Seventeen Ways to Keep Your Church From Growing


There are conferences, seminars, articles, books, curricula telling us how to grow to a church. It’s high time the other side of the issue be considered. While we don’t guarantee these easy-to-apply steps will always keep your church from growing, they will, with proper application, certainly increase the chances.

1 . Change pastors every few years.
This will assure that no pastor gets too much power. “It will also discourage members from committing to any long-term goals or growth efforts. And those brought into the church by the pastors personal ministry will feel insecure because “their” pastor may not stay more than a couple of years.

2. Don’t allow new members on the board.
This applies particularly to those who have not been a church member before, or were recently converted. These people tend to identify strongly with the group from which they came and offer many unwanted suggestions for reaching others from that group. By insisting that they serve a proper and lengthy “probationary period” before participating in church decision-making, they can be stalled until they lose their enthusiasm and contacts for evangelism. Then they can be used for church work.

3. Split up small groups regularly.
Not only will this increase the chance of an excellent plateaued growth trend, it will greatly frustrate the people in the church. They won’t have a chance to build meaningful relationships or develop a sense of identity and belonging.

4. Try to reach only people in “stable” situations.
Since people are more responsive to the Gospel following geographic, social, vocational, or life-situational changes, concentrate on stable communities or target groups to minimize contacts with the kind of change that often leads to responsiveness.

5. Don’t send your pastor to church growth seminars or encourage him to read church growth books.
If he insists on attending such a seminar, make sure no lay leaders go with him. Enthusiasm for growth can be easily squelched as long as the pastor is the only one who gets enthused.

6. Emphasize “quality not quantity.”
This one almost always works. Make it sound like the people who advocate growth are playing the “numbers game.” The myth that numerical growth inevitably and spontaneously comes as a result of spiritual growth is believed by many, so take advantage of it” Also, point to unmet needs of your own people as the only real concern of the church and pastor.

7. Build small buildings on small lots.
This communicates smallness, safety, and security to the community. It also contributes to a congregational self-image of smallness. Finally, it makes growth particularly expensive since to do so requires expensive land purchases and/or major new construction. An alternative to this is simply to provide inadequate parking.

8. Don’t be friendly to visitors.
If this seems too extreme, be friendly to them at first then ignore them. Don’t visit them, invite them to church activities, or talk to them during the week. Above all, don’t become friends with them.

9. Don’t invite people to join your church.
We can justify this by saying, “We don’t want to force church membership on anybody.” To them it says. “You don ‘t belong here” and that’s all we need.

10. Try to win “everyone in your community.”
Ignore racial, social, economic, linguistic, and cultural differences in the community. A church out to “win everybody” often wins nobody. Churches grow when they develop a target-group of people like themselves. If you don’t want to grow, don’t aim at a target.

11. Make growth entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit. This not only encourages evangelistic laziness on our part, but it gives us a convenient excuse if growth doesn’t occur. We can always blame God.

12. Don’t staff for growth and don’t budget for growth.
The resources available for growth are precious and limited. Staff and budget for Christian Education, Youth Ministries, Counseling, first. Staff and budget for growth after these priorities are met.

13. Insist on using evangelistic methods that were used in the past. Don’t consider contemporary methods that God may be using today.

14. Don’t set goals for growth.
Say that goals produce frustration. Discourage measurement of any kind. Label statistical analysis inaccurate or worldly. If that fails, label it “demonic and destructive.” Though that may be unfair, it will certainly discourage goal-setting and statistical analysis as a diagnostic tool!

15. Say that God doesn’t want the church to grow.
Though this statement may be false, you could dig up enough “proof-texts ” to make it seem believable.

16. Don’t advertise your church.
Any advertising should be avoided. Especially don’t let newcomers to your community know where your church is, when services are held, and what ministries might be most helpful to them. If you must advertise, put the ad on the church page and put a picture of the pastor or the building on it, not of people enjoying fellowship together in Christ.

17. Don’t pray for growth.
Pray for people in hospitals. Pray for spiritual power. Pray for missions. Pray for the people who you will never be held responsible for. Don’t pray for evangelism and growth in your church. Definitely don’t pray for individual people outside of Christ and the church.