Let’s be clear: there’s no push-button magic formula on how to grow a church congregation overnight.
If there were such a thing that could be bottled up and sold then someone, somewhere would be very rich by now.
I should also say that the size of a church membership is not the only indicator of church growth; knowing how to grow a church is more than just the numbers.
The number of people sitting in your Sunday worship service is not necessarily the same number of disciples being trained and mobilised.
There are many small churches who are having a greater impact in their community through local engagement than many of the bigger churches.
Smaller churches have an advantage over the mega church; both relationships and levels of commitment have proved to be much deeper than that of bigger congregations.
Preamble aside, there many lessons that can be learned from those who have seen their church congregations grow.
With real-life examples, case studies and how to’s of church growth, here are the 10 steps you can take to increase your church membership and attendance to grow your church congregation in the 21st century.
1. Make Sunday A Special Event
A vast majority of churches that have have seen growth in their congregations have done it by making their Sunday morning worship service an event.
They’ve done this in a variety of ways, from improving the quality of their worship set, to implementing multimedia into their service through video announcements or live visual feeds during worship.
However, preaching still remains the primary reason that someone visits your church and stays.
Research conducted by Thom Rainer showed that for 90% of unchurched people, preaching is the biggest reason they will join a church.
People enjoy listening to sermons that are relevant and useful in their everyday lives.
Learning how to improve your preaching could your biggest key to church growth. The pulpit really is the rudder that guides your church.
One of the main ways churches create excitement around their weekly church service is by creating monthly sermon themes, each month having it’s own preaching topic.
Not only does this encourage a first-timer to return next week for the next installment, but it gives your people a reason to invite their friends and family to church.
You probably won’t be surprised to know that congregations grow because people invite their friends and family along. If your people don’t feel confident bringing other people along then there’s something wrong.
“People come to church because other people bring them. Who will you invite?” [Tweet this]
And this doesn’t mean watering down your message.
Pastor Phil Moore of the Everyday Church in London believes that ‘When the church is most controversial, it is most relevant….’
The subjects of their monthly sermon series have included, money, sex and answering the tough questions.
‘This combination of letting God be God and preaching God’s word in all its offensive glory has been behind our considerable growth,’ he says.
2. Add A Second Service (Or Maybe An Extra Venue)
Research shows us that a church congregation stops growing once the worship venue reached 80% of its seating capacity.
There’s just something in the psychology that once a place is seen as ‘full’, first-time church visitors can’t see a place for them.
As soon as many churches meet this ‘tipping point’ they move into a new, bigger building.
But for many, moving into a different venue just isn’t an option. This is where adding an extra service is the best step to take.
Some churches will move to a larger building when they outgrow the old one, but if this isn’t an option, adding an extra service may be the obvious step.
Recently the Holy Trinity Church in Brompton added a Sunday afternoon service to run alongside its Sunday morning service.
Attendance quickly grew in the new, second service without having a detrimental effect on the other service.
And they’re not the only ones…
Potter’s house in Croydon very recently launched a 9:30am Sunday morning service and within just nine months attendance in both services had grown to where they were both running at full capacity.
“Growing a church is all about opening new ‘front doors’ to the church. – Joel Virgo” [Tweet this]
The Everyday Church’s congregation in London has grown from 250 to 750 in the past four years. The serving pastor Phil Moore, says this:
“We have gone from one venue to three venues and we are planning to launch two new venues in September.
We didn’t jump on the multi-venue bandwagon…but we felt very strongly that God was leading us into it and it has proved a very powerful strategy.”
3. Welcome Church Visitors Well
In the same way you’d make sure you’re prepared before welcoming guests to your house for dinner, be ready for your first time church visitors when they come.
Here are 10 Ways To Make A Church Visitor Feel Welcome.
Have church welcome packs ready to give to them as soon as they walk through the door.
Prepare your church welcome speech in advance.
You’ve heard it said that you can never make a second first impression and it’s so true.
Making your church guests feel welcomed as soon as they drive into the car park will greatly increase the likelihood of turning them from one-time visitors to full-time members.
This is where training your church greeting team becomes so vital to the growth of the church.
- Will people talk to me?
- What if my baby makes too much noise?
- Where should I sit?
Mark Landreth-Smith is the pastor of The Beacon Church, Camberley, who has seen his church congregation grow significantly in the last five years. He says this:
‘We’ve worked really hard to have a good and well-drilled welcome team.
After newcomers have visited we’ll follow them up and get in touch: “It was great to have you on Sunday morning, is there anything else we can do for you?”
