7 Obstacles to Church Growth (& How to Overcome Them)

We recently had the privilege of hosting a workshop with Dr. Jerry Lawson, pastor or Daystar Church in Cullman, Alabama.

Jerry is also the man behind 24toDouble, a whole church discipleship model that has helped more than 2,000 churches learn how to double their church in 24 months or less.

What started as a 60-year old church with sixty 60-year olds (in a town of 491 people) has since blossomed into a multi-site church with 4,000 weekend worshipers.

Jerry has learned how to overcome obstacles to church growth.

In this workshop, he shared seven that are most common to churches.

And it’s critical to know these. Friend, we are in a war.

Did you know that 100 years ago that 80% of American attended church?

But then, by World War 2, that number shrank to just 40%, meaning the church in America had already lost HALF the population in one generation.

Today, the most accurate statistical efforts tell us that about 20% of the population goes to church.

That’s right. American church attendance went from 80% several generations ago, to only 40% two generations ago, to now 20% today.

It’s estimated that by 2050 that only 11.6% of Americans will attend church on a given Sunday.

If this were the stock market we were talking about, people would be jumping off the top of tall buildings in New York City.

As a pastor or leader, you must act as if YOUR church is the only church in your town capable of reaching people. That yours may be the only church standing between them and hell.

If you don’t address these seven things, your church may not grow in size or influence.

The 7 Most Common Obstacles to Church Growth

  1. An Internally Focused Church.
    Simply put, an internally focused church does not grow.
  2. Substandard First Impressions.
    Everything communicates something.
  3. A worship ministry that’s out of sync with the culture.
    Who are you trying to reach? How does your music line up with that vision?
  4. Stagnant Children’s Ministry.
    Same when it comes to student ministry.
  5. A Non-Existent Follow-Up Strategy.
    Who is the one person in charge of follow-up at your church?
  6. The Assumption of Connection.
    If a newcomer to your church doesn’t make 7 friends in the first seven weeks, you’ve lost them.
  7. Mission Creep.
    What are you doing that isn’t essential to the vision or mission of your church?

Listen to the workshop to hear Jerry talk in more detail about these seven points.

He doesn’t just discuss the obstacles, but also gives practical ways to overcome them.

Coming Soon

Soon we will be publishing a new book: 6 Unbreakable Laws of Church Growth by Jerry Lawson and me.

6 Unbreakable Laws of Church growth examines the immutable factors that take churches from struggling to thriving.

So where did this book come from?

It came from years (decades really) of experience. Pastor Jerry Lawson says that when he started Daystar Church, “I was 28, good-looking, and even more arrogant than I am today.” (Yes, even he had to laugh when he wrote that down.)

But when Jerry started out, he had no idea that (what would become) Daystar would be a long-term home in his preaching career. A regional denominational leader told him it might be a “great place to gain some experience.”

And that denominational leader was right, albeit for different reasons.

What started out as a 60-year old church with sixty 60-year olds has since grown to more than 4,000 weekend worshipers across multiple campuses. And not in a thriving metropolis, mind you.

There really is an 80/20 Rule, it turns out, that applies to churches and to their scale within the community.

Daystar emanates from Cullman, Alabama, a city not known for its size or influence.

But in a city otherwise barely on the map, Daystar Church is wielding major influence.

And it all started with a major discovery…

That pastors might have the idea about what makes a church grow all wrong.

There really is an 80/20 Rule, it turns out, that applies to churches and to their scale within the community.

“Too many churches try to grow from the outside in,” says Jerry.

True growth, it turns out, happens from the inside out.

So what does that practically mean?

That churches need to focus more on developing volunteers who carry the vision of the church.

Serving as the basis for the upcoming book, the webinar 6 Unbreakable Laws of Church Growth webinar highlights some of Jerry’s and Daystar’s experiences. It also shares transferable action points that any church can take to grow… from the inside out.

It is available for a short time here.

Healthy Things Grow

Over the last 10-15 years, my partner in 24toDouble, Pastor Jerry Lawson, has learned a TON about the ins and outs of growing a church.

One thing I learned from Jerry is that healthy things grow.

Now before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way…

The concept of “church growth” at times connotes comparison. And I don’t think that a goal of growth, with comparison at its heart, is the right approach here.

When we begin to think about growth, and in order to start on the right foot, let’s think instead of church health.

Because healthy things… grow.

In order to have a healthy church, you have to have a healthy culture. Including…

A Healthy Staff –
Whether paid or volunteer, the people who do ministry at your church must be healthy.

When Jerry started out at Daystar Church, he had ONE employee. Now Daystar employs 50 staff over multiple campuses. And they still have way more volunteers than employees.

