Have you seen the stats about church attendance?
- Less than half (47%) of Americans say they belong to a church.
- 66% of students leave the church when they go to college.
- 60% of Protestant churches have reported plateaued or declining attendance.
It can be discouraging to see the declining church attendance stats—and honestly, you probably don’t need another article full of statistics to confirm what you’re seeing with your own eyes every Sunday.
So we promise no more scary or frustrating stats starting now.
Instead, let’s dive into practical strategies and fresh ideas to help your church grow and thrive in a season of stagnation and prevent this church crisis. It’s time to try out some new ideas. As Carey Niewhof said, “Our approach to church growth needs to change because our culture has changed.” While not every church wants to grow to be a mega-church, no church’s mission is to see less people in the Kingdom. So, whether your church growth has plateaued, is declining, or you’re taking preventive measures to protect church growth, we have 11 fresh ideas for church growth.
Create A Plan For Church Growth
1. Clarify your mission statement
A mission statement gives your community something easy to remember, understand, and rally around. So when you clarify your mission statement to reflect your priority for church health and growth, it will inspire your community and your team to bring that goal into reality.
Growth-focused mission statements might sound like “We exist to make Heaven more crowded” and “know Jesus and make Jesus known.” With a clear and consistent mission statement, you’ll be able to make quick decisions. Does this program support your mission of making Heaven more crowded? Does this event help you make Jesus known? If it does, great! You’re on the right track. And if not, it’s easier to cut that program or event so you can focus on your mission.
2. Set SMART Goals
As a church looking to grow, goals are crucial. They give you a sense of direction. They push you further. They set your ministry up for success. Do your ministry leaders have clearly defined goals for your church finances and growth? More specifically, does your church have SMART goals—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based?
What SMART goals will your church set for the next month, quarter, or year? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
- “When someone visits the church or ministry for the first time, our staff will reach out to them within 48 hours. We’ll use digital connect cards and contact them through the information they share. We hope to increase church attendance by 10% with consistent follow-up.”
- “Increase the number of volunteers at the church by 5% in the next quarter. Our ministry can achieve that growth by highlighting one of the volunteer teams during the Sunday morning announcements and giving a small gift to the person chosen as ‘volunteer of the month.’”
- “As a church, we’ll plan three fundraisers or church programs in the next six months. The goal is to raise $1,000 in that timeframe from the events.”
- “Increase family engagement in one year by sending a monthly student ministry newsletter to parent emails and hosting a quarterly parent discussion group. The goal is to have a 50% open rate of the newsletter and at least 20 parents attending the discussion group.”
3. Remember, It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Church growth requires a bit of grit. It takes discipline, consistency, effort, and movement in the same direction. But that hard work is easier when you’ve got your eye on the prize.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The metaphor of “running the race” is woven throughout the Bible:
- “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7
- “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race” 2 Timothy 4:7
- “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1
Spend time both as a church leader and as a team talking about your end goal, and why church growth matters to you. With your eyes on the prize, it’s easier to run the race, do the work, and reach the finish line.
Grow From The Inside Out
4. Work On Your Welcome
First impressions matter, from the cleanliness of your building to the greeting guests get when they walk in. What visitors experience when they come into your church sets the tone for your relationship with them! Start strong with friendly greeters directing traffic in the parking lot, and reserve spaces up front for first-time guests.
Once your guests get inside, what will they see? Recruit church members with the gift of hospitality to greet them with a big smile and a hearty hello. You can make your church feel cozier by offering coffee, hot chocolate, donuts, or other early-morning treats.
Create a welcoming culture within your staff and congregation—we know, easier said than done. But encourage your community to go above and beyond to make newbies feel welcome. If guests are by themselves, offer to sit with them or introduce them to others!
5. Invest In The Next Generation
Church is where everyone can grow in faith together, no matter their age. The kids coloring and singing songs in your youth ministry today will be the ones leading, teaching, and volunteering in a few short years. So investing in the next generation with children’s ministry is essential.
Make sure you have a solid curriculum for your children, youth, student, and young adult ministry. Add in a stellar team of church leaders devoted to teaching students about Jesus Christ, and you’re ready to go!
Great things happen when you pour into students. The young families in your community will thrive. Parents who want a place for their kids to belong will come visit. And hopefully, your focus on the next generation will change the trajectory of your church for years to come.
Engage Your Community
6. Mobilize Your Church Members
For most of your congregation, it’s easier to greet new people once they arrive rather than offering the invite themselves. These days, it can feel pretty intimidating to directly invite people to church. Your existing congregation might need a little extra encouragement to take that bold step and extend a personal invitation to someone, so we have a few tips to help get them ready.