As you can see, making a good first impression, as well as having a good follow up system in place, will certainly be key to growing your church congregation.
4. Create a Culture of Community
God created us for community. Once a visitor has walked through your doors for the first time, the next step is helping them feel like they belong.
A new unchurched person, would have likely been nervously anticipating his or her visit for some time.
Their main worries will be about ‘fitting in’ and their ability to make friends; to not feel like an outsider.
Creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere can easily be done by making your existing church members more visitor-aware.
Your people should be approachable and friendly without appearing overbearing. Cutting out insider-jokes and jargon from the pulpit also helps to make your services feel more inclusive.
Dr. McMillan has long studied the psychology of communities. Here is his definition of what a culture of community looks like:
“Sense of community is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”
Victory Church Leeds is my homebase church back in the UK whilst I’m serving as a missionary in Thailand. Their motto is ‘Belong. Believe. Become.’ and with good reason…
Forming solid friendships, having a sense of belonging and integrating into the wider church family must happen before any teaching and discipleship can ever take place.
5. Invest in the Next Generation
Survey after survey has shown that more than 80% of Christians make a commitment to Christ before they reach their 18th birthday.
With this statistic in mind, it makes sense that churches should be spending a considerable amount of their time and funds in reaching young people.
Yet, on average, only a very small fraction of annual church budgets is used for their youth or children’s ministries.
Lee Kricher became the pastor of a dwindling church congregation based in Pittsburgh in the United States.
Now, ten years later, he has grown Amplify Church to more than 1,600 regular members.
Pastor Lee attributes the significant church growth to his emphasis on investing into the next generation through the church’s youth and children’s ministries.
“I believe that young people need to be purposefully placed into visible leadership roles and provided the mentoring to be successful in those roles,” he says.
We have a ‘75% rule’, which is that 75% of all of the people in visible leadership during any given weekend service must be the average of, or younger than, the community we serve.
Since that age is 35 for our church’s community, that takes a lot of intentional mentoring!”
With the church planting efforts here in Thailand we have also placed a major emphasis on reaching young people.
In the last 12 months we have done a complete overhaul of both the children’s church and youth ministry. We learned how to start small group Bible studies. I’ve been blown away by how many new families we have seen coming into the church as a result.
Every month our children do a special performance in the main church service. We send invitation letters out to all the parents to let them know about this special event.
Once you have a good church service, a warm welcome and follow up system in place, a culture of community, it doesn’t take long for the parents and families to become regular church members.
6. Involvement in the Community
Being actively involved in the life of your community will not only help make your church known, but it makes your church relevant.
Many churches experiencing growth started out by asking the question:
“What need is their in our community that we can meet?”
They looked at the local issues and came up with a creative way to meet that need.
Life Church in Newton Aycliffe, UK is the home of Christians Against Poverty; a creative social ministry that started when local Christians came together because they wanted to help people who were struggling to get out of financial debt.
They very quickly had a church of over 100 as the people they were helping and building relationships with started asking them about their Christian faith.
Another example from my home city is from the Leeds Youth Cell Network; once a month they organise ‘Demonstrate Days‘ where they might do street clean-ups, gardening for local residents, community cafes and family fun days.
‘Demonstrate Days are about supporting young people to get involved in mission here in their own city. For us, that means serving local communities in practical ways, talking to people and sharing faith along the way.‘
Church members need to place community engagement alongside evangelism.
Whether it be the pub quiz or a community barbecue, allowing unchurched people to experience some of what the kingdom is about is an important step before you preach the gospel.
Demonstrating God’s love in practical ways shows that your church isn’t some strange, fringe group but a group of ordinary people who have discovered something of the power of God.
7. Get Your Church Online
This relates to point 6, because the best marketing is the kind that comes from positive interactions with the local community.
Giving people a reason to walk through your church doors is the biggest hurdle.
So make the most of Christmas, Easter and any other holidays or events that give you an excuse to invite people.
And don’t forget your church website.
Many churches spend more on their external signage than they do on their online presence.
9 out of 10 people will see (and judge you on) your website before they ever set foot inside your building.
A tired-looking website containing outdated information will immediately raise questions about whether a church is worth visiting.
If your church doesn’t have a website yet (40% of churches don’t), I’ve laid out exactly how to build a church website in my newbie-friendly guide: How to Build a Beautiful Church Website Today – Step by Step
You also need to get your church on social media.
Everyone’s on Facebook and creating a church Facebook page is easier than you think.
We use it everyday and yet, most of us have yet to tap into the hidden potential of leveraging Facebook to promote our churches.
