7 Reasons Why Small Churches Don’t Grow – And How You Can Turn It Around

why your small church isnt growing

I’m about to show you 7 of the biggest reasons I believe why small churches don’t grow.

Let me say from the outset, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church, there are actually lots of advantages.
All I know is that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to grow.

The size of a typical church in the US is 89 people, and probably smaller in the UK. 60% of churches have less than 100 adults in attendance and only 2% of churches have more than 1,000 adults attending on a Sunday morning.

If you want your church to buck the trend then also take a look at How to Grow a Church Congregation – 10 Steps to Church Growth.

Reasons Why Your Church is Not, Not Growing

Is that heading even grammatically correct?


It’s not because church leaders don’t want their churches to grow; we all want our churches to reach more people.

It’s not because we aren’t praying enough, generally speaking we are incredibly diligent and faithful in prayer.

It’s probably not because of your building; I know churches that are growing in warehouses and sports centres.

Churches can grow in the most unlikely places.

Let’s just assume you have an outward focus, you’re Bible based and you have a heart to reach people for Christ.

Here are my 7 reasons churches who want to grow end up staying small:

1. The Pastor is the Primary Caregiver

Honestly, this is the biggest issue and if you just push past this one issue, you will have made a ton of progress.

It shouldn’t be the pastor’s job to visit every sick person in hospital, to do every house visit.

The pastor’s job is to equip the members to do the work of the ministry! (Eph 4:12)

Not only does this take up all of the pastor’s time when he could be focusing on discipleship and leadership training but this limits the growth of the church to the leadership of one person.

A really good pastor who is the primary caregiver may be able to grow the church to 150 (if he runs himself ragged and neglects his family life).

But why put a ceiling on your growth?

Raise up teams of leaders and train them and create limitless growth potential.

Although it’s 20 years old, this is still the best book I know on the subject.

2. The Leader Has a Purpose but no Process

Many churches today are clear on mission and vision.

What most lack is a widely shared and agreed-upon strategy.

Your vision and mission answers the why and what of your organization. Your strategy answers how.

A mission without the means of achieving it is not really a mission at all, it’s just wishful thinking. Intention with action is just an hallucination.

3. True Leaders Aren’t Leading

In every church, there are people who hold the position and title of a leader without actually being a leader.

Likewise, there will be people in your church who may not hold an official title in your church but they are true leaders.

Look for people who have a good reputation of being responsible in other areas of life and give them the job of leading the church forward with you.

If you actually have leaders leading, it will make a huge difference.

4. Volunteers Feel Undervalued

The chances are that if you have a small church, it’s the volunteers doing a majority of the ministry work.

Treat your church volunteers well, don’t differentiate between paid staff and volunteers. Here’s 30 creative ways to thank your church volunteers.

When you’re working for free it’s great to know how you’re adding to the overall mission of the church and making a difference.

For more on this see 7 Surefire Ways to Get More People to Volunteer in your Church.

5. Ministry Leaders Have Responsibility Without Authority

This is a frustrating place to be in.

Please, if you give someone an area to be responsible for – trust them.

Yes of course you’re still the senior leader and they need to be accountable but do not micro-manage.

If you need permission every time you need to buy hand soap or repaint an office, you have a control issue.

This not only demotivates but it limits your church growth.

Remember your job as a leader is to raise other leaders.

6. Too Many Meetings

If your church congregation is averaging around 50 people and you’re having 3-4 meetings a week, it’s probably too much.

Free up your time so you and your team can accomplish something significant.

Busyness and effectiveness are two different things.

Evaluate all of the activities of your church, is it bearing fruit?

There are a lot of programs that accomplish little and lead nowhere.

Stop them.

Yes people might be angry at you for a whole but have the courage to skim the excess. But it’s far better to be great at 1-2 things than be mediocre at lots of things.

The book, Simple Church, is a great guide for pastors on streamlining your church activities to achieve your purpose.

7. The Pastor Is a People-Pleaser

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature.

Trying to please everybody is a terrible disease than only makes you frustrated, burnt out and with nothing to show for it.

Go see a counselor.

Get on your knees.

Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people.

Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end.

Eventually, many of your church members will thank you. And the rest?

Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching many people either.

I know that some of what I’ve said here may seem a little harsh but I am writing to the people who are serious about taking their church forward and advancing God’s kingdom, not maintaining the status quo.

Sometimes big problems require radical solutions.

Your Turn

I hope this has been helpful in some way. What have you seen that helps churches push past attendance barriers? I’d love to hear from you, go ahead and share your comments below.


  1. Paula October 11, 2018
    • Simon October 12, 2018
  2. Simon May 10, 2014

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