Every pastor wants to grow their church.
The benefits of church growth are obvious.
Better reputation in the community.
Better reputation among pastor friends.
But the optics—the “trimmings”—of church growth can often get in the way of the real business of growing a church.
Churches that grow steadily—and are able to retain those who visit and join their churches—do not grow as a fluke.
There’s no such thing as a large, growing, successful church that is large, growing, and successful by accident.
In this article, we’re going to explore the key principles which make impressive church growth possible.
So buckle up, and get ready to start implementing these basic but oft-ignored realities which prompt and make probably the kind of church growth that, from the outside, appears magical.
1. Set up a committee to focus on church growth
Most people think that committees are a good way to slow things down, not speed up growth.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Only unseasoned church professionals believe that real, sustainable church growth comes from a magic mixing of winging it, passion for Jesus, and all-nighters.
Real church growth most often comes from the church leaders sitting down, casting a vision, and delegating tasks to the right people.
If you want to grow your church, you should have a core group of leaders committed to seeing this through who can keep the church on track, grounded in its goals, realistic in its aim, and resourced in its methods.
One tip to make sure that these meetings do not consume resources, and stagnate growth, is to put the right people on the team. Don’t invite team members who like the idea of being on the team because it justifies their job.
Ask mature believers in your congregation who have accomplished similar feats to church growth—executives, leaders, salesmen, etc.—to contribute to the vision and strategy of church growth so that you have all of the latest professional tools to grow your community excellently.
2. Set a specific, time-sensitive growth goal for your church
The #1 reason why churches fail to grow is that they set unspecific or unrealistic goals for their church growth.
Your church’s growth committee must set:
- How many new members you desire to acquire
- What are the kinds of people you’d like to acquire as members
- What is the time frame in which you’d like to acquire these new members
From these determinations, you will have:
- A firm, specific number toward which you are striving
- User personas that you can strive to reach in their places of business and leisure
- A deadline driving a sense of urgency behind your marketing, communications, and evangelism
3. Create user personas of the kind of people you’d like to join your church
It’s important not to lose the fact that, in deciding what kind of people you want to acquire as new members at your church, you are determining what markers call a “User Persona,” which is basically an abstraction of the kind of person you’d like to meet.
Have you ever played the board game Guess Who? It’s the game with all those little plastic cards that you can flip up and down, full of faces. Your and your opponent each pick a card with one of the faces—and your goal is to narrow down which personality card your opponent picked by narrowing down the facial features.
- Does your person have blue eyes?
- Does your person have a small nose?
- Does your person have hair?
- Ah! You have Pete!
You essentially need to do the same thing with the audience you’d like to reach in order to grow. Ask core questions relevant to reaching them, understanding them, and inviting them into your community:
- How old is she?
- What kind of place does she work in?
- How much money does she make?
- What is her experience with church?
- Is she interested in volunteering at church?
- Is she married?
- Does she have kids?
- We’ll call her — Ann
Then, “Ann” becomes shorthand for a certain kind of person. It’s a “User Persona” toward which you direct marketing materials.
Ideally, you’ll have several of these personas driving your communications strategy for church growth so that your church can experience not only growth but the right kind of growth.
4. Create a communications plan to reach and retain your target audience
Your target audience is your collection of user personas, which represent the kinds of people in your local area that you’d like to meet.
You should formulate a communications strategy to reach and retain this target audience.
One of the best ways to do this is to put every single User Persona on a white board and ask the following questions:
- What kind of marketing does this person best respond to?
- How can we enter this person’s media channels in a marketing form that feels native to them?
- How can we get them to visit the church once?
- What is our one-sentence pitch to this specific person to attend our church once?
- How can we make them feel at home in our church on their very first visit?
- What individual, couple, or group would be best suited to make a personal contact with this person over a meal?
- What upcoming event would this person be most interested in attending?
- Which membership class would this person ideally attend?
5. Have a vision for where you want your church growth to take you as a community
As we mentioned earlier, church growth in the abstract isn’t always a good thing.
What if your church of 100 acquired 100 difficult people who complained every Sunday and never tithed?
Ideally, your church would be set up to host and disciple these people to have a more positive and godly attitude toward the church.
Yet, you have be realistic as a church.
Who are your ideal prospective members?
And how can you identify people on the track to becoming ideal members?
For example, if your church is lacking young families, it would be wise to invest in young singles who will grow into young families at your church.
But here’s the truth:
Knowing who your ideal prospective members are (i.e., your User Personas) allows you to answer the question:
“What kind of church do we want this growth to make us?”
Your church will change as new people attend and become members, because those people are your church.
This is why it is critical to be crystal clear: What kind of church do we want to become through this growth plan?
6. Create teams led by committee members to support the church growth
In order to reach your target audience, you will need to piece together teams that fulfill the committee’s strategy to reach the kinds of people it wants to reach.
You will need at least these three teams to be involved:
- Communications Team
- Outreach Team
- Welcome Team
- Discipleship team
These four teams represent, loosely, the four phases of a person’s journey of discovering and becoming involved in your church.
The communications team sends emails, web updates, creates printables to put in coffee shops, and creates event invitations for members to hand out to their friends.
The outreach team goes and meets your target audience where they are.
Your welcome team greets them at the front door, knows who they are, and hosts them on their first few visits—taking responsibility for collecting their information and connecting them with at least one other person of a similar demographic in the church before they leave.
It’s extremely important that the welcome team know how to transition a visitor into a prospective member. Most people can walk in and out of a church without ever talking to anyone or being asked how they can get better connected. This is the welcome team’s job, and is, in several ways, the lynchpin of growth. If you want to invest in church growth, all teams are important, but the welcome team is paramount. Invest in their training, resources, and team vision.
The discipleship team is responsible for getting them plugged in to the church community and signing them up for a membership class.
7. Identify segments of your church best positioned to reach your target audience
It’s important to find people in your church who are well positioned to organically reach out to people in your target audience.
Your committee should make a list of individuals, couples, and families who have the social clout to invite someone to church.
Then, reach out to those people and tell them that you’d like them to be an integral part of the church’s growth.
Most people in church are looking for opportunities to be involved—they will most likely be honored you asked.
8. Host well-marketed opportunities, classes, and events that would be attractive to your target audience
Part of attracting new people to your church is doing attractive things.
If you only cast your church growth net to those interested in going to church and singing hymns on Sunday morning, your church will remain relatively the same size.
But if you cast your church growth net to people who like movies in the park, Sunday cookouts, weekly dinners with friends, and Sunday night football, your potential for growth gets a whole lot bigger. By hosting well-marketed events, you increase your growth exponent significantly. Without them, you put a ceiling on your growth not much higher than what you currently have.
9. Ask your church members to invite people they know to those opportunities, classes, and events
Many people don’t invite friends to church because they’re embarrassed of their church—it might seem too preachy, too conservative, too uncomfortable, or too boring.
But if there is a hook that feels well-produced, engaging, and fun, then it’s easy for them to invite friends.
It’s not inappropriate to challenge your congregation from the pulpit to invite at least 2 friends that week to the church BBQ the following Sunday.
Your church members want to be challenged.
Your church members care about evangelism.
There is a natural fit here.
It’s simply on your and your committee to make the event fun, impressive, and welcoming enough to make visitors feel attracted and welcomed to your community.
Over to you
The best thing you can do for your church—especially if it is stagnating—is start a committee for church growth right away.
Follow these key steps, identify your target audience in the form of user personas, set a specific number and deadline, implement a communications and events plan, and get your congregation involved.
It really is that simple.