Eight Steps to Grow Your Church

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StepsDo you realize that if your weekend attendance totals about 90 people, you’re an above average church (at least in the United States and when measuring by such numbers)?

If you’re wondering what you need to do to grow, here are eight steps that can help you break an attendance barrier:

1) Decide you really, really want to grow – Believe it or not, the primary barrier to church growth is desire. Do you really want to grow? If the answer is yes, then you must commit to this goal and be willing to accept changes.

And the people in your congregation must also be willing to accept changes.

The Bible says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV). In order for a church to grow, some things have to die. Those who had intimacy with the pastor have to learn to share him with new people. They have to be willing to let go of the control they have in certain decisions and in certain areas.

It takes an incredible unselfishness. They must be willing to die to some traditions, to some feelings, to some relationships in order for the kingdom of God to be advanced. That takes a lot of maturity.

2) Your role as pastor must change – Once you decide you want to grow, you’ll need to analyze your role as pastor. You must be willing to change from minister to leader. If everything depends on you — if you have to personally minister to every person in your church — then the church cannot grow beyond your own energy level. And that is a barrier! You become a bottleneck, an obstacle to growth.

This is called the Shepherd-Rancher Conflict. As the pastor of a little church you know everybody, you do all the praying, all the baptizing, all the teaching, you know every family, every kid, every dog and cat and you shepherd everybody personally. But there’s a limit to how many people you can personally shepherd.

As the church grows you must change roles from Shepherd to Rancher. The Rancher helps oversee the under-Shepherds. Practically everybody on my staff does more weddings and counseling than I do (in fact, I do very few now because I don’t want to show favoritism among our 20,000 members).

You must be willing to let other people share the ministry. Ask yourself, “Would I be happy being a Rancher?” If you answer no, then I suggest you take on a goal that your church will sponsor new churches — so you’re still growing, but in a different way.

3) Mobilize members for ministry – Be willing to give up some leadership and entrust ministry to the people in the pews. After the congregation has decided it wants to grow, then start teaching about “the ministry of the laity” and talking about the importance of every believer using their unique gift to minister to the body.

Let your people know, “If you don’t do your part in ministry by sharing your unique gifts, then the rest of us get cheated. If I don’t do my part in ministry, then you get cheated.” Help your people understand this concept and mobilize them to begin ministering.

4) Begin having multiple services – If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you to seriously start planning for it. By offering people a choice of services, you’re effectively putting another hook in the water.

5) Multiply your staff – In order to grow past that 200 barrier, you must begin moving to multiple staff. You must begin to specialize the staff under your leadership.

6) Plan big days – The best way I know to break through barriers is to break a few all at one time. Plan a big day — an event — and your numbers go up. Yes, they go back down afterwards, but not as far as they were before the event. Keep doing this and you grow. Big holidays are an obvious time to concentrate on events — Easter, Christmas. Plan outreaches to the community.

7) Have multiple cells – People will often complain about not being cared for when the real issue is that they’re losing control. “There are so many people here I don’t feel like anybody cares for me anymore” is a common complaint. Another is: “The pastor is too busy for me now.” Caring is a legitimate issue, but you can respond through the multiplication of cells — groups of 8-12 people. Cells become tools for caring for the body.

8) Expand your facility – At Saddleback, we had over 10,000 members before we ever built our first building, so I’m not advocating rushing out to build a facility. In fact, many churches build too small, too fast. What I’m saying is you need to plan for growth and project out what your needs will be.

May God bless you and anoint you as you begin to implement these changes.


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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

  • paul

    When rick started his church, did he do alot of oureaches like passing out flyers?

  • e.samuel

    Thank you Rick, this is very helpful, we have been praying for some helpful ideas

  • http://www.churchpalm.com Joshua

    This was a great article. Try Churchpalm.com they’ve helped our church grow its finances, thus it has helped grow our church!

  • Butterfly 7

    Where does the idea come from that the church is to focus on the number of chairs filled? If the pure, uncompromised Word of God is preached, they will come. The church service like the Bible is for BELIEVERS. We must quit dumbing down the message to make seekers more comfortable. It’s when we are uncomfortable with our sin that we come to Christ. He comes through a broken heart not a contented one. Charles spurgeon never cared for the comfort of his
    Congregation. Frankly this whole seeker thing is an affront to The Lord.
    These are the days and this is the false teachings The Lord warned about.
    Where is prayer, where is prayer, where is prayer?

  • Anita Horak

    Thank you Rick, this is very helpful, we have been praying for some helpful ideas. We have already discussed multiple services and special events but to have the pastor delegatesome of his duties , with his leadership of course, thats just what I think is needed here. Thanks again and God bless!

  • Robert V. Deuel

    I am sad to see that prayer was not mentioned as part of this list; however, I think also we often forget that a hindrance to church growth is the distinction between gaining in attendance and making disciples. To effectively grow we must be making disciples that continually work to produce other disciples. More often or not we find that we are great at making “converts”, using that term very loosely, but horrid at making biblical disciples. This is not to say that this is the case at large churches as Saddleback Church. In fact I believe the principles that Rick Warren has shared with us are a great reminder; however, I believe we must remember to keep the main thing the main thing.

  • Cool Church

    prayer is the answer to helping a Church grow.

  • http://www.livingtheword.net David

    Keep it coming. What you share WORKS…I’m a living witness. It’s sad however how some just criticize EVERYTHING…They are Christian Professional Critics – they do their job well.

  • Krizzie

    Wow I just can’t believe that there is nothing here about prayer effort? That’s where the real power is. We need to make sure we are more God driven than man driven.

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  • Andrew Mason

    Profound principles here! #1 and #6 really stand out to me, but they’re all very helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aj.vaughns AJ Vaughns

    I really appreciate the reminder that growth begins with our desire and the practical reminders that we must be willing to make structural and systemic changes. I think there are three deeper questions worth asking as well:
    1. Why do you want to change? Too much of our growth is motivated by a desire for ‘success.’ If you’re not making radically devoted followers out of the people you have, is your desire for growth likely motivated by a desire for making new followers?
    2. Growth at what cost. We are also called to worship and fellowship. I agree that these are NOT to become more important that seeing the lost found, but are to be held in harmony.
    3. Is growing your church in one place the healthiest way for you to grow? What is your leadership capacity? Can you impact the kingdom more by sending new congregations vs building bigger?

    Thank you Rick and pastors.com for your incredible support. May God Bless you and your family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/obaloluwa.osuolale.9 ObalOluwa Osuolale

    Mine Oh mine this is profound, yet simple. How I wish there is a way to share this with all pastors who are becoming depressed because all their effort at seen their churches grow has not yielded enough results. Thanks God bless U!

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  • Lawrence Onochie

    Thanks a lot Pastor Warren for sharing this simple but profound truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.alobo Patrick Alobo

    I love to hear from you again.

  • CS

    And #9 (which should be #1) … Prayer

    • Krizzie

      Spot on! It is soooo important and soooo overlooked.

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