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

Sign up for our free Building Church Leaders newsletter:

Also of Interest
Encountering Poverty
Reaching the people behind the poverty

Children's Director
Meet your obligations to parents, volunteers, and the kids.

Eyes to See
New ministry opportunities are all around us ... if we know how to look.

Simple Guide to Safe Social Media Use
Basic safety guidelines for the most popular types of social media.

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

User Reviews

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–5 of 22 comments


March 25, 2014  5:42pm

This was very powerful and on time information. I was just thinking and praying to God about our small ministry and asking Him what I/we could do to enhance and grow the ministry and incorporate things beyond the "normal church stuff" , and while in the process of searching for something else on the computer . I ran across this web page! What an awesome God we serve! Thank you.

Report Abuse

Ann Banks

February 09, 2014  3:12pm

I'm in a small church been a member there for 7 years no growth.Does it start with the Leadership?

Report Abuse

funsho Aseperi

January 20, 2014  11:56pm

this piece is just on point. Weldone

Report Abuse


December 23, 2013  8:37am

Very interesting article as well as comments. Karen, it could very well be that you need to give that little church your "John Henry". It appears to me that you have a burden for the unchurched as well as the lost. If you feel that God has a purpose for you there, then pray and act on it. Its easier to steer and maneuver a vehicle that is moving as opposed to one sitting still. Join and challenge your leadership as a member. You never know God may have a plan to put you in the drivers seat. I agree with the aerticle above, that a church body needs to have a vision and a purpose. Discover the need in your community and use it as a means to share your faith and the gospel message. People don't care what you know until they know you care. God bless!

Report Abuse

Rev. Rajnikant Gaikwad

November 05, 2013  10:53am

it was my prayer to Lord to guide me, so my church will grow and for that i got answer from you, thank you for your guidance do guide me in this subject. my id- rajnikantcgaikwad1@gmail.com

Report Abuse

Submit Your Rating and Review *



1000 character limit

* Comments may be edited for tone and clarity.

Member Center
Log in

Meet Our Editorial Advisors

We Recommend

More from Christianity Today