Before we get into the reasons why small churches don’t grow let me say from the outset, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church.
(You actually have a lot of advantages over larger churches)
All I know is that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to grow.
Just because your church is small now, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way!
The typical size of a church in the US is 89 people, and probably smaller in the UK.
So now we know what we’re working with, let’s help you buck these trends and take a look at the root causes of stifled church growth.
What’s NOT Causing Your Church Not To Grow
Is that heading even grammatically correct?
Probably not, but let’s keep going anyway and dispel some church growth myths so we can identify the real issues and focus on the right solutions.
1. It’s NOT Because You Don’t Want Growth
The very fact you’re reading this post means you’re serious about taking your church forward.
I have yet to meet a pastor or church leader who doesn’t have a heart to reach more people or have a greater impact in their community.
2. It’s NOT Because You’re Not Praying Enough
This is a big one. Pastors blame themselves for low attendance thinking it’s because they’re not praying long or hard enough.
Of course, we should all be talking to God every day and most pastors do, but the Great Commission requires actual action.
Prayer is a great way of helping us remember God’s promises and taking Him at His Word but then we need to do something about it.
3. It’s NOT Because Of Where You Are
Your lack of growth is probably not because of the building you’re in.
I know churches that are growing in warehouses and sports centres. Churches can grow in the most unlikely places.
Your church isn’t small because of the country you’re in.
Over the years I’ve been told Europe is a spiritual graveyard and Thailand is a really difficult place to break through and so on. This is simply not true.
Jesus said this in John 4:35:
“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.“
Why Small Churches Don’t Grow (For Real)
Here are the 5 biggest reasons churches stay small despite a leader’s best efforts.
My hope is that these will help you pinpoint what might be stifling the growth in your church and identify action steps you can take.
1. Visitors Feel Unwelcome
It takes just 10 minutes for a first-time visitor to decide whether or not they’ll come back the week after.
Think about that.
From your website to your car park signage, to how you greet people, to how clean your toilets are – it’s vital you make a great first impression.
Unfortunately, too many leaders overlook these small details either because they don’t know how big of an impact they have on church growth or they don’t care.
The result is first-time visitors feel unwelcome and don’t come back for a second time.
It’s not about having a big fancy building, it’s about taking good care of what you have. Most often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Remember, every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday and do your best to make church visitors feel welcome by creating an outward-focused culture.
Consider having a welcome team ready to warmly greet people as they come in. Go crazy and give them a church welcome pack.
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2. The Pastor Does Everything
If the pastor’s doing all of the teaching, bookkeeping and visiting every sick person in the hospital there’s only so far a church can go.
I don’t know where we got this idea that the pastor has to run around trying to do everything, but it’s a guaranteed way to keep a small church small.
A pastor can only take care of say 40-50 people before he starts to frazzle and burn out.
The top priority of any pastor is to train members for ministry.
This isn’t just my opinion, this is Christ’s method of church growth.
Take a look at Ephesians 4:11-12:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.“
If you’re the pastor and you think only you can do everything, you need to let go, loosen the reins and give space for others to grow in the giftings.
Can they do as good a job as you?
Will they make mistakes?
Most definitely, but this is a vital part of the discipleship process.
Or maybe you’d love to be able to recruit more Sunday school workers, musicians and follow-up team members but you’re having a hard time getting people to step up and serve.
If this is you, check out How to recruit more church volunteers where you’ll discover how to gain, train and retain ministry team members.
Not only is your job as a leader to raise other leaders but getting more people working towards the church’s vision creates limitless growth potential.
“True leaders don’t create more followers, they create leaders.”
3. Your Preaching Could Be Better
A recent Gallup poll revealed 76% of American churchgoers said good preaching was the main motivating factor when choosing a church, more important than having a great youth program or worship team:
Developing your preaching skills is the most effective thing you can do to grow your weekly attendance.
We preach as a labour of love and yet if we’re honest with ourselves we know we’re not as effective as we could be…
I get it, our days are packed with every hour already accounted for – where on earth will you find the time to invest in preaching training?
As a result, most preachers spend countless hours struggling over their sermon outlines without clear structure or direction.
It’s stressful and it’s time-consuming.
You’re constantly pouring into others but when do you ever invest in yourself as a communicator of God’s Word?
As a pastor of a small church, you have a major advantage – you know exactly what your members are going through and what issues they’re facing.
This allows you to deliver God’s message in a way that’s super relevant to them IF you know how to prepare and present well.
Check out these preaching courses to improve your preaching and claim back your Saturdays back from gruelling sermon prep.
“As communicators of the greatest message ever, we must be students of communication.”
4. People Aren’t Giving Generously
Some people don’t give because they’re going through a tough patch financially or they have yet to learn what the Bible says about stewardship and generosity.
Others might not give as much as they could because they haven’t caught the vision or they don’t know what their money will be used for.
Your church may be small, but your budget doesn’t have to be.
When you know how to increase church giving you have more money for ministry and more resources to reach more people.
The 2-3 minutes offering time in a service fund the entire work of the ministry for a week so we need to make them count.
Check out these 77 tithe and offering scriptures for inspiration.
And here are 10 tithe and offering messages to get your creative juices flowing.
“The church should be the most well-funded organisation on the face of the earth.”
5. You Don’t Run Small Groups
Growing churches tend to have more people in small groups than declining churches.
Without a small group system church members may see each other for only 2 hours a week, but church is about way more than a Sunday morning meeting.
Small groups are where your members can connect with God and connect with each other.
When a church member becomes a part of a small home group you know they’re going to connect with God and connect with others; you know they’re going to get discipled.
Growing churches tend to have more people in small groups than declining churches.
One of the best ways to create a disciple-making culture in your church is by increasing the number of people going to your small church groups.
If you have 40 people in your church and 10 of them attend a weekly Bible study, you’re effectively discipling 25% of your flock.
Some would say a 50% small group participation rate is good. Personally, I think you should always aim for 100% whether you reach that or not because every person in your church should be plugged into a small group.
Check out these posts to get more info:
- How To Start A Small Group From Scratch
- How To Lead A Small Group Bible Study
- How To Run A Bible Study (Even If You Never Have Before)
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What Has Helped Your Church Grow?
Why do you think small churches stay small and what can be done to turn that around?
What have you tried in your local setting that’s made the biggest difference?
Scroll down and let us know in the comments!