A healthy church requires a healthy core as well as healthy systems. It isn’t enough to rely on big events to grow your church… Events aren’t necessarily scalable and can be easily done by other churches in your area or even the mall down the street.

Church Health = High Standards for Your Team –

Jerry recalls that when he started out at Daystar he was the senior (teaching) pastor as well as the worship pastor. Before long, he was just looking for someone with a pulse to run the worship on Sundays.

He says that his first band member–a drummer–played at a night club on Saturday nights, and then at their worship service on Sunday mornings!

“We have much higher standards now!” Jerry points out.

“At one point we had, at what was then our 3 campuses (which included satellite campuses) zero full-time paid staff and incredibly high quality worship at all 3 campuses.”

Because of high standards and systems, Daystar was able to maintain church health.

BUILD the Staff –

Soon thereafter, Jerry heard a call from God to institute a “Best Staff Ever” campaign. He says that God told him…

“If you BUILD the staff–not steal them from other churches–I’ll make sure they are the best church staff ever.”

This meant that Jerry’s primary responsibility to the staff was to see that each staff member was BUILT up in 8 key areas of their walk with God (and their role in the church).

  • Faith
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Freedom (including freedom from any bondages)
  • Fun
  • Fitness
  • Friends
  • Focus (ministry area)

In other words, Daystar took a holistic approach to staff development.

Intimate Moments with God –

To the senior leader, Jerry has this word of advice…

“You must plan intimate moments with God.”

He says he hears from pastors all the time who complain that they do not have the time for intimacy with God. To them he responds…

“You do have enough time. The problem is, you’re spending it on something else.”

Prioritizing intimate moments with God, Senior Leader, is vital for your health, without which you cannot expect your church to be healthy.

Work ON your Church, Not Just IN Your Church –

We can all get caught up in the everyday demands of ministry. But no church can achieve or sustain health without its leaders looking for ways to educate themselves first.

Take a moment and watch this free training, called the 6 Unbreakable Laws of Church Growth. In it, Jerry shares even more nuggets of wisdom on his experience of growing a healthy church.

7 Things Your Church NEEDS to Grow

When you give it your all on your outreach efforts, only to see that new visitors don’t translate into steady church growth, ask yourself the question…

Are we making follow-up a priority?

I mean, really making follow-up a priority.

You know where your priorities lie—not so much on the amount of effort put into something—but what systems you have applied to something.

What is your church’s follow-up system?

Before we go too far into making you feel completely inadequate, let’s nail down the basic essentials for any church follow-up system to be truly effective…

Basically, you need 2 processes (nailed down) and 5 tools.

Processes

First you need a Follow-Up Process.

Basically this is a one-page flowchart that shows what happens when someone enters your church for the first time.

This covers everything from how guest information is collected, where it’s entered, WHO is responsible for (what type of) follow-up, and what happens next.

Second, you need a New Christian Process.

This covers everything that needs to happen in your church once someone has indicated they have made a decision to follow Christ.

Once you have these processes down, you need 5 tools at your disposal, without which you can’t grow your church. (Well, maybe you could, but it would be very unlikely.)

Tools

  1. Connection Card – Whether you use this in the “bulletin” on stuff a copy in the back of every seat, you need a way for newcomers to indicate that they’re there, and give you a chance to follow up with them.
  2. Thank You Note Cards – These are simple cards that your outreach team or staff can easily send that acknowledge a newcomer’s visit and welcome them to visit again.
  3. Email Follow-Up Sequence – There’s no reason you can’t communicate in an ongoing way with first-time visitors. You should have a “guest friendly” email series that sends out reminders, invitations, special events, and new sermon series to help people stay in touch with your church.
  4. New Believer Letter – Yes. There needs to be written communication that acknowledges—and celebrates—new Christians in your church.
  5. Welcome Letter from the Pastor – Don’t worry, this can be a form letter. It needs to touch on the essentials of your church as well as why you’re looking forward to your guests returning next Sunday.

Simply put, your church is currently the size it is designed to be. If you want to grow, you need systems that will take your church to the next level.

What I am offering you today is a chance to supercharge your church by providing the stability of proven systems


And before you ask the question, YES, these are systems that can be used by churches of every conceivable size.


In fact, we have specifically tailored these systems for churches exactly like yours. Small (or mid-sized) churches that want to grow beyond where they are, but aren’t yet seeing the leaders and resources that are necessary to get there.

Go here to discover the 7 Fail-Proof Church Systems for Yourself.

The Power of Why

Listen to Dr. Jerry Lawson of Daystar Church share the power of WHY, and exactly why communicating WHY is so important when it comes to getting people to change.

Just a few short years ago, Jerry Lawson found himself as the new pastor of a 60-year old church with sixty 60-year olds.

Today, Daystar Church in Cullman, Alabama is a multisite church with over 3,500 worshiping every weekend.

