Facts About Growing Churches

By: George G. Hunter, III

After three decades of third world church growth research, and almost one decade of American research, much is known about characteristics of growing congregations, causes of church growth, and barriers to church growth.

Yet, at the same time, many unverified opinions and outright myths about church growth have circulated, and a fair number of church leaders are confused-some without knowing it! Since effectiveness in mission planning and ministry is partly dependent upon the accuracy of our background and working “knowledge,” an exercise to “test” the state of your knowledge may be appropriate.

Place a check mark in front of each of the following generalizations, indicating whether you think it is warranted by current research (check “true”) or not warranted by current research (check “false”). Note that a wrong answer will lower your score more than no answer.


_ _ 1. Revival meetings, evangelistic crusades, renewal weekends, and preaching missions are among the best proven methods for making new disciples among people who are not presently involved in a church.

_ _ 2. Churches that preach the “social gospel” and get involved with social problems do not grow.

_ _ 3. Local churches must first become renewed, vital, and strong within their existing fellowships before they can start effective outreach to non-Christians.

_ _ 4. To win young people and help the youth program grow, it is best to gather many youth together and ask them what they want to do.

_ _ 5. Growing churches tend to be heavily involved in inter-church programs and activities in their denomination, as well as ecumenically.

_ _ 6. First time visitors tend to describe growing churches as “warm,” “friendly,” etc.

_ _ 7. Instant conversions, based on only one evangelical conversation or presentation, are very rare. Most conversions result from the effect of many transactions and experiences over a period of time.

_ _ 8. The grounds, buildings, and facilities of growing churches are usually attractive, well maintained, and proof of tender loving care.

_ _ 9. Growing churches characteristically find ways to thank reward,
and give recognition to volunteer workers. Stagnant and declining churches characteristically do not.

_ _ 10. It is desirable for church leaders to become conversant with insights from “secular” disciplines–like communications, anthropology, sociology, psychology, management organization development and marketing.

_ _ 11. Since the church has now been established in virtually every nation-state, the age of sending missionaries from one country to another is largely over, or should be.

_ _ 12. While making the forms of worship, music, leadership, and language “indigenous” to tribal peoples and other third world people groups is important the concept has little relevance for “mainline” churches in North America.

_ _ 13. Persons are more likely to be receptive to the Gospel’s invitation during the stable periods of their lives, when they can reflect and think it through, than during periods of personal turbulence, change, or transition.

_ _ 14. The national policies, priorities, programs, and publications of a denomination make little or no difference in whether the congregations of that denomination grow or not.

_ _ 15. Growing churches generally avoid studying or circulating membership statistics, graphs, etc.

_ _ 16. Growing churches characteristically provide, in worship services and group meetings, opportunities for people to experience the presence, grace and power of the Lord.

_ _ 17. Although people usually become Christians one at a time in our culture, it is appropriate to evangelize groups of people.

_ _ 18. Of the six “classes” of humanity-(1) upper-upper, (2) lower-upper, (3) upper-middle, (4) lower-middle, (5) upper-lower, and (6) lower-lower–almost all greatly growing Protestant movements have drawn converts predominantly from the upper-lower and lower-middle classes.

_ _ 19. Small single cell churches, where everyone knows and interacts regularly with everyone else, cannot grow beyond a certain size without deciding to become essentially a different kind of church.

_ _ 20. The number of new chuches started greatly influences whether a judicatory or denomination experiences net gains or net losses in its membership.

_ _ 21. For a church to grow, it is essential that it be “conservative” in its theology.

_ _ 22. Most growing churches experience a fairly smooth internal life without any internal disruptions, divisions, or confrontations.

_ _ 23. Gross community population trends are a very important factor in church growth. One can predict with confidence that a church in a growing community will grow, and a church in a declining community will decline.

_ _ 24. Directive pastoral leadership is necessary for sustained church growth, with close pastoral supervision of all plans, projects, groups, and ministries.

_ _ 25. Although many people are initially resistant or even hostile to a Christian witness, there are known, proven methods for penetrating human resistance. Would-be evangelizers must pay the price to find and learn these methods.

_ _ 26. It is not greatly necessary that a new Christian have his/her theology completely thought out and clear before sharing his/her faith with a friend.

_ _ 27. In personal evangelism, it is usually more effective to begin where the other person is in higher conscious searching or felt need than to explain to the person a standard version of the Christian message.

_ _ 28. Sunday Schools grow more multiplying small classes than by making a few large strong classes larger.

_ _ 29. Growing churches believe that many people will respond to their invitations. Declining churches believe they will not.

_ _ 30. Seldom is the growth of a church explainable by one cause. There are usually many causes for the sustained growth of anyone local church.

_ _ 31. We can assume that the same methods and ministries that won”us” will probably win “them”

_ _ 32. It is possible for a church to grow into a much larger church without changing the church’s style, emphases, or leadership in any appreciable way.

_ _ 33. The pastor is the most important single factor in whether or not a church grows. Churches with outstanding or highly effective pastors almost always grow. Churches with average pastors cannot grow.

_ _ 34. If the non-Christian people of any particular society are to be attracted to the faith through a church’s worship service, that service should feature the aesthetically great hymns, anthems, and liturgies of the historic and universal Church.

_ _ 35. It is easier for a stranger than a friend to win a non-Christian because of the factor of lesser threat.

_ _ 36. Growing churches generally have longer-than-average pastorates.

_ _ 37. Growing churches characteristically set growth goals and develop and expected plans for achieving the goals, involving many people at each stage.

_ _ 38. Growing churches tend to place greater demands on people than those which are not growing.

_ _ 39. When the community surrounding a neighborhood begins to change, the most important single variable for the future of the church is whether it chooses to perceive the change as a threat or an opportunity.

_ _ 40. Growing churches view their future, and that of Christianity in general, positively and hopefully.

(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)
Christian Information Network

Answers to score yourself and evaluate your knowledge of church growth.

A “perfect” score on the quiz would be 100 – all questions answered “correctly” according to the present state of serious church growth research. Count off 2 1/2 points for each item you left blank. Count off double (5 points) for each “wrong” answer. The key to scoring your responses will be found below.

95-100: Excellent! You are possibly an apostolic authority.
80-95: Good, but you have some knowledge gaps that could could cause you to blow it.
60-80: Fair. You have some good foundational ideas or instincts, but must read more aggressively and systematically.
30-60: Less than fair; begin with the book of Acts.
Below 30: Take a crash course in remedial hermeneutics.

Items 1-5, 11-15, 21-25, and 31-35 should have been answered “false,” and items 6-10, 16-20, 26-30, and 36-40 should have been answered “true.”

Dr. Hunter is the executive for evangelism for the United Methodist Church and the author of the book “The Contagious Congregation.”