I’ve had the privilege of preaching at churches from coast to coast over the last 25 years of ministry. In the process I’ve talked to countless pastors, church leaders and youth pastors about how their churches are doing when it comes to growth and the reasons for it. Here is my list of non¬scientific reasons why some churches don’t grow.
1. They’re not friendly enough.
There have been far too many times I’ve walked through the foyer of a church and NOT been greeted or received help finding my way around. I’ve felt like an outsider floating in the midst of a group of insiders. Churches that are friendly have a much higher chance of growing than churches that are not. First impressions matter.
2. They’re not intentional enough.
I’ve talked to many pastors who have assured me that they want to grow with new believers, but they have no plan to make it happen. They tell me of their vision and their new sermon series and their exciting Easter outreach. But these three things are like making a plan on “How to have an effective huddle” in a football game. No, you need the actual plays you and your congregation are going to run day in and day out (not just on Sunday morning) if you are going to intentionally grow with new disciples being made and multiplied.
3. They’re not organized enough.
Some churches lead people to Christ but don’t have an assimilation plan that is robust enough to get these precious new believers clicked into the life blood of the congregation. As a result there are precious babies out there without the shelter of the church and the milk of God’s Word. We also need to follow up with the visitors who are already believers.
4. They’re not relevant enough.
Another reason some churches don’t grow is that they are not relevant enough. If I have no church context and walk into a building where pipe organs rule the day or the Scripture reading sounds like Shakespeare or the service feels like I’m part of a museum exhibition then there’s a good chance I won’t come back. But even these fade into the background compared to sermons that don’t hit the mark. If the Word of God remains a distant, confusing, religious relic instead of a sword that opens up areas of my life for the Spirit of God to change me in powerful and practical ways, then there’s a good chance I won’t be back.
5. They’re not meaty enough.
Some churches grow initially because their services and sermons are relevant but their sermons tend to be light and fluffy. As new believers grow in faith they get a hunger for God’s Word on a level beyond the surface. Now when I talk about “meaty” I’m not talking about hour-long doctrinal diatribes. I’m talking about being willing to “rightly divide the Word of God” beyond just topical series that tend to skim the surface.
6. They’re not loving enough.
Churches can seem friendly but when you dig under the surface a lack of love can rule the religious roost. They may attract people at first and even seem friendly but, once in, the newcomers become grossly aware of the politics and relational dysfunction that is systemic in the congregation. Seekers and new believers often opt out for a more loving church, just stop going to church altogether or, worse yet, stay and become just like the other members of the church.
7. They’re not praying enough.
Although I listed this last it really should be first. Why? Paul told Timothy with his instructions for setting up and organizing the many churches that they planted together to make prayer a first priority. Churches that pray together grow together. Why? Because they are fueled by divine wisdom and power, instead of the latest church growth techniques and tactics. This gives them holy momentum that starts in the hearts of the people as they begin to pray for the unreached people in their lives and communities.
Greg Stier is the Founder and President of Dare 2 Share Ministries International.