In Matthew 28, Jesus says to go out and make disciples of all people, and that’s just what your church is doing. But the necessary church growth associated with this command isn’t easy.
Whether you recently planted this church from the ground up or if you’ve been established for years, the same issues are often associated with church growth.
Many churches miss out on amazing opportunities to witness to new believers because they have trouble expanding. The really unfortunate part is that most of these churches experience the same expansion roadblocks while the solution is within their reach.
But when times get tough, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on this growth. There are 6 common roadblocks that most growing churches encounter, and their solutions are more manageable than you think! Use our navigation tool to jump to the challenges that are most familiar to your church:
- Not Ready to Expand
- Not Enough Space
- Communication Issues
- Resistance to Change
- Encouraging Attendance
- Retaining New Congregants
By identifying these 6 roadblocks and solutions to overcome them, your church can surmount common problems surrounding church growth. This leaves you room to focus on the most important aspect of expansion: the relationship between your congregation members and Jesus.
Let’s dive into resolving the first common roadblock!
Church Growth Roadblock #1: Not Ready to Expand
The first common problem for churches trying to expand is that they simply aren’t ready for it.
Your church may have the heart to accept new congregants, but the resources just aren’t there. That’s ok!
It takes a lot to grow your church. Some of the resource shortages you might run into are:
- Lacking staff members to teach classes, handle daycare, and manage the church.
- Too many leadership positions will open that you are unprepared to fill.
- Lacking the funds to expand your church.
Before you can solve any problems, you must first identify exactly where the problem lies. Create an actionable list of your resource shortages. Once this list is created you can start coming up with solutions.
For instance, if you’re lacking staff members to teach your weekly Sunday School classes, plan to ask for volunteers instead. After a worship service, introduce the idea to your congregation and recruit members for these available positions.
In another example, if you are lacking the funds to grow your church, prepare your next budget to include some church fundraising ideas. Estimate the revenue you could make from each of these fundraisers, and allocate the funds to specific growth efforts.
Fundraising is most effective when your church invests in software that makes giving convenient for your congregants and managing their gifts easier for you. Choose a software system that offers your congregants multiple ways to support your church, including online giving and text-to-give service.
Don’t jump the gun when it comes to church growth. The more time you take preparing and ensuring the numbers work out, the easier the growth process will be. Make sure your church has the necessary staff, fundraising capabilities, and strong leadership. If your church doesn’t have access these key resources yet, your next steps are to acquire them before attempting to grow.
Let’s face it, as much as we’d love for everyone in our community to join our church, the building simply isn’t big enough.
Worship space is a major issue for many churches trying to expand their congregations. And what’s worse? This roadblock is one of the most time-consuming to address.
It takes a lot of time and discipline to save and plan for more church space. First, you need the money to either re-purpose some of the space you already have in your building or you need the money to build an entirely new space.
Building takes saving which means it can be difficult to show your congregation immediate results. Without immediate results, it is easy to become discouraged with these large projects.
Here are some tips to get started with the expansion process without discouraging your congregation:
- Launch engaging fundraisers. Keep your congregation engaged with the process with unique fundraisers. Try posting a huge fundraising thermometer in your lobby area so your congregation knows how far along you are in the fundraising process. This will keep them engaged and excited about the project for a longer period of time.
- Consider less expensive alternatives. Consider alternative spacing options for your church such as purchasing temporary trailers. Or ask your local scouting troop to help you create a large outdoor worship space.
- Look into a capital campaign. Capital campaigns are incredibly useful for raising large amounts of money for big projects like expanding (or building) your sanctuary. Capital campaign consultants can walk you through both the quiet and public phases of your campaign to ensure each will reach your final financial goal.
There’s a common saying that goes, “The best way to eat a whale is one bite at a time.” That’s just what we’re suggesting. Watch your savings grow a little at a time. Keep the congregation up-to-date on your progress and keep them motivated to help. For example, use a text-to-tithe campaign to kick off your fundraising. This also creates an excuse for your congregants to pull out their phones during church!
This roadblock may be difficult to overcome, but it’s absolutely possible! Plan ahead and stay motivated. Before you know it, your new service space will be filled to the brim with new disciples.
Do you remember when your church first got its start? There was so much talking between leaders, congregants, members and all sorts of other people. Even if you don’t remember the exact origin story, it’s guaranteed your leaders kept very proactive with their communications.
Expanding is no different. You need expert communication techniques to grow your church.
How does your church communicate with your congregation now? Do you keep a bulletin? A website? Emails? How would you tell them about upcoming meetings to discuss church growth strategies?
Many churches fall short with this necessary communication. They tend to rely too heavily on one type of communication than others. For instance, new contemporary churches tend to focus too heavily on social media communications, while older more traditional churches rely too heavily on word-of-mouth. Combine your efforts and don’t allow any information to slip through the cracks.
Most importantly, communication about your church growth fundraising efforts need to be effectively conveyed to your congregation. Consider these methods of communication for your church:
- Website improvements. Your website design and navigation should clearly guide your audience to the information they need. Make sure people can find everything from your latest meeting notes to your donation pages.
