Breaking the Church Growth Barriers
Planting a church and serving as lead pastor is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I started Bayside Community Church in the spring of 2002 with 20 core leaders that I called the “Dream Team.” We launched our first service that September with 220 people; by December that number had dropped to 87. I remember looking at other church models and asking myself, Why were these churches moving so much faster and making it appear so easy? I wish I had known about the barriers to growing a church before I began this journey.
Was I discouraged with 87 people? You bet! Was I concerned? You bet! Was I done? No way! You see, I had decided that if God was going to deliver only 87 people for me to pastor, then I was going to be the best pastor ever to those 87 members. I refused to allow my vision to be clouded by our circumstances, nor would I let my leadership team alter its course. I knew we needed to stay focused on winning people to Christ.
Today, Bayside Community Church has a weekly attendance of nearly 4,000 people. We were the 12th fastest-growing church in America in 2009/2010 according to Outreach magazine. We just needed to breakthrough some common church-growth barriers to enlarge our vision, grow our leadership and improve the quality of our services.
Enlarging Your Vision
Vision barriers. The initial barrier is the fight against the status quo. There will be those in your congregation who impede the vision of being a big church. This barrier can block the growth of your church if you allow the vision to give priority to systems, policies, procedures and projects over people.
I believe that Jesus’ biggest argument with the Pharisees was their complacency – their desire to put programs and preferences ahead of people. In Matthew 12:11-12, Jesus said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” Jesus’ greatest concern was the fact that they had put more emphasis on the systems and their own personal lives than they had for people.
This is still a barrier in today’s churches. There will be people in your church who will constantly challenge whether or not the church should grow. They will want to do what feels good for them inside their comfort zone. Often people in the church are more concerned about serving themselves than reaching out to serve the lost.
Vision breakthroughs. Placing a value for people into the vision of your leaders is key to breaking the vision barrier. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul writes, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Believe that you’re called to reach your city, and share that vision with your leaders. Although your vision will constantly be tested, during the testing time you must remain true to God’s calling and continue to enlarge the vision for His kingdom.
Growing Your Leadership
Leadership barriers. Choices in leadership are going to determine the capacity of your church. The leadership team and I meet regularly to identify our leadership barriers. We ask: How much more can the church grow while we continue doing things the way we’re doing them? With the current systems and strategies in place, are we planning for continued growth? How much more capacity do we have to move this church forward?
When others are available to serve, we may hesitate due to our unwillingness to “give away” leadership. This mentality will block the ability for our leadership to increase capacity to meet our church needs. I remind our leaders that we have to take ownership for the responsibilities that we have, but we cannot be possessive of those areas. A possessive attitude is a barrier that inhibits a ministry area from growing. Why would God give you more, if you are not doing a good job of what He has already given you?
Consider Matthew 25:29: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” It’s time to break the leadership barrier of possessiveness and move forward toward healthy leadership growth.
Leadership breakthroughs. We instill in our leaders the thought that God just might bring someone who can do the job more effectively, and we must be willing to let them take it to the next level. At Bayside, we strive to make serving simple. We have a philosophy of getting people connected and involved early in serving.
Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., spoke at a conference recently on the importance of making it easier for others to serve. It is important to keep the bottom rungs low on the “get involved” ladder of our church, making it easy for others to step into serving. We strive to help those serve in their areas of passion, not just in our identified areas of need. New leaders are grown one “rung” at a time.
Quality barriers. The quality of your weekend services and how they are conducted can affect the reaction of a new Christ follower. At a former church, prior to Bayside, my weekly golf game allowed me to reach out and build relationships with lost people and try to win them to Christ. After witnessing to the golf course superintendent for months, he confided in me concerning some issues he was struggling with and wanted to give his life to Christ.
I was pumped—until he said, “I would like to come to your church this weekend.” My immediate thought was, I didn’t want you to come to church; I just wanted you to become a Christian. My concern was that the quality of the weekend services of this church wouldn’t appeal to him. He visited but didn’t return.
We must work diligently to ensure the quality of our services doesn’t become a barrier to reaching the lost. The church blames America for having lost the desire for God. But there are times when we have no one but ourselves to blame for not being relevant and more inviting.
Quality breakthroughs. My staff and I hold high standards in our expectations for quality and excellence. Churches need to be relevant and inviting, and we must determine whom we are trying to reach and create environments that appeal to them. Our goal is for people to want to return, so churches should be places where members feel welcomed and valued.
Is it time for you to have a breakthrough in your church growth? You can, if you enlarge in others your vision for the lost, offer opportunities for growth through leadership and improve the quality of your service by creating a relevant environment. Employing these strategies will get you started on the way to a healthy, thriving church.
—By Randy Bezet, pastor of Bayside Community Church in Bradenton, Fla., which he launched with a team of 20 people in 2002. Today, with an average attendance of 3,600.
This article “Breaking the Church-Growth Barriers” by Randy Bezet was excerpted from: www.ministrytodaymag.com web site. November 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.