Top 7 Reasons Churches Don’t Grow (Numerically)
I read an article by another church consultant last year which addressed some of the reasons churches don’t grow. I liked many of the points and have included some of them in this article. Please note that I am addressing this subject from a ‘systems’ perspective. Obviously, we know that things such as prayer & correct doctrine are required for a church to grow in spiritual depth. We also know that just because there are a lot of people, that doesn’t necessarily mean the church is pleasing in the eyes of God.
With that said, we need to address the fact that there are too many churches that are not growing numerically. As I have looked at churches across America, there are large and ‘numerically successful’ churches of every denomination. There are large Baptist churches, large Pentecostal churches, large Catholic churches, and every other denomination. Here is the point…Success leaves clues! In other words, there are patterns which can produce numerical growth, and there are patterns which will prevent numerical growth.
The world is full of churches, but how many of them are winning? It is easy to determine if a business is winning simply by looking at the bottom line. Is there a profit or not? With churches, we are sometimes afraid to really look at it that way. But, the same standard can be applied. Is there a profit for the kingdom of God or not?
Church consultants will agree on the fact that the majority of churches that are stuck or declining are doing so for one of only a few reasons, so let’s jump in!
Reason #1: No Intentional Reaching
The term “Soul-Winning” is thrown around so loosely that people have grown to think that soul-winning is anything that has to do with church. But, we don’t win a soul until a soul is won. Many churches have tricked themselves into believing that they are doing their part in this area, when they actually haven’t went out to intentionally compel a sinner to come to Christ in a long time. If a church doesn’t have significant time set aside to go out and intentionally reach for lost people, they are missing the point of the Gospel. The example of Jesus shows us that we must go out and compel people. If a church wants to win numerically, they have to make “Intentional Reaching” a top priority on their calendars and their budget.
Reason #2: Ineffective Attendance Tracking
Very few churches do this well. Growing churches tend to do this exceptionally well. If you want your church to grow, you have to know who’s there and who’s not. Not just a head-count, but true attendance tracking. There are a couple reasons for this. First, if you don’t get contact information from your guests, how can you follow up? You can’t. More churches suffer in this area than almost any other. Second, if you don’t know who’s not there, you can’t do effective member care. Drawing from the input of hundreds of church drop-outs, one of the top reasons they quit and didn’t go back is because they missed a service or two (sometimes from illness, sometimes from crisis, sometimes from laziness) and no one in the church bothered to inquire. They felt slighted … believing that the church really should care whether they lived or died …and so they stopped attending altogether. Realize this – You cannot do accurate follow-up without accurate Attendance Tracking. If you want your church to win, develop an effective system for tracking attendance.
Recommendation: ChurchTracer.com is a great tool for tracking attendance. This software is simple and very affordable. If your church doesn’t currently have a system for tracking attendance, you should check this out. www.churchtracer.com
Reason #3: Lack of a Structured Follow-Up Plan
A lot of churches are taking some kind of measure to obtain information from guests. However, it appears that few churches know what to do when they get these names. Some churches have no plan in place at all. They just hope guests will return. If you truly want your church to grow, this isn’t good enough. You must have a plan in place to take action when a person visits your church. Check out this statistic: If you follow up within 24 hours, your guest is 86 percent more likely to return. Leave it until the end of the week and the percentage drops to less than 25 percent. Not only with guests, but follow-up is also critical with members and/or attendees, and also with people who are slipping in their walk with God. Create a plan for follow-up and watch your attendance magically increase.
Recommendation: We recommended ChurchTracer.com for Attendance, but also in this area. When it comes to the challenge of Guest Follow-Up, there is nothing on the market like
ChurchTracer Software. Once you set the system up, and tell it what follow-up actions you want to take, the system reminds you every day of exactly what needs to be done on that day. Never let things slip through the cracks again. www.churchtracer.com
Reason #4: Poor Hospitality
OK – Plain and simple. Most churches are just not hospitable. Not all, but most. Most churches will tell you how friendly they are, but what about toward guests? The truth is “not often”. Not just with human interaction, but the facility is not set up to accommodate guests. Mark this down for sure – If it’s uncomfortable, they probably won’t return, no matter how good the singing and preaching is. What can we do? Make sure the human interaction is second-to-none, and that the facility is clean, well-kept, and well-marked. Make sure plenty of signs are in place, and that they get first-class hospitality and you will see a big difference in your return rate.
