There are a lot of ideas and suggestions out there about how to help your church grow. Many of them are focused on changes which you need to make with your church, often related to advertising, marketing, assimilation, welcome strategies, etc.
These can be helpful in achieving some of your growth goals. But today, we need to focus on something much more core and central to your growth goals. We have to go to the one indisputable factor which cannot be ignored if you want your church to grow. This factor is inescapable and must be addressed. In fact, failure to address this one factor is perhaps the number one reason why churches fail to grow. If you overcome this one hurdle, then you have some hope of making progress in the growth of your church. But without this factor being dealt with, it is certain that you will not achieve sustainable church growth.
What is this one factor which will either propel or prevent your church from moving forward into growth? It is you!
A study of the ten largest churches in America a while back took a look at the tenure of the pastors in each church. To a church, every one of those pastors had been at the church for 20 years or more. Now this doesn’t prove my statement that you are the primary factor helping or inhibiting your church’s growth, but it does provide a strong indication that the pastor is critical. In fact, in C.Peter Wagner’s book Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vitals Signs of a Healthy Church, he indicates that the pastor is one of the top 7 factors affecting a church’s growth.
As you think about the growth of your church, there are three key areas in which many leaders fail. This is not the fault of the church, the community, the leaders, the age of the building, the lack of giving of the members, the board that keeps nixing your ideas. It is the fault of the leader him or herself. It comes down to you and the way you plan for growth in your church.
Here are the three reasons why leaders fail to see their church grow:
1. You don’t know what your growth strategy is.
You haven’t clearly defined what exactly your plan is to grow the church. You cannot express it in one simple sentence. If you can, it is not clear, compelling, or convincing. If faced with a completely free day where you could do anything you want to help your church grow, you do not know how you would spend the time. If someone gave you a million dollars for your church, you do not know how to spend that money to make your church experience sustained growth. Sure, you could give away a few hundred flat screen TV’s one Sunday, but that would not sustain over the long haul. You do not have a clear plan, and that is one of the major reasons why your church does not grow.
2. You have an unwillingness to say “no.”
Most church pastors want to keep their people happy. Because of this, it is sometimes difficult for pastors to say “no” to their people when they come up with a new idea for the church. So imagine this situation: a member approaches the pastor about a new idea (probably the fad-of-the-month in Christendom). This idea will cost the church time, money, volunteer energy, paid staff time and energy. But because the church hasn’t clearly defined what they are about, the pastor simply agrees because he has no good reason to say “no” and he wants to keep people happy.
So because the church can’t say “no,” it ends up saying “yes” to everything. Because of this, the church cannot excel at anything because it is trying to do too much. Learn to say “no,” and you will begin saying “yes” to success for your church.
3. You fail to align daily activities in the church with your strategy.
If you are smart enough to avoid the first failure trap of not having clarity and you are courageous enough to say “no” to activities which are not consistent with your goals, then you must finally be strong enough to align your daily activities with your church goals.
Here is where many church leaders miss the mark. Life gets too busy, too distracting, and we lose the ability to make decisions which help us succeed in our church goals.
So throughout your day, there must be a relentless concentration upon what is important, what is pre-eminent, for the success of your church.
The question must be asked for each activity in the church if it is consistent with the church goals. The victory is found in your daily activity. A focused day leads to a productive week. Four productive weeks lead to a great month. Twelve great months lead to an awesome year. Do that for a while and you will find yourself in a successful church.
So there are three common reasons why churches fail. Every one of these is under the control of the pastor and church leadership. Which one is the most likely cause of hindrance in your church? You don’t have to fix all of these at once. Find one and start working on it, and you will begin moving your church on the right direction. And that is another definition of success.
~ Dr. Bill Miller