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Why Churches Don't Grow
Five barriers to church growth.

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Healthy people grow. Healthy animals grow. Healthy trees grow. Healthy plants grow. Healthy churches grow. Growth is a characteristic that God supernaturally breathed into all living things. And the body of Christ—the local church—is a living thing.

So, when a church is not growing, it is helpful to ask: "Why not?"

Here are five "growth-restricting obstacles." If we understand the reason for non-growth, it is easier to accurately diagnose and prescribe the cure.

Growth-restricting obstacle #1: The Pastor.

There are three different causes for the pastor's inhibiting the growth of a church:

  1. The pastor does not have a priority. Churches grow when they have a priority for reaching the unchurched. When the pastor doesn't, the church won't.
  2. The pastor does not have a vision. No vision for outreach is as much a barrier as no priority. Growing churches have pastors who believe God wants to reach people in their community and assimilate them into the Body.
  3. The pastor does not have the knowledge. Working harder is not the secret to effective outreach. The secret is working smarter. Unfortunately, little is taught in seminaries or Bible schools about how to effectively reach and assimilate new people.

Growth-restricting obstacle #2: The church members.

There are often competent and skilled clergy in non-growing churches, because the problem is in the pews. Church members can keep a church from growing when:

Members have no priority for reaching the lost. "Sure, our church should reach people," some say. "But me? I've got three kids, a job, membership at the health club, and a lawn to mow. Someone else with more time should feel compelled."

Members have a self-serving attitude about church. When members believe the priority of the pastor and the church should be to "feed the sheep," the message that newcomers hear is: "We like our church just the way it is…which is without you!"

Members fear that new people will destroy their fellowship. When "community" is the number one priority in a church, members will act in a way that communicates to newcomers: "We're just fine with the people we have, thank you."

Growth-restricting obstacle #3: Perceived irrelevance.

Growing churches start with the issues and concerns of the people in their community, and then relate the gospel to those points of need. Stagnant churches are seen by the unchurched as having an irrelevant message to their life.

Growth-restricting obstacle #4: Using the wrong methods.

Any farmer knows you can't harvest ripe wheat with a corn-picker. Using inappropriate methods can be worse than no methods, since they create resistance to the gospel. A bullhorn on a street corner, tracts in an urban neighborhood, youth outreach in a senior adult community…none of these methods are wrong. But they are inappropriate for the harvest field.

Growth-restricting obstacle #5: No plan for assimilation.

Over 80 percent of those who drop out of church do so in the first year of their membership. A new member does not automatically become an active member without an intentional plan by the church on how to assimilate them into a caring, loving, Christian community.

There are many reasons why churches don't grow. But there are no good reasons. Healthy churches grow. God wants your church to grow. He created it to grow. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding out why it's not growing, and removing those obstacles. What about your church?

Topics:Church Attendance, Communication, Growth, Health, Members, Membership, New members, Regular attenders, Visitors & guests
Filters:Management, Pastor

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Displaying 1–5 of 28 comments

Oluwole Fagbemijo

August 12, 2015  7:28pm

This article is very good as it takes into consideration the pastor, church members and other factors that can restrict church growth. Churches should also pray for growth as they try their best to enhance growth. Every church has potential to grow, I believe.

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Adekunle Ogundipe

June 11, 2015  6:28am

Graceful contributions. In my experience from training leaders in different churches, I found knowledge, unclear vision, improper documentation or the lack of it, lack of strategy, little or no consultation with experienced/experts, burnout of leader/lack of innovation or idea as some of the problems facing churches in this generation across the globe. Successful businesses around the world today are constantly monitoring and evaluating their progress, doing away with previous mistakes and challenging new thinking. Similarly, the church needs to develop a spiritually motivated method rooted in knowledge to solve growth issues. Luke 2 vs 49 give us a clearer picture "And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business". Prayer, fasting, trainings, strategies etc must simulate a business that wants to be constantly growing & profitable at this end time. It's the "FATHERS BUSINESS" and must be done with EVERYTHING we've got. Thank You

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Tammi Cook

March 01, 2015  6:14am

I totally agree with the basic premise of the article, but the number one most obvious answer beyond the practical answers above is for the church to be praying. The church should be praying for its current members, for its ministers, for its future members, for growth, for wisdom to be the body of Christ to the local community. Everything above is relevant, but even those relevant issues should have a firm foundation in turning to God for HIM tone glorified.

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Zach Britton

November 23, 2014  9:08am

When I attended ORU, I was bound to many sexual addictions with no hope in site. I went to a wonderful church that was Pastored by an interracial couple- Rev. Robbie and Jan Turner with Harmony Worship Center Church. All I can say is that this church was full of life and I always came expecting to hear from God, which I did personally EVERY TIME! But-- the church didn't grow because of the racial hatred that existed in and throughout Oklahoma. Unfortunately, I got to see my own "saved professing" parents displaying the same racial tension I saw from other religious folks. Body of Christ...Please stop the racial hate in our churches!

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Intercessor Cleveland

August 16, 2014  6:48pm

Our church has ministry for all generations, all nationalities, and everyone is greeted in love and those that don't join, well that's why God called many other pastors for people that may not desire the pastor of that particular body of believers. Our internet provides the opportunity to leave pray requests, access to training and much more and any subject teaching you would like to hear can be ordered on, www.chop.org There are many people who participate in intercessory prayer for healing, deliverance, U.S. leaders, World leaders, families, marriages, etc. We have in house counselors, membership training, prayer training, We all meet on Saturday's to pray for the lost, sick, shut-in and all take part in visting the sick, hospital, communities by knocking on doors after interceeding before leaving. Myself I enjoyed prison and nursing home ministry. Get involved, ask questions about the vision, the goals, why things are done a particular way before joining.

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