Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From Church Leaders Intelligence


Church Growth Barriers
As megachurches grow larger, smaller churches are struggling. Many churches deal with the same inevitable growth barriers that keep them from filling their pews and reaching more for Christ. “They essentially find themselves stuck,” says Nelson Searcy, lead pastor of The Journey Church in NYC.

The most fundamental barrier churches face is space. When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full. Searcy observes that most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500 and 1,000.

The second barrier is self-development. If the church’s leaders have stopped maturing spiritually and progressing personally, the congregation is not far behind.

Barrier #3 is focus. Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused. Healthy churches should have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests to regular attendees.

Weekly worship service can be growth barrier #4. Searcy calls it “the front door” through which people get their first impression of the church. “To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size,” he advises.

Barrier #5 is often staff. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. This seems practical, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Searcy says, “You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.”


Chad said...

Hrm. So, which of those boundaries do you think we're experiencing at the moment if any? I don't know what the church's size is, and haven't gone here long enough to notice any trends either.

Terry said...

I would say we are stuck at the 250 barrier - not from space issues but a pyschological barrier. I think you could say self-development from the aspect of needing a change - which I believed Alfy recognized in his ministry - one reason the military changes commanders 2-3 years -- keep things fresh. Not saying we do that in a church - we do need to keep fresh ideas flowing which is why we go to the Moody Bible Institute Pastors' conference. Focus - yes we want to be outwardly focussed. Most folks say we are a friendly church and open but we aren't diliberate in reaching out on a consistent basis.

Weekly service? humm, we need to refresh that too I believe and be ready to sacrifice our preferences for the perferences of the next generations.

Staff - not an issue. We have added staff to grow in the past and are willing to do that as resources permit.

Tim said...

I think our church handles many of these issues well, as much as you can say "handle," since several of them are outside our direct control. One of the advantages of being involved in the audio/visual team is that you get a chance to sit in the back during both services, and get an idea of who is coming and going. I believe that we are probably close to the ratio of guests to regulars listed, which is encouraging. Part of the problem, of which you are aware, Terry, is that our church has a large military contingent. This means it is hard to continuously build in numbers. However, the fact that our numbers stay relatively even, means that we are attracting many new folks, who replace those who are leaving.

Terry said...

Good point Tim on the transient nature of CBC. In the past we had a much higher ratio of military but as prices increased in housing many went further south. I think we will see a bigger influx again as Ft Belvoir increases in size. We have taken pictures of families for many years now for the directory and if everyone who came and went would have stayed CBC would have over 500 family units. Use an average of 3-4 per family unit and CBC would be a megachurch of 1500-2000.

Ask me sometime to show you our growth planning discussion minutes from a few years ago when we were experiencing around 15-20% annual growth - one of the main reasons we went to two services in 2001.

Nelson said...

Terry - thanks for the post of my article! I'd be happy to send you one of my Breaking Growth Barriers resources - just let me know which one fits your situation:

65, 125, 250, or 500.

God bless you guys!


Nelson Searcy, Lead Pastor
The Journey Church of the City
One Church: Three Locations: Six Services