5 Ways to Grow Your Church in 2014

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I am currently – yes, on New Year’s Day – completing our church’s charity return for 2011-2012.  I am currently compiling data from December 2011, which is two whole years ago.  We are now running at 3 times as many people, 4 times as much income, and 5 times as many volunteers.  That’s not bad.  If we manage that again in the next 2 years, by December 2015 we will be a church just under 400, with more than enough money to purchase our own building.  

Do I think I can reach that target?  Actually, I think I can smash it.  I know a lot more about church growth than I did 2 years ago, and I will know a lot more in 2 years time.  So this post is for church leaders looking to see growth in their churches in 2014.  5 simple steps anyone can take that will almost guarantee an increase in people.

1.  Start Counting How Many People You Have in Church every Sunday.

Don’t guess, don’t estimate.  Count.  Get a clicker if you have to (you could get one here).  Most pastors never count and never record.  When you get the numbers put them in a database of some sort.  We use Elvanto which I wholeheartedly recommend, but you could use Excel, or even a big  A board.  Knowing the numbers makes it easy to measure and notice growth.  It’s amazing but as soon as you start counting, that act of focus brings growth.

I know people will say “it’s not all about numbers”.  That depends on what you are counting.  If you are counting people who need the love and life of Jesus inside their hearts then it is all about numbers.  Each number is a person, each person is a story.

2. Throw a party.

We did this in September 2013 and it added 10 people a week to our Sunday morning services!  We just had a bring your friends to church party.  We did our best worship, I preached my best message (also the first in a series to bring people back in next week), and we had our best smilers on the doors.  Also the children’s church had a party as well, and in the service I raffled off a whole bunch of prizes.  It was a lot of fun.

It was our busiest service of the year, even Duane Sheriff and Wendell Parr did not attract the crowds that free food did.  After church we bought all the children in the service a happy meal (all 33!), and had a bring your own food but bring loads buffet after for the adults.  We just chatted and enjoyed fellowship.  That’s a simple thing to do and it works.  We are doing it again Feb 2014 and Easter 2014 and September 2014 and Christmas 2014.  Why?  It works.

3. Advertise.

We have had people come to Tree of LIfe this year due to billboards, newspaper adverts, leaflet drops and all sorts.  People criticise adverts and word-of-mouth is ALWAYS better, but it does bring people in and new people NO-ONE in the church know bring a real buzz to a Sunday assuming your church is disciples and loves new people… which brings me to point 4…

4. Create a Culture of Welcome

You can’t welcome everyone unless your church is less than 20.  Now we are running 130+ a Sunday (I know that because I counted see!), I don’t even know if anyone is new or not – it’s too many people.  So you train people to be welcoming, you have procedures to help and welcome people, you let everyone know we are family and we are expecting guests.

First impressions matter

5. Have a decent and up-to-date website and Facebook page.  No one under 35 will come to your church without going to your website and your Facebook page.  If they have animations from 15 years ago and are inviting people to a Carol Service in 2009, those people have made their mind up about you before they even go.  If you cannot do this pay someone to do the website (if you need a guy, I have a guy) and find someone in your church under 30 and ask them to set up a church Facebook page.  

There you have it.  It won’t solve all your problems but it’s a good kick up the backside to your church that will help you be all you can be in 2014

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What Do You Want? (part 1)

I am a grace man. Truly I am. All I want is the world to know about His grace and the complete work.

However, when dealing with pastors who want to leave all church growth to God I get wound up.  I seriously want to spit bricks.  The United Kingdom is in too much of a mess to sit down, sip lemonade and say “que sera sera”.  We need large, healthy, growing churches – churches that change lives, churches that heal the sick, churches that both challenge and welcome the surrounding community, churches where people are getting born again, are grasping the gospel and living the kingdom.  Churches which are not just healthy but safe.  Churches which don’t have a large back door (you will always have some people leave – even Jesus had Judas, you can’t please everyone!) but that are mended nets – whole and secure, keeping the caught fish.

I have a dream.  It is a simple dream.  I dream of a church that is everything Jesus died for.  Miracles are common in this church as everyone in the church is equipped to minister supernaturally.  Lives are changed in this church as the gospel is the central message and foundation to everything the church does.  In short, I dream of a church that looks like Jesus.

