After hosting nearly 100 episodes of a church leadership podcast that focuses on church growth and writing more than 1,000 articles on the topic, I’ve learned that the most important trait for church growth is an undergirding of prayer and biblical fidelity. Lead the church you serve to have a dynamic prayer emphasis combined with constant Bible teaching, preaching and overall DNA, and you’ll be ready to follow through with practical strategies. If you don’t have this foundation, then you will fall into pragmatism and failure.
But preaching and teaching the Bible, as well as praying, does not automatically result in the growth of a church. There are plenty of churches with this foundation that still lack practical strategy. So what are the keys to church growth?
1. Implement the right systems.
How do you move people from where they are to where God wants them? Systems!
Have clear processes for how you handle the following areas of the church:
- Corporate worship service planning
- Assimilation of first-time guests into members who attend, give, and serve
- Small groups
- Lay leadership development
- Staff development
- Generosity and stewardship
- Evaluative measures
2. Build the right team.
You need to have the right people on the bus and have them in the right seats. They need to be people of character, competence, and chemistry.
Character. It doesn’t matter how talented the people are, if they are not men and women of God, they have no place on your staff team. For pastoral staff members, the Bible has made it crystal clear what kind of character they should possess (Titus 1:5–9; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
Competence. There are some people who are extremely godly, nice and sweet but simply don’t have the skillset needed to excel in the church you lead. These are the hardest team members to handle because if they have character and chemistry but are incompetent, you won’t experience growth in their area of leadership.
Chemistry. If the people love God and are really sharp, but you simply don’t get along with them, or if it is awkward being around them, it will not work in the long-term.
3. Develop the right culture.
In order for the church to have a healthy culture, it must have exegeted its community properly, then reverse-engineered how to see a healthy New Testament ministry grow there. The culture should be one of excellence, warmth, energy and enthusiasm. How is that culture developed? Through intentionality.
I conclude with a frustrating story. From ages 11 to 15, I mowed lawns and saved money to buy my first car. The day I turned 16, I opened up the classifieds section of the newspaper (before the days of Craigslist), found a car within my budget, and called the number.
I met with the guy who was selling the Chevy Corsica. It wasn’t the coolest car I had ever seen, but during the test drive, it was smooth.
Two days later, a substance was flying out from the side of the car, and then a rod was thrown in the engine. The seller put sawdust in there and conned me into buying a bad car. The cylinders in the engine weren’t clicking together, and it ruined the entire car.
Friend, you can make some tweaks here and there to make the church you lead experience some growth for a short season. You can throw proverbial sawdust under the hood of the church you serve.
But if you want things to click on all cylinders for the long haul, focus on the foundation of prayer and biblical fidelity, then implement the right systems, build the right team, and develop the right culture. Church growth isn’t guaranteed to come as a result of all of this, but the odds will definitely be in your favor.