Most churches aren’t growing. They’ve either plateaued or their membership is shrinking. Over the last two decades, the percentage of Americans who attend church has decreased by 20 percent. But, in spite of the startling statistics about Christianity in the U.S., some churches are still growing and thriving.
Whether your church is big or small, growing or shrinking, there are things we can learn from the churches that are beating the odds. While every church is unique, and there are countless circumstances that impact growth, these growing churches tend to have some things in common.
Here are six qualities that growing churches often share.
1. A clear sense of purpose
When you know why your church exists, it’s a lot easier to formulate long- and short-term goals, create a plan to reach them, and rally your congregation around that shared sense of purpose. Visitors have a harder time connecting with your church’s goals, so if your mission isn’t the driving force behind your decisions, it’s that much harder for them to figure out what you’re all about.
When your congregation can be confident in what your church is all about and where you’re headed, it’s a lot easier (and more enticing) for them to invite others to join them on the journey.
2. A plan for evangelism
A lot of stalled or declining churches have an “if we build it, they will come” approach to evangelism. They focus all their energy on teaching. Or worship. Or creating the right facility or environment. Their “strategy” for evangelism relies on people coming to them.
Before he ascended, Jesus commanded his disciples to go (Matthew 28:19). Growing churches often have a specific plan for how they go and make disciples in the community God has called them to. They know who they’re trying to reach, and they invest in ministries, events, and opportunities to reach them. And they have a strategy for drawing people deeper into their church, turning visitors into members.
It’s certainly possible to grow passively, as visitors trickle in over time and your congregation invites their friends and family. But most growing churches have an active, intentional approach to reaching their unchurched community.
3. An emphasis on community
Growing churches give people a sense of belonging. Joining them feels like becoming part of a family. Church members participate in small groups, ministry teams, events, and other experiences that lead them to become part of each other’s lives. Church isn’t just something people attend once a week out of a sense of obligation. It’s a community they contribute to.
4. A generous spirit
Every church needs money to grow. Without it, you can’t invest in the infrastructure, staff, and ministries you need to carry out your vision and accomplish your mission. If your financial resources dwindle, sadly, so does your church’s influence. You certainly don’t need money to love well, serve others, and share Christ. But it vastly expands your church’s opportunities to reach more people.
Generosity is also an important indicator of a Christian’s spiritual maturity. It’s a natural result of understanding our roles as stewards of God’s resources. When a high percentage of your congregation financially participates in your church’s mission, it’s a sign of a spiritually healthy church—and one that’s going to grow.
(Want to increase giving at your church? Here are 20 practical tips.)
5. A way to measure success
It’s hard to succeed when you don’t know what success looks like. Unfortunately for churches, a lot of the work you do is intangible. It can take years of faithfully sharing the gospel with someone and praying for them before they become receptive to it—and whether or not that eventually happens isn’t an indicator of your faithfulness!
Growing churches have a handful of metrics they use to measure success, all of which should relate to their mission and vision and what God has called them to accomplish. This allows them to focus their energy on goals that reinforce their purpose and to actually see their progress.
Without a clear understanding of which metrics matter, it’s difficult to see what’s working (and what’s not), and it’s easy to get discouraged by numbers that don’t impact your success.
6. A distinct, consistent brand
Whether you’ve spent months working with a branding consultant or you’ve never thought about your church’s brand before, you already have one.
Your brand is shaped by everything your church does and says, as well as the people who represent your church. Taken together, these pieces create a unique experience that sets your church apart from others.
The difference is that growing churches often develop their brands intentionally, and they wind up with a recognizable, consistent experience that carries over into their:
- Preaching and teaching
- Environment and decorum
- Volunteer management
With a poorly defined (or inconsistent) brand, it’s harder for people to decide if they want to be associated with your church. They don’t know what you stand for or what it means to be part of your community. So it’s harder for your church to grow.
When you have a recognizable brand, it helps members, visitors, and your larger community form accurate perceptions of your church. They know what you’re about, who you serve, and what they can expect from their experiences with you.
Get equipped to grow
To learn how growing churches are reaching out to their communities and encouraging participation and involvement, download the free ebook, the Definitive Guide to Successful Church Engagement, today!