Your page can be used to invite people to your events, tagging people in photos and letting people know there’s something happening at your church’s a powerful way of getting your church on people’s radar.
8. Pastor, Don’t Try and Do Everything
As pastors and church leaders we have to be careful not to spread ourselves too thin. Don’t do it, it’s just a one way street to pastoral burnout and it limits your church’s growth.
The key to building a strong church is knowing what your proper priorities should be.
Sociologists say that the average person can manage about 150 people in his or her circle of friends.
This might go some way to explain why many churches fail to grow beyond this number when they adopt the view that the pastor must be accessible to everybody in the congregation.
Churches that have been able to grow their congregations have done so because they’ve developed pastoral support networks that allow everyone in the church to be ministered to without the pastor having to do it all.
Remember that your job as the pastor is not to do everything, but instead, to equip your people for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12)
9. Be An Outward-Focused Church
Many churches, especially in the UK, have experienced growth in numbers from running evangelistic courses such as Alpha and Christianity Explored.
These outreach programs can be a great way to connect with members of your community who have questions or are searching for meaning.
Whilst these programs can really spearhead your church’s growth, they can only have the maximum desired impact if your church members are outward-focused.
This may take a slight shift in the culture of your church as the natural tendency is to veer towards the inward.
Training your people in friendship evangelism an really help by showing them how to share the gospel in an easy and friendly way, or how to share a personal testimony with their friends and family members.
Not only does this help give them confidence in sharing their faith with others, it automatically puts the primary mission of the church at the forefront of their minds.
Chris Sinkinson helps to lead Alderholt Chapel in Dorset, where the congregation has trebled in size over the past decade.
He says the Christianity Explored course has been the single most effective activity through which people have come to faith in Christ, but that its success depends on the evangelistic energy of the whole church.
‘If it weren’t for men’s groups, parents’ and toddlers’ groups, and good friendships, there would be no one feeding into Christianity Explored.
Strategically, the church needs to be missionary-minded so that every member knows they have a role in sharing their faith, inviting friends and ensuring that visitors feel at home.’
Whenever you see church growth, you can be sure that it’s built by a strong foundation of prayer behind the scenes.
In all of your efforts to grow your church, remember that it’s God’s church and He will build it.
We can have all of steps 1-9 in place, we can run well-organised evangelistic outreach programs, but we will only see fruit if God’s hand is on it.
We need God’s blessing.
The Jubilee Church in London has seen a period of rapid growth to more than 1,000 in attendance at the multiplex cinema it takes over on Sunday mornings.
But the senior pastor, Tope Koleoso, says there were years of prayer before the church ever grew.
“The first key in our transition to growth was a renewed emphasis on prayer,” he says.
“A few of us began to meet weekly and really cry out to God for his presence and for him to cause us to grow. As that prayer meeting grew, our passion for God grew and our concern for the lost grew too.”
Praying for the unchurched raises our faith level. Praying for the unsaved gives us God’s heart for the lost.
I am confident that when we submit our plans to Him and seek to serve Him in whatever we do, God will build his church to be all she could be and should be.
God has placed you where you are for this time. We can be confident knowing that He will never call us to something without giving us everything we need to accomplish it.
I pray that these 10 steps to growing your church congregation will help spark new inspiration, creative ideas and fresh vision for what God can do in and through your church.
Push past the limits and grow your church
If you want help to get from where you are to where you want to be, I have some deeper practical help.
How To Solve The Church Attendance Puzzle is a completely FREE webinar that’s going to show church leaders how to break through attendance barriers that limits growth and take their churches to the next level.
In this webinar hosted by Ben Crawshaw you’ll learn:
– The biggest mistake churches make that costs them attendance (You’ll be surprised… it’s not what you think!)
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– The best way to get this Sunday’s guests to return next week
(only 200 places seats available!)
Whether your church is 50, 150 or 250 people, I know this live event is really going to help you get your church unstuck.
What has caused your church to grow?
Wow this was a mammoth article to write – well done for getting through it! I really hope you’ve found this helpful.
I’d love to hear from you on this one. What are your experiences? What have you seen that has caused your church congregation to grow? We’d love to hear from you!
Go ahead – scroll down and share your comments below.