Here are some easy ways you support your members in inviting friends:
- Print invite cards with QR codes for them to hand out.
- Create shareable graphics for people to use on social media.
- Preach about the importance of evangelism, inviting, and outreach.
7. Deepen Relationships With Small Groups
Transformation happens through community, but it needs to go deeper than what we experience on a Sunday morning. That’s what makes small groups so powerful.
A good small group is a collection of people committed to learning, growing, and being involved in each other’s lives. So when you focus on deepening relationships in small groups, you’re creating a community that others (including first-time guests) want to join. Promote them on your website or in Sunday morning announcements. Pray that God will motivate people and use the groups to grow his Kingdom.
8. Host Bridge Events
A tried and true way to grow your church is with events. But have you heard of bridge events? Bridge events bridge the gap between people in your community and your church. They act as an on-ramp into your church, where you can introduce people to your church without barriers. Often these events don’t center around a sermon, and some even happen off-site, reducing pressure on guests.
Bridge events for your community could be:
- A community trunk or treat in your church parking lot
- An easter egg hunt in a local park
- A community play day
- An outdoor concert in the summer
- A car or craft show
Remember, whatever you choose, have some fun! Get inspired for more events with our blog, 7 Events That Can Help Your Church Grow.
Hosting events is a great way to help your church grow. But planning and organizing a church event can be stressful and even overwhelming. Church event management software can help you create great experiences without the stress! With Pushpay, you can coordinate events, streamline registration, and easily invite and follow up with guests.
Leverage Existing Tech + Tools
9. Create An Engaging Hybrid Worship Service
A church’s worship experience used to mean an hour spent with others in the community listening, singing, and praising the Lord. Now, church attendees are searching for that experience beyond the church walls. The Internet is the new church building.
By developing or improving your hybrid ministry, you aren’t constrained by the size of your building. You can use tools like livestreaming software and a mobile app, to help people connect when and how it fits best with their lives.
If a connection point only exists in one form of ministry, ask yourself if there is a way to offer it across both! The end goal is for everything offered in-person to have a digital counterpart for your online community.
10. Embrace Digital Marketing Techniques
Don’t let the word ‘marketing’ scare you away! Digital marketing for churches is simply digital evangelism. Who do you turn to when you’re visiting a new place, want to find a fun new restaurant, or explore? You may ask a few friends, but most likely, you’re hopping online to search Google, look at pictures on Instagram, or read blogs with advice. That’s the power of the digital space! There are so many ways to share your message, increase visibility, and engage with your community digitally.
When you’re starting out with digital church marketing, you’ll most likely start with social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest… the list goes on and on! Social media makes it easier to communicate and update people with the latest news.
But social media is just the start. There are infinite opportunities to grow your ministry online. Here are a few:
- Start a podcast where you share sermons or dive deeper into Sunday’s message
- Create an email newsletter to keep in touch with your congregation
- Reach even more people with text messages that follow up on your emails
- Create a free Google Business Profile so relevant information like photos, service times, and location show up when people search for your church
- Use video call software like Zoom to host virtual prayer nights or bible studies
- Promote your ministry events with digital ads
- Optimize your church website with keywords so when people are searching for “church near me” your site shows up on Google
- Collect feedback with digital surveys
Digital platforms offer a relatively easy way to engage with more people and grow your church’s reach and impact.
11. Use Scalable Church Software
It’s not uncommon to hear about churches who grew so fast that they ended up losing people! As your church grows, if your structure and software aren’t prepared for the growth, it can be easy for people to fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are tools specifically made to help churches grow and sustain that new growth without worrying about church finances. Tech can help you automatically follow up with first time guests, thank donors, nurture people on their membership journey, and organize volunteers.
At Pushpay, we’ve created church management software to help you grow your ministry without sacrificing personal connection. This integrated suite of tools will also help you staff, leaders, and volunteers do their best work.
Time To Make These Church Growth Strategies Your Own
If you’re ready to grow this year, start trying out these fresh ideas for your church. Committing to a strategy that feels right for your church is the key. So use these fresh ideas as they are or as inspiration for your own extraordinary ideas for church growth.
In the end, church growth is about following and fulfilling the Great Commission. The Church gets to be a solution in a world filled to the brim with problems. By implementing these ideas for church growth—whether it’s one or all eleven—your ministry can go into the world and share the joy, peace, and love that God gives with those who need it most!
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