Sometimes we make ministry harder than it should be. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. We all know that’s not true. I’m just saying, it’s usually not as complicated as we make it out to be. I’m guessing that most small town churches could see substantial growth by just doing a few of the things on this list.
- Get Back to Prayer. You may not fall into this trap, but I do. Sometimes I get so caught up in thinking systems and strategies that I forget about the most important piece of the puzzle, Jesus. He’s the head of the Church for a reason. He’s a lot smarter than all of us. Don’t forget to spend time with Him.
- Learn the Community. Think of your community as a mission field, because it is. You need to learn how they think, where they hang out, what they value. It’s hard to connect with the community if you don’t take time to learn about it. A friend of mine wrote a post going into a lot more detail here. (http://travisstephens.me/study-engage-embrace/)
- Learn the Competition. I’m not talking about other churches in the area. I’m talking about activities. Are youth sports a big deal in your community? Are you near a lake or beach? What are people doing if they’re not showing up to church? You may not be able to compete with them, but can you find ways to get involved with them in order to develop relationships with the people where they are?
- Create a Culture of Serving. We talk about serving at the church I serve all the time. You want to know why? Because serving is the best way to keep people connected to your church, and it’s the best way to disciple those same people. If you want people to show up to your church more often, get them using their gifts.
- Exceed Expectations. You have a distinct advantage in this if you’re a pastor of a small town church. Here’s why. People’s expectations are usually pretty low because of what they’ve heard about church or what they’ve experienced in the past. If your church is just welcoming, it will exceed a lot of people’s expectations. However, keep in mind it’s just as easy to reinforce their own negative expectations through a bad experience. If you have a grumpy greeter, you’re losing people.
- Embrace Change. Remember that grumpy greeter we just talked about? It’s time to replace him or her. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been doing it for twenty years. There is no tenure in volunteerism. Right now, you know of some people who need to be replaced. You know of some ministries that need to be shut down. Don’t be afraid of change. It’s the only way you’ll ever grow.
- Focus on Relationships. Did you know that 98% of people will stay at a church if they have at least three friends there? What are some ways you can foster community? Is it through small groups? A meal after the service? Or a combination of things? Preaching and programs don’t keep people connected to your church, relationships do.
- Celebrate Every Step. If someone starts serving, celebrate it. If someone signs up to lead a group, send them a thank you card. If someone gets baptized, go nuts. Andy Stanley says, “What gets celebrated, gets replicated.” And he’s absolutely right.
- Encourage Evangelism. At the end of every service, you should invite the audience back next week and tell them to bring a friend. Then give them the tools to do that. This could be invite cards, or it could be a post they can share on social media. Evangelism is just getting a person one more step closer to Jesus.
- Genuinely Love People. What did Jesus say the greatest commandment was? Love God, and love people. If the church would just do those two things, the church would explode.
There’s a lot more I could add, but I’d love to hear your tips on church growth. What’s working for you? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.
I am a husband, father, and executive pastor of a small town church that went big. I have a passion for helping pastors grow themselves and the churches they serve. You can find out more about me and my ministry at http://travisstephens.me