31 thoughts on “How To Grow A Church Congregation – 10 Steps to Church Growth”
I am 83. I still serve a small indepentent church in my “retirement.” I postpone leaving because they would not afford to get a seminary trained pastor. That means a man with no training would probably get the post of pastor. I have spent six years teaching solid, bible-based materials. I don’t get off on sidelines of doctrine but stick to the gospel. The church sanctuary is beautiful, well-kept, up-to-date, etc. We have a baby grand piano with a pianist that brings it alive. We have prayer warriors, mission projects, and other things that should bring new visitors. But…we have only a few young people. All the rest are older adults. The church is nine miles from town, and in winter months there are times when it is hazardous to travel–we are in the snow-belt.
The congregation prays, studies, and for the most part regularly attends services, but we have very few visitors. We support a number of mission causes. We use media, have a website on Facebook, where we broadcast our worship service weekly, and have new signs at both ends of our road.
Tonight I plan on reading your 10-point article on church growth to the church board, asking them to take notes as to what might work for us to grow in numbers. Finances have not been a problem because our members are tithers. I need to find ways to help our congregation to grow. Any ideas would help. We are not a dead church, but need ideas that would help us fill our church.
Thanks so much for this guides am relieved. But I do not have stable members, becos its a youth church; once they got admission/ goes back to school its affect d numbers. Even those at home work outside d L/govt where church is, as such alternating their attendance for Sundays in a month. I find it difficult complaining caused its an answered prayer to their request. What do I do?
As I went through the teaching my eyes opened to new knowledge of growing a small Church to a mega one which has been my dream. I started BELIEVERS ABLAZE CHURCH almost two years ago in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria but I am just making effort to put up a structure, training leaders to head different departments. All the points listed are very innovative and inspiring. Lastly it is stated that “Praying for the unsaved gives us God’s heart for the lost.” This is commendable truly. God increase you real good for making out time to build us up. Thanks
Thank you so much Simon, I love this and I believe that by using these secrets with prayers, God will bless and increase his work in my hand. God bless you real good!
Wow! This is incredibly beautiful. Simon, thanks for this piece.
One interest I have found among church leaders is how to grow the church. Just like any business, when the church doesn’t seem to be growing it causes pain in the hearts of church leaders. This piece is so helpful in seeing about the desired. Thanks once again. More of this.
That’s so true. Without forward momentum everyone suffers. One of the core tenets of my church network is “We are for advancement and opposed to maintenance.” I love that because we should always be aiming to increase our impact to reach more people than ever before, raising leaders and releasing people into their God-given potential.
Wow! This information is both inspiring and educative. I have been newly posted to a church in the northern Nigeria.
From the stories I was told, the church use to have a large congregation but was seriously affected during a religious crises. As a result, a lot of members were killed while many left the church relocated to other safer areas.
Now I am a kind of starting from the scratch to grow the church both spiritually, numerically, infrastructurally and financially. But one of the major challenges I’m facing now is that most people are afraid of coming to the church because it is almost within an Islamic domain. I need some advice.
Hi Bright, thanks for getting in touch. That is not an easy situation to deal with. I can only imagine the fear and intimidation tactics that go on there.
If I were in northern Nigeria I think I would focus on building strong home groups. Meeting in someone’s home won’t have the same risk as going to a prominent church building. Just start with 2 or 3 people, meet at the same place and time each week and worship, get into the Word, build strong connections. Grow gradually and raise a leader to take over the group. Start another one and so on.
Not only is this less riskier, it doesn’t cost anything, your working within the local community and the relationships you build and the disciples you make will be strong.
Be strong and courageous Bright, knowing that God has put you here for this time and this place for a reason. Surely He will use you to build God’s Kingdom – the Heavenly Kingdom which is always increasing and there is no end.
If anyone else has any advice, please feel free to share.
Thank you Sir for this powerful guideline. It has inspired me a lot.
I have been struggling with the church I pastor for four years now. I feel so relieved and I believe that as I start to apply these methods there will surely be improvements.
Thanks and God bless you.
I’m so happy to hear that honestly. As a leader our lives can be complicated and we never feel like our work is ‘finished’ (which is why so many church leaders burn out) but by choosing a few strategic areas to focus on we’re helping ourselves, our leaders and our churches to get to where they’re meant to be.
My suggestion would be just to take 1 or 2 of these areas and work on making them more efficient, rather than trying to attack all 10 at once. Please let us know how you get on and get the help of the community here if you have any questions or ideas to bounce around.
Wishing you all the best!
Thank you very much for this Article! It really highly imparting and eye-opening! As I was going through it my spirit just kept surging for the joy and in-depth knowledge entering me! Seriously committed to putting these 10 Steps into action!
Thank you very once again!
