Every church experiences seasons of growth, plateau and decline.
It’s the natural rhythm of life and it affects individuals as well as organisations.
There a multitude of things to consider when your church stops growing.
When churches stop growing numerically there are a few helpful things that that pastors and leaders can do to handle this season in a healthy manner.
A pastor’s walk with Christ is the foundation of both healthy leadership and a healthy church.
Therefore, pastors should occupy the place of prayer regardless of whether the church is growing, plateaued or declining.
If your church is not growing, then your place of prayer is the place to cast your cares and burdens upon Christ and discover that he can sustain you through this season.
A fresh season of prayer, fasting and immersion in the Word of God can energise a pastor and lead them into fresh ways of thinking about their ministry, call and church.
This focus on personal spiritual renewal will increase the leader’s trust in Christ and can also bring a different perspective to their current season.
2. Enjoy Christ’s Exploits
A lack of growth brings discouragement to every leader.
An effective way to counter those disheartening feelings is to focus in on the various ways Christ is working in your church.
Simply ask your leaders and members this succinct question: what is the Lord currently doing in your life?
Give people space to answer that question and you’ll discover that Christ is at work in a multitude of small and large ways in your church.
We can miss the simple, yet powerful ways Christ is working by focusing on what is not happening rather than discovering what is happening.
3. Slay the Comparison Giant
In John 21 Jesus tells Peter how he will die. In response Peter points to the beloved disciple and asks Jesus, what about him?
Jesus astutely answers Peter’s question with a question, if I want him to stay alive until I return, what is that to you?
In other words, if I bless him in ways I don’t bless you, how will you respond?
Will you be jealous?
Will envy eat you up?
Will you get happy in his blessings?
It’s human to compare, to ask about the other guy who’s getting blessed in ways that we are not getting blessed.
It’s normal to feel jealous of churches that are exploding with growth while we seemingly languish on the sidelines.
While it’s normal to feel this way, it’s unhealthy to remain fixated on how others are being blessed.
Get happy with what’s going well for others and make the decision to not play the comparison game.
A healthy way to keep weed out the challenges of comparison is to have regular reflection times.
Use my Reflection Toolkit to establish a simple routine of self-reflection and heart adjustment.
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4. Conduct an Audit
Sit down with your team and conduct a thorough audit of every quantitative and qualitative element in your church. Unhealthy churches neglect to measure vital elements.
Look at all your metrics such as attendance, baptisms, the percentage of people in small groups and serving.
Assess your year-to-year giving trends.
Compare the average age of your congregation to your community’s average age.
Look closely at your approach to visitors because visitors are the key to church growth.
Then audit the qualitative elements of your church.
Ask your leaders to give you two words to describe key elements of your church such as key relationships and communication.
Ask them to rate, 1 – 10, your weekend services, leaders’ meetings, website, social media, skills development and so on.
This self-audit will awaken you and your team to areas that need improving.
You can take this to another level by asking a friend or overseer to look at this audit and give you some specific next steps to create momentum.
5. Renew Your Personal Evangelism Endeavours
Churches get healthier when the pastor and leadership team ramp up their personal evangelism endeavours.
When pastors move out of their familiar routines and begin to connect with non-Christians they experience the highs and lows of personal evangelism.
This revitalises their personal walk with Christ and brings them back to their foundational mission of making disciples
This, in turn, impacts the church when they see their pastor burdened for lost people, sharing their faith and inviting people to church.
Add church-wide prayer and fasting to these actions and you will position your church for growth.
Churches can get so overloaded with programs that people become exhausted with nonstop activities that produce little fruit.
An annual analysis of all church programs and activities helps you cull ineffective and unfruitful programs and ensures you focus your energies on what is fruitful.
In John 15 Jesus spoke of pruning fruitful vines to ensure future fruitfulness.
Neglected vines produce less fruit and ultimately become unhealthy. Similarly, if you don’t prune your church’s programs you will stunt your growth.
Don’t be afraid of closing programs that were previously fruitful or revitalize long-term activities with new leaders and structures.
6. Engage a Coach
Fresh eyes can make all the difference. They see things that you no longer see.
Fresh ears hear words and phrases that you no longer notice.
Fresh minds think thoughts that have not emerged in your mind.
When you engage a coach, you engage with a fresh approach and a new way of doing ministry.
A good coach will ask stimulating questions while gaining insights into your context. They will help you explore new avenues of opportunity while boosting your confidence to try new things.
A good coach will help you get unstuck.
What else can you do to revitalise your church?