Reason #5: Assimilation/Discipleship
An area of enormous challenge is the area of keeping & growing. You may not realize it, but over a period of time, you will have several people who “start” attending your church. The sad thing is that they are typically gone within a year. Very few make it for two years. This is terrible! Why is this happening? Here is the issue: New people will come and hang out between six months and a year, but if they never “connect” in the church, they’re gone.
Bottom Line: They Must Connect. This doesn’t happen on its own. Churches that grow numerically develop and implement system for moving guests along these two paths:
* The path from visitor to connection with people in a group setting to ministry involvement and
* The path from seeker to believer to disciple
Churches that don’t do this well are churches that may get some new attendees, but they won’t attend for very long.
Reason #6: Weak Worship Services
Your church may be doing good in all these other areas, and still cannot grow numerically. If that’s the case, the cause is probably because the worship services are weak. That statement isn’t meant to be rude, but to help you identify what is holding you back. If a church does not have a moving, powerful, and inspiring Worship service, the chances of numerical growth are very poor. I’m not talking about music styles, or the decorations, or the technology. I’m talking about the need to have a worship service where the music touches the heart of the people, where the message is delivered with passion and clarity, where the move of the Holy
Spirit is felt with certainty, and where there is an opportunity for people to respond to what they have felt.
Here is a good gauge – If you are brave enough to look at it. If your worship services aren’t moving your members enough to invite their friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, and everyone else, then your worship services are too weak. If that is the case, it’s time to do a complete worship makeover. And, don’t be too proud to get some outside help. Do whatever it takes to take your worship service to the next level.
Recommendation: Mark Condon has helped churches all over the world turn their worship service into a more powerful experience than ever before. Through tools and planning methods, Mark can help you have the kind of worship service you have been dreaming of. In fact, Mark is currently doing a series of Worship Training events for worship leaders and teams, and the cost – FREE! Check it out at www.powerworshipconference.com!
Reason #7: The Most Deadly of All
There is one issue that tops everything else. Even if you have everything else rolling smoothly, this one thing can kill all of your efforts. That is, the issue of unresolved conflict. This is the worst thing that can happen to your church. The Bible is clear that division is such a dangerous issue for your church, and division comes from unresolved conflict. You can plan, strategize, pray and manage the entire week, but on Sunday, God will not be able to bless where there is unresolved conflict. As a leader, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of the congregation enough to be able to detect when there is unresolved conflict, especially among the staff and leaders in your church. It will be like a cancer that will not stop until it has destroyed the entire body. Many leaders leave these things alone and ‘hope’ they just work out, but they look back over the years and see that they have not produced the fruit they would have liked to. You have to dig in and identify the reasons, and help people grow through their issues. If not, it will rise again later. Churches that continue to grow numerically have a system in place to identify and address conflict, and they never let it go unresolved.
Recommendation: Jesus Christ has been empowering church leaders for more than 2,000 years. He can give you the insight and wisdom you need to handle any conflict that may arise in your church. Contact him directly anytime and from anywhere.
As you have read through this list, be honest…Do any of these apply to your congregation? Do all of these apply to your congregation? Go back and look at these seven things, and ask yourself how your church is doing in each of them. Be honest and make sure you are looking at it with open eyes.
Numerical growth is important. Why? Because every person has a soul which will spend eternity in Hell if we do not reach them quickly with the message of Jesus Christ. Do you want to see your church grow numerically? If so, you have to take action as a leader. If you will really focus and execute in any of these seven areas of church growth, you will see a change. If you will focus on all seven of these, you will simply be amazed at the level God begins to bless your efforts.
Call whomever you need to. Do whatever you need to. Buy whatever books or software you need. Plan the trips you need to take. Meet with whomever you need to meet with. Don’t let pride stop you from learning from others. Search out the things that are working for others, and use those things in your church.
If we aren’t growing numerically, we aren’t reaching new souls. And, if we aren’t reaching new souls, we aren’t pleasing in the eyes of God. And, He is the Boss…isn’t He?
God trusts churches that are prepared. Go ahead – take the steps necessary. Start today!
This article “Top 7 Reasons Churches Don’t Grow (Numerically)” by Brian Davis was excerpted from: www.soulsnow.com website. October 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.