“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or by the many” (I Samuel 14:6). Depending on a number of factors, how to grow a small church is one of the more do-able things pastors can achieve.
Those variable factors on how to grow a small church include…
The health of the church. Now, you don’t want a sick church to grow; you want it to get well first. In an early pastorate, I told the congregation, “There’s a good reason no one is joining this church. I wouldn’t join it either!” Believe it or not, those words were inspired and they received them well, and repented. (I explained that there was a bad spirit in the membership, people were engaging in idle gossip, and the love of God was missing. When we extended the invitation, the altar was filled with God’s people praying. We began to have a genuine revival that day.)
The attitude of the congregation. If the people are satisfied with the status quo, they would not welcome newcomers. I’ve known a few Sunday School classes composed of long-time best friends who felt imposed on by visitors and offended by new members. No one wants to go where they’re not wanted.
The location of the church campus. A church situated five miles down an isolated road, at the end of the dead end trail–I’m thinking of one in particular!–can almost certainly forget about growing.
How to Grow a Small Church
How to grow a small church? The great thing about pastoring a healthy, small church is you can make a big difference in a hurry. My seminary pastorate had run 40 in attendance for many years. The day the little congregation voted to call me as pastor, I overheard a man saying to another, “This little church is doing all it’s ever going to do.” I was determined to prove him wrong.
Within one month, we hit 65 in attendance.
What had happened is this…
While reading the minutes of the church’s business meetings, I discovered we were within five weeks of our 20th anniversary. So, I simply announced the following Sunday that “May 20 is our 20th anniversary, and we’re going to have a Homecoming.” I announced our attendance goal as 65, and said, “If we hit this goal, I’ll sing you a solo.”
I had never sung a solo in my life, but they didn’t know that. (Neither did they care, but I didn’t know that.)
My enthusiasm caught on and people began to talk about May 20. I sent out letters and made phone calls. And fortunately, some relatives visited us that weekend. (Smiley-face goes here.)
We hit 67 in attendance.
And–this is important–we never looked back. By the time I left that church, over two years later, we were running 120 in attendance and placing folding chairs in the aisles.