Pastor Paul Daramola, Greece
That’s great to hear Paul! It’s what you apply and not what you learn that will make the difference. These steps to church growth are not quick and easy solutions, I mean they take time to implement but even if you choose one and start with that I know you’re going to be taking your church in the right direction.
My ethos with starting GrowChurch is to give the most simple and straightforward, practical steps to help you as a leader know what areas of focus to concentrate your efforts on. I’m really happy you found this helpful and may God bless you as you choose advancement over maintenance.
Thanks for the this eyes opening to me sir God bless you richest sir. Pls let me get more of this information sir.
Hey, feel free to just call me Simon 🙂
I’m super happy you found this helpful for you in your ministry. If you’re interested you can go ahead and sign up to my free 10 day email course where you’ll learn what I see as the 10 key areas you need to invest your focus and energy on to grow your church congregation.
Any questions, just let me know bro, all the best to you.
The steps discussed are useful and practical. Many thanks for a job well done.
Sir, I am ready in a branch of our church and the church is not growing as expected. Most of the members are not educated. Please sir, what else should I do to boost my attendance especially on Sundays?
You’re more than welcome 🙂
You know your local context way better than I do so perhaps you have a better idea at what is stopping your church from growing. You mentioned the local people are not very well educated, maybe you could put an emphasis on teaching principles from the Bible that apply to every area of life.
An idea I just had would be to advertise local classes on business, farming, welding, computer skills etc. Invite the local people to come into your church for free training. Work on building real relationships with these people. Teach success principles from the Bible. Follow them up and start home groups from there.
Once you have close friendships and they’re attending a home study group, invite them to Sundays. I think this would be a great way to build a congregation, with the emphasis being on building relationships so you have influence in their lives.
I hope this helps. I’d love to hear how you get on.
Wow, this indeed is a great and inspiring article. I’ll apply this to my church youth wing, probably teach the church leaders on this. thanks Sir, God bless you real good.
I’m happy you’re happy – go and do it! 🙂
WOW THIS IS REALLY A DIVINE INSTRUCTION AND EDUCATIVE PLATFORM TO PUSH THE GOD’S KINGDOM FORWARD MAY GOD CONTINUE TO INSPIRE YOU THE MORE ,YOU ARE MY MENTOR .YOUR BLESS
This is inspiring! Especially the way you cap it up with the art of Prayer behind the scene.
Great work am highly blessed and inspired by this article I belong to Dunamis in Nigeria and have just been sent to a location to start a branch of our church I will definitely apply them and trust God for a dimensional shift God bless you. Peter Alechenu
Thanks Peter, I really appreciate that. Wow that sounds exciting. I wonder are you going alone or do you have a team going with you? This is going to be a great learning experience for you for sure as you become a church planter.
Really glad you found this tips helpful, I think the basic point I want to make here is that as church planters we hould do everything with our clear purpose in mind. Everything we do should contribute/help us get closer to accomplishing the vision God has put on our hearts.
I would love to hear how you get on and I’m excited about what God is going to do through you.
This 10 steps is so educative and instructive. I love them and hope to apply them. Thanks
Thank you, I’m so glad you found this helpful! Bless you!
I really love this steps, I will work with this. Thanks hope to hear from me soon. The church is just 2 months old.
Very instructive. I’m trying to establish a church for youths in South Nigeria. Still considering a name. Also looking for team mates.
I wish you all the best Uwen and I hope you found this helpful.
Thanks this is useful and good for recommendation for all church planters and ministers of the gospel. more grace for the race in Jesus name.
Thanks Daniel, I’m glad you found this helpful. My goals is to try and encourage pastors and church leaders so if I’ve done that I’m happy.
EVen if you take just one of these steps and use it as inspiration to move your church to the next level it will help you.
Thanks again, all the best.
Thank you for this guideline. I have learned a lot from it and I totally agree with you, nothing grows overnight. It takes hard-work and commitment over a period of time to achieve results and if working with your 10 steps to church growth I can see how it makes it even easier and actually enjoyable to grow one’s church.
I like going to church. There is that feeling of togetherness that makes it a good break from everyday hustle and bustle besides the fact that it’s a time for prayer.
Thank you very much for sharing the 10 steps to church growth.
It’s true – there’s no such thing as a magic formula to super fast church growth. I think we use words like “planting churches” and “growing churches” for a reason – like a plant, the church is meant to be a living organism that, if healthy, will grow and develop and get stronger. This takes both time, lots of watering, a bit of pruning (changing as you find out what works and doesn’t) but most of all… consistency and diligence and hard work.
You’re more than welcome Danielle, great to see you around the blog – bless you!