Church growth is an often-heard duo of words in modern Christian culture.
It’s so popular that some people say them with disdain. Others might even roll their eyes.
I get it. Sometimes it seems like church leadership is pushing hard to break numerical barriers at all costs. But in my many observations, that’s more isolated and rare than some think. It’s a wrong assumption that every church leader has impure motives simply because they want to see local church growth.
Most pastors, evangelists, staff members, and church leaders I’ve met have pure motives. They’re super interested in doing their part to grow God’s Kingdom. We know we work for the One who says, “I will build my Church…”
And the truth is, as long as our methods don’t compromise the message of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives us freedom. Each of us will answer to the Master for how we use our gifts and talents (see Matthew 25-14-29). I’m willing to trust His sovereign wisdom.
The mission of the ministry I help lead is to love people, grow Christians, and multiply leaders. Like many other local churches, we have visionary goals. But reality has shown us that Gospel-based church growth is not automatic, and there’s no magic formula.
Yes, we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching, teaching, and healing – all in the authoritative power of Jesus Christ are accepted and known by most of my readers. But beyond that, I see more commonality among churches that are poised for growth.
So with all that being said, I’m using this space to share 7 common signs I see among local congregations that are working toward healthy growth (these aren’t listed in order of importance).
1) Healthy growing churches have leadership that is not content to simply maintain.
They understand the need to always be reaching out to the unchurched. A strong desire to see new people saved by grace through faith fuels their decisions.
2) Healthy growing churches usually have pastors that want to reach younger generations.
This lead pastor is not content to simply relate and draw in those of his or her own age group. Instead, the lead pastor and other staff members prioritize reaching youth and children. They understand that resources must be allocated to do it with excellence.
3) Healthy growing churches plan outreach in their community and follow through with it.
You see, some congregations are content to just gather and glow. Their corporate gatherings are inspiring and emotionally encouraging. But a healthy growing church doesn’t just have Jesus rallies; they serve others like He says.
4) Healthy growing churches wisely budget for marketing.
By prayer and wisdom (see Matthew 10:16), they understand that their church shouldn’t be the weekly SMOTS gathering (secret meeting of the saints). They want to reach people who’d never describe themselves as a saint with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Marketing starts with building an online presence and includes on-campus signage. The actual percentage budgeted toward marketing varies with the season. But beyond word-of-mouth capability, they invest in online ads, billboards, banners, and more. They understand that real ministry costs real money.
5) Healthy growing churches prioritize data collection.
It could sound weird if you’re not a part of a church where this happens. But the truth behind this is biblically solid. We can’t make disciples out of people if we can’t build relationships. Relationship building always starts with learning someone’s name and other personal details. So we can follow up on first-time guests, I insist our church tries hard to get a completed connect card (sometimes called a guest card). We make it worth their time to fill it out and turn it in. This is even encouraged through our online presence. But that little bit of effort helps us build a relationship. Follow-up begins, and we treat it as an evangelistic endeavor.
6) Healthy growing churches lavishly love people.
This love takes many forms of generosity. But healthy growing churches are less concerned about their preferences and more concerned about loving people. Such love gives us the right to share the Gospel. This doesn’t mean we compromise God’s holiness, but we want to show others the same gracious love that drew us in and suffers long with our growth. So, these healthy, growing churches don’t just love people that look and talk like them. They also love people that look and talk nothing like their homogenous group. Bible students know there’s a plethora of Scripture references I could cite here, but I’ll leave that research with you.
7) Healthy growing churches have invitational-based culture.
Invitations abound. A healthy growing church has invitations present everywhere, and they’re given by everyone. Individuals invite others to attend worship services. Someone might ask you to come early or join them in between services for a chat over a cup of coffee. You’re likely to get an invitation to attend a small midweek group. At the end of the sermon, the preacher will invite you to commit to Jesus for salvation, surrender, and toward Spirit-filled living. You’ll be asked to return next week on your way out of the worship service. The bottom line is that sincere invitations are constantly being extended in a healthy growing church.
*There’s a BONUS sign at the very end.
These are just my general observations that correlate with a local church poised for healthy growth. I’m not saying all churches must practice these signs to grow. We all know the Holy Spirit reserves the right to pull a holy surprise from His sovereign sleeve and cause an awakening.
Your local church might not have most of these in place. But hopefully, you see some signs heading in this general direction. Culture is king in the local church, and it takes a long time to make a wide turn toward healthy growth. I believe that slow growth is the best growth, and you can do your part. Pray for your church leadership and pastoral staff. Examine yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do better.
I’ll end with a word to the wise. Don’t take the pesty way out by criticizing and complaining. As a church member or regular attendee, if you don’t know how to be a part of the solution, please practice holy silence until you can ask and learn. Local churches don’t usually suffer too much from the woodpeckers without; it’s the termites within that do the most damage.
BONUS – Healthy growing churches take the time to discern God’s vision for their local church, and they operate in unity to fulfill it. Unity is necessary because, without it, divisions are tolerated. The first two letters of division phonetically describe what happens to vision without unity. It dies. Instead, we maintain unity through many conversations, Bible study gatherings, and prayer meetings.