If your church has been stuck at 25, 45 or 75 for more than three years and God has laid it on your heart to reach lost people in your community, you have two choices that lay before you: take massive action or find another job.
There is no third option.
Trying to break the 100 barrier is more akin to making it through Navy Seals basic training than any other ministry assignment there is. The odds are stacked against you that you will make it to the end, but for those who do, there’s unparalleled satisfaction and kingdom impact that awaits.
You must take massive action. You must push all your chips to the center of the table and gamble your ministry, your ego, your reputation and the entire future of the church you serve on the seemingly insane plan that I’m going to share with you.
The thing is—this plan works. But in my coaching experience, few have been willing to try it. The price was too high. Unfortunately, what many senior pastors of churches under 100 don’t realize, until it’s too late, is that the price of non-growth is even higher.
Here’s a little secret about the 100 barrier: It is entirely up to you.
Nobody is going to do the work for you.
Nobody is going to come up with a better plan.
Nobody is going to come alongside you and make it easier for you.
You are going to war, with yourself.
And you can win.
Here’s Your Battle Plan for Breaking the 100 Barrier:
1. Commit to Staying at That Church Five More Years
Most senior pastors stop reading right here, at least the ones who are on the “stepping stone to somewhere bigger and better” ministry plan. Listen, you can’t even begin to think about turning that church around without a long-term commitment. Ten years is more realistic, especially if you want to take it beyond 100 to break 200 and possibly 400.
2. Commit to Working 50 Hours a Week
Chances are that in the absence of a staff team and a healthy governing board of leaders, you’ve grown slack. This was always a serious temptation for me at this size, all three times I faced it. Make the commitment. Do the work.
3. Shut Down All Small Groups and Mid-Week Activities
Read my article on The Three Buckets as to why you need to focus on your Sunday services right now only. You need every single person united in making your Sunday worship service and its associated ministries amazing. Not adequate. Amazing. There will come a time when you’ll start groups. Now is not that time. Kill EVERYTHING that happens at your church mid-week.
4. Stop All Missions Giving Immediately
God has given you that money to fund your church’s evangelistic efforts. You are the mission. Feeling compelled to give away money to “missions” is like someone telling you that you should encourage your 12-year-old daughter to get pregnant simply because she has the reproductive capability to do so. Like Dave Ramsey’s advice to stop saving for retirement until your debt is paid off, this is a radical, short-term solution to a drastic problem. Soon you will restart again, and when you do you’ll give 20-100 x what you gave before. In the first six years of our church we gave away $0 to missions. I was criticized. Over a 10-year period of time now we will have given away $2,000,000+ to international missions. Nobody is criticizing me now, especially the pastors whose churches haven’t grown and are still giving away peanuts to expand the kingdom internationally. Make the call and temporarily cut missions this week.
5. Take the Excess Missions Money You Save and Hire a Part-Time Worship Pastor
Never underestimate the power of $50. Get a college kid. Hire four different people to come in one time a month if you must. Get creative. People will not perform consistently until they have a paycheck in their box every week. Once it’s a job, you can pull out superior performance from them. Worship must be your first hire.
6. Place Your Top Five Gifted Leaders Over Kids, Students, Adults, Worship and Finance
This is your staff. You will meet with them once a week. You hire them first with a title, then $50 a week, then gradually moving them toward full-time pay as the church grows. The order in which you pay them is simple: worship, then children, then finance, then youth, then adults.
7. Schedule 10 meetings a Week With the 100+ Most Influential People in Your Community
Your job, besides preaching, will be to network, lead to Christ and then deploy the most influential leaders in your community. When I was at this size I had five breakfasts and five lunches a week, every week, without fail, until we grew to 600. Gut it out and make it happen.
8. Relocate to a High School or Movie Theater
For 99.9 percent of the leaders reading this article, be completely honest with yourself, your building is terrible. You think it’s OK, but it’s not. Read these words out loud to yourself, “OUR BUILDING IS LAME. PEOPLE DON’T VISIT BECAUSE THEY CAN’T FIND US, IT IS TOO SMALL AND IT IS UGLY.” Make plans now to relocate your church to your area high school or movie theater. Yes, people won’t want to do it. Yes, this will suck. Yes, this will be painful. But you will not grow where you are. Churched people always want to stay in Egypt. God called you to get them to the Promised Land. Will there be desert times in between? Of course.
Make a list of the 10 best facilities for rent in your area, then pick the one that you wouldn’t need to give people directions to because everyone knows where it is. Some will object, “But we just renovated our building.” Sorry. Still ugly. Google “sunk cost theory” and read the first five articles, then go make plans to move asap.
9. Preach Amazing, 25-minute Sermons. Every. Single. Sunday.
The first time I faced the 100 barrier, my preaching was so bad that people didn’t know what was worse—our building or my preaching. The thing is nobody cared enough to tell me. Listen, you are nowhere as good as you think you are. No one is at your stage of the game. You need to improve, fast.
The best way to improve is to preach no more than 25 minutes each Sunday. Then get coaching. Then make an appointment with yourself to watch yourself on video every single week. Prop up your iPhone and hit record before you preach. No excuses. Also, read Andy Stanley’s Communicating for Change. My article titled 5 Steps to Writing Excellent Sermons in 8 Hours or Less will help too. Make it your goal to become the best preacher you can possibly be. As Bob Russell, former senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville used to say, “Great preaching covers a multitude of sins.”
10. Get Into the Best Shape of Your Life
I’ve met more depressed senior pastors at this stage of growth than all other stages of growth combined. You owe it to yourself to invest in yourself. You need the energy and stamina to work long, hard, thankless hours to lead this church past 100. As your health goes, so goes the rest of the church. So hire a trainer. Go see a licensed dietician. Overhaul your eating. Carve out the best possible times of the day to invest in yourself. No one else is going to make you do it. Trust me.
11. Share a Life-Change Story Every Sunday and Give New People Invite Cards to Share With Friends
As I’ve shared elsewhere, if you want to grow by 100 people, you need to get how many people to visit your church over the next year? 1,000 new people! To make that happen you must focus on sharing stories in your preaching about life-change, especially how God is using your services to facilitate it. But that’s not enough. You must ask your new people to bring new people EVERY WEEK and make it as easy as possible to help them do that. Give them Invite Cards for each new series. Create “special days” on Sunday that will intrigue new people and cause them to bring their friends. Non-churched new visitors will bring their friends at 10 x the rate that your existing people will, so leverage their influence.
Well that’s the plan.
But it is doable.
And it works.
If you are interested in learning more about the types of coaching I offer, you can do that here.