But dreams are easy to say.  Anyone can dream.  I am not opposed to dreaming, not in the slightest – I am a dreamer and I want everyone around me to dream and dream big.  Part of our church’s vision statement is “Building disciples who dream big”.   But dreaming can easily become pipe dreaming (a phrase I only recently learned comes from the people who dream after smoking an opium pipe!  We need to be dreamers, not stoners!) unless we make the necessary choices to see those dreams come true.

Easter Sunday 2013 is now gone.  Although I am overwhelmed by the fact we saw 6 salvations, countless healings (including a man healed of MS), and 20 new people at Tree of Life, I cannot rest on my laurels.  I cannot say “Look that at” because we are absolutely not there yet.

This year I have already been to one leadership conference (One Way, at Kingdom Faith – with James Galloway, Clive Urquhart and Colin Urquhart.  Absolutely inspired me to ensure that our church systems are robust and that I am raising leaders – something I am committed to anyway, but we all need fired up and given more wisdom on how to do it!), I have signed up to a leadership training course, we are hosting our own leadership conference in just a few weeks, I am then off to another pastor’s conference with George and Hazel Hill (who have planted 3000 churches in their lifetime!) and then another conference in October.  I am doing everything I can to learn about leadership and pastoring a growing church.  

Why?  Because I want it to happen.  And I know it will not happen by me closing my eyes and hoping and praying.  It simply won’t.

In 1 Cor. 3.9 Paul says about the church, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

He opens the statement by saying he is a co-worker with God.  Here’s a little bit of Biblical wisdom for you: co-workers WORK.  There is no church growth without work.  Save us Lord from lazy pastors.  Sometimes I outline my schedule of work to other pastors and they cannot believe how much I travel, visit and prepare for everything we do.  But it is only by working with God can we build the churches of our dreams.  So many people have a dream, but never put it to work.  That makes you a stoner not a dreamer.  Get off your backside and do something.

For me I always work with the dream, the scheme and the theme.  The dream is the end product – that is where I am going  The scheme is the blueprint – that is the plans to do it.  The theme is the step I am taking right now.  Now most people get confused because the theme doesn’t match the dream, and a lot of people lack the humility to live the dream by taking the first step of their dream.

For example, you might have a dream to pastor a church of 3000.   I know I do.  But unless I am prepared to pastor a church of 10, I will never get there.  There are no churches of 3000 in this nation that will phone you up and invite you to suddenly be the new senior pastor.  And if they did you wouldn’t have a clue what to do anyway, and would lose and hurt, and seriously injure a great deal of people.  So what is the first step?   For me, it was building a church website and putting an invite in the local paper.  One person came to our first meeting.  We had no denomination, no back up, no covering, no help, no money, no wisdom, no nothing.  But we treated that one person like a princess – loved her, taught her the Word.  And then there were 5 (six months later, mind you), and then 7 and then 10 (double digits was revival in those days!), and it took on from there.  All the time I was working as a teacher, working as a postman, my wife was working two jobs most of that time just to pay the bills.  It did not look like my dream, but it was the first step towards our dream.  It takes guts, character and wisdom to take that first step.  It is my firm belief that most people know what the first step is, they just need to take it.

Your dream might be to lead worship in front of thousands.  Guess what – your first step is when everyone else is going to the party, everyone else is watching the cool TV programme, you are sitting in your room on your own strumming and plucking, reading and praying.  It doesn’t look like your dream, it doesn’t feel like your dream – but it is the first step to your dream.

You might dream of preaching like your hero – so go and learn more about the Bible.  Go and study the Word, sign up for a course, systematically read the Bible.  It won’t look like your dream but it is the first step to your dream.

Today – find out the first step.  Before the end of this week, take it.  If you want to build a Paul-kind of church, you need to be a worker.  Make a decision that you want your church to grow.  God wants your church to grow and He is willing to be a co-worker with you, so why not make the choice to be a co-worker with Him!

In the next part of this article, we will look at gardening!  But until then – what is the first step and take it.  Let me know if this inspires and challenges you because that is what I am praying and believing for!