I’m sure you’ve heard the startling news that Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway, has said “eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.” Depending on the year, the pace of dying churches has been a little more or about the same as the pace of new church plants. And while many of these new churches are seeing growth in reaching people who were unchurched, ground is still being lost. If reality is even remotely close to what Lifeway has claimed, what can be done?
We’re not ones to stay in a place of fear here at Rookie Preacher. Instead, we see it as our mission to give you practical help on how you can be a better preacher and church leader. So, instead of sitting and worrying about the state of the church in America, let’s begin asking the question, what are growing churches doing differently?
THE GROWING CHURCH SERIES: 10 CHARACTERISTICS OF CHURCHES THAT GROW
Scripture and experience are clear: God causes true growth to happen. He is the one who grows people deeper in their faith. He is the one who draws people to Himself. He is the one who tills the soil of hearts, making them receptive to His Gospel. He is the one who leads pastors to lead the local church where He desires it to go.
This series has that truth at its core. It also has this truth at its core: God works through people to accomplish His mission, to cast His vision for the future and to disciple people for His glory. So it is with that tension in mind that we proceed to see the 10 characteristics of churches that grow. The Growing Church Series will consist of 10 separate and highly practical articles on the following characteristics:
1. Staff Led, Elder Protected Governance Structure // This will also work if you have a governing board that you don’t call elders. Be sure to read this before you write it off.
2. Courageous Leaders Who Pray Boldly and Take Bold Action // Church leaders shouldn’t just be pray-ers, they should be do-ers. And this isn’t about big programs and flashy promotions. This is about the nitty gritty decisions of leadership.
3. Genuine Heart for the Lost and Desire to Embrace the Mess // Inward-focused churches are dying churches. Growing churches aren’t just conscious of the lost, they pursue them and are ready to take on the messes of life they may bring.
4. Engaging, Gospel-Proclaiming Preaching // Many people advocate for shorter sermons. That’s fine, but I think it misses the point. Preaching in growing churches engages people on multiple levels and is a tool to proclaim the good news of Christ.
5. Children’s Ministry That Kids Don’t Want to Leave // This goes far beyond fun and games, but those are certainly part of it. Imagine kids being in an environment that allows them to understand God’s love for them while being invested in by caring adults who partner with parents to disciple them!
6. A Clear Path to Guide Guests to Become Regulars // Please, please, please don’t ask guests to stand during service. That’s a surefire way to make them not come back. Instead, have an incentivized path to help them get connected to the church.
7. Lay Leader Development and Empowerment // Equip the Saints. Scripture tells us to do it, but what does this really look like? Leadership development is something we know we need to do, but so many of us are at a loss when it comes to practically doing so.
8. Intentional Small Group Strategy // Real Christ-centered life, together. This is what small groups should be about. Instead of just settling with meet once a week and talk about the Bible, we want to give you a real, intentional strategy to make your small group ministry effective.
9. A Clear Path to Guide Regulars to Become All In Members // In my view, church membership isn’t simply about agreeing with a church’s beliefs and showing up on Sundays. It’s about contributing in ways of service, generosity and being a part of the mission. We’ll give you a practical path that will allow people to go deeper in their commitment to the local church.
10. Shareable Church Communication That Inspires and Informs // Too many churches do a bad job of communicating past Sunday morning. We can do so much better. We’ll give you practical ways to improve your church communication to make it a source of inspiration and information for your people.