to join your church, use our free e-book to help your church grow.
3. Pray! Pray! Pray!
Growing a small and struggling church is not just the work of the church leaders or the members. It is God's work.
In times of struggle, it's easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that God is ultimately in control of your growth. Nothing beats the power of sincere prayer.
- Church leaders
- Church volunteers
- Church growth
You can also use these 12 Powerful Prayers for Your Church as a guide when you gather to pray.
Over to You
No matter how small or struggling your church may be, there is always room to grow. With all these lessons you've gained, your church will hopefully be on its way from surviving to thriving.
Finally, tools and resources from Tithe.ly can help you experience church growth. Click here to learn more about our giving tools.