- Sunday bulletin. This document is seen by everyone who comes to service on Sunday. It is almost guaranteed to be read, but often, not kept. Therefore, this is a great place to put things that can be used during the service, such as a text-to-tithe number. Remember to post all your bulletin information in multiple locations so it can be found again.
- Email newsletters. Newsletters are handy for spreading the word of everything going on in your church. It is a great place for uplifting passages, a fundraising thermometer, and to post a calendar with your upcoming fundraising events or growth meetings.
Combine as many of these communication methods as you can to ensure people are seeing your messages about upcoming church growth strategies.
But don’t bite off more than you can chew! Only open up methods of communication you can afford to manage for a long time. Consider allocating the upkeep of these platforms to a single communications director for your church. They will help you lead the congregation through the growth process.
There is an existing stereotype that many church-goers don’t respond well to change. While of course many in your congregation may be incredibly open to the idea of change, there will be others who will fight you throughout the entire process. This tends to be especially true for more traditional-style churches.
While it is almost impossible to make absolutely everyone happy with such a big change, we do have some tips and tricks that can help even the most stubborn audiences accept it. Try the following strategies:
- Remain transparent about your plans. There’s often temptation to hide news that you think will be unpopular among beloved church members. However, practicing transparency will help you retain the trust of your congregation, even when you give them news they may not like. In the long-run, transparent communication is always better.
- Give your congregants a voice to complain. Another bad habit of church leaders during expansion is trying to silence complaints. Don’t fall into this trap! Listen to your unhappy congregants. They may have a different perspective to take into consideration that will make the church growth process even smoother.
- Provide plenty of advanced notice. Use all your communication techniques to give plenty of advanced notice of the upcoming actions your church will take. Tell everyone about upcoming fundraisers, growth opportunities, etc. ahead of time to give them more time to adjust to the small changes.
- Remind them of when the church began. Many of the older congregants who remember the founding of the church will also remember experiencing this same kind of growth when it was young. Remind them of the excitement of this time and of how much the church family has grown since then. This testimony of the church reminds them of its purpose.
- Ask for help and prayers. There are few things more humbling than a church leader asking for help and prayers from congregants. Help your congregants realize the important part they play in church growth process. They can donate time for prayer, money, or a helping hand in all your projects.
Resistance to change is nothing new to most churches. Even the smallest decisions usually have at least one person who disagrees with the decision. If the opposition to your desire to grow is too great, it’s probably worth reevaluating your decision to expand. There might be something larger at stake than simple resistance to change.
Many churches, even if they have the infrastructure to expand, still find it difficult to encourage the attendance of new believers. A major source of this problem is the lack of a presence in the online community. People may just not know about your church!
Increase your online visibility in order to encourage the attendance of new community members. Here are a few examples of how to increase this visibility:
- Start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Not only does this type of campaign raise necessary funds for your expansion, but it also spreads the visibility of your church. Each of your supporters can share their experience at your church on their personal fundraising pages for their entire online network to see. Encourage supporters to share what the church means to them on their personal campaign pages in addition to the purpose for fundraising.
- Organize church social events. Host different events for people to join and bring their friends. Encourage them to bring their friends by posting about the event on your website, in email reminders, and on your social media pages.
- Mobile optimize your online content. Optimize your website and your donation pages for mobile usage to appeal to your on-the-go audiences. Most people are rarely more than an arm’s length from their smart phones, so ensuring your online content can be seen from any device is vital to reach all available audiences.
Getting someone to attend your church is a big step in the growth process. Next, it’s time to encourage them to stay.
Once your church has encouraged someone to attend the church once, your job isn’t done! You need guests to come back and become members. Most churches see an abundance of guests who only attend the service once then never return to the congregation again. This is often not because they didn’t like the sermon, so don’t get discouraged. Many times they don’t return because they didn’t feel adequately welcomed.
This is one of the easiest roadblocks to address, but can sometimes be difficult for members to understand. If they found a church family there, then new people should too right? It’s not always that easy. That’s why this last church growth tip is a call on all the members of your congregation.
Take necessary measures to ensure your new guests feel welcome in your congregation. This includes a lot of small efforts such as encouraging congregants to:
- Abandon their “usual” pew to sit with a new person. Encourage congregation members to break their seating habits to meet someone new.
- Welcome newcomers with a smile. A simple smile and “hello” can go a long way to welcome someone to your church.
- Recruit volunteers to be ushers or greeters. Ushers and greeters are great welcome sign to your first-time guests.
- Write a handwritten letter to start or continue conversation. If you have too many guests to write each a handwritten note, you may choose to write an email or use other communication method.
First impressions can go a long way with retaining your first-time guests. They should feel welcomed by you and your congregation into the house of the Lord.
Don’t get caught up in the usual roadblocks to church growth! Use these 6 tips to resolve the most common problems to focus your main efforts on building relationships.
To read more about church growth strategies, check out the additional resources below:
- Top Church Fundraising Ideas. Looking to raise some money to support your church’s growth? Check out Snowball’s 85+ church fundraising ideas for inspiration!
- Church Crowdfunding Strategies. Crowdfunding is a perfect way to kick off that new project for your church. Bonfire’s church crowdfunding strategies will ensure your next campaign is a great success.
- Church Planting Tips. Are you trying to plant a church in a new town? Snowball’s church planting tips are a great place to get started on your incredible mission.