What did he learn in his journey of massive church growth that made all the difference? …

Learn more about it here.

Never do this, Pastor.

“Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a hear of wisdom.”

Numbering vs Counting the Days

Watch the video above for my complete thoughts on what I want you to know today.

The only day you can really number is today.

Will today matter?

How will you allow God to make today matter?

What have you put off that can happen today?

What resistance have you been avoiding?

Make today matter, Pastor.

What are you hiding? Can you break free today?

Make today matter Pastor!

IF YOU’RE A PASTOR WHO CARES ANYTHING ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH…

JOIN US FOR THE FREE ON-DEMAND TRAINING SESSION:

6 Unbreakable Laws of Church Growth

Just visit UnbreakableChurch.com to get this free training!

The Power of Asking

Pastor, I was in small group about a dozen years ago with a lady named Shelly, a pharmaceutical rep who made a profound statement one day that I’ve never forgotten …

Shelly told the story of how she was at a Taco Bell (or was it Del Taco?) and was waiting for her order of tacos. A guy behind the counter mentioned that there was an unclaimed Chalupa leftover from a meal order that they didn’t completely fulfill.

So Shelly asked the cashier if she could have that Chalupa, for free, added to her order of tacos. Of course they said, “Why not?” Her point was clear, “Always ask for the Chalupa.”

Now the Chalupa is a symbol of anything in our lives that can be claimed just by asking.

And this is a biblical principle after all. James said, “You have not because you ask not.”

Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.”

Did you know that you get 0% of the Chalupas that you never ask for?

Exactly.

So Pastor, how does this translate to ministry, and to the burden of growing your church?

Simple. There are at least two areas that I want to make sure you develop a regular habit of asking for.

One is money. It will take financial resources to grow and sustain your church.

The other is help. As in, help to do ministry. Because … you simply can’t do it all.

To see what I mean, watch the video!

Find out everything you need to know about how to build the systems and teams to double your church in 24 months at www.24Trial.com.

7 Systems Your Church Can’t Live Without

We often talk about church systems here at MyChurchTraining.com.

And for good reasons.

Systems are the backbone (and often unseen or otherwise unappreciated) that enables the body of the church to flourish.

While there are any number of factors that can diminish a church’s impact or effectiveness, most churches never get out of the dysfunction zone because of a problem with its systems.

Why is it that some churches seem to click on all cylinders at all times and others either never seem to hit their stride or keep tripping up in their quest for growth and health.

Or put another way, are there certain times of year that your church seems stressed to the max?

Think about Christmas, Easter, back to school. Think of the resources and people that are required to make your calendar and initiatives a success.

Believe me, planning doesn’t overcome a deficiency in systems. Without the skeletal structure that is provided by the right functioning systems, the body of the church will slump to the ground like a rag doll.

Here are 7 Systems Your Church Can’t Live Without.

  1. Outreach – Yes there should be an actual system (a group of implementable processes) for your outreach efforts. This is about getting people into the front door of your church every Sunday. People who are otherwise not a part of your faith family. An effective outreach system has several elements to it. You need a strategy for reaching those outside the walls of your church. You need communication pieces going to your community through the right media for reaching people. This is about getting the message (you are welcome at our church) to the market (your community) through the right media (a mix of communication avenues). Don’t trivialize this. For those who advocate a word-of-mouth only strategy, they are missing the mark big time. Even if your own members make the best outreach communicators, there needs to be a plan in place and leaving pieces that make it easy for new people to visit your church.
  2. Guest Services – Because even if you succeed in getting 100 new people to your church every Sunday morning, if you fail to touch them in a meaningful way, they are not likely to come back the next Sunday. Look, they don’t even have to have a bad experience … most people need a REASON to come back, instead of staying home. Churches that fail to make a good first impression on a new visitor don’t usually have their guest services ministry systemized. And that’s the problem. Even if your church can’t afford a full-time Guest Services Director, don’t let that keep you from making sure that there is a solid system in place for your visitors.
  3. Follow-Up – A system for follow-up goes beyond just guest services. It’s what you do with the new person or action that has a great impact on your church. This is where most churches of your size go wrong. I can remember in my younger days, huddling with a half-dozen people in a room at my church writing and signing cards, thanking people for visiting. I think we called that “Outreach” night. We called it that, because we didn’t consider the job of attracting new visitors (outreach) done until we followed up. Look, you don’t necessarily need to huddle a half dozen people at your church on a Tuesday night and write cards and make phone calls to get people to show back up to your church on Sunday, but you do need a system that makes sense, for these days, that people can easily follow.
  4. Financial – Want to instill confidence in your congregation with your leadership? This is important. Have a sound financial System. To many church plants and small churches FAIL because the financial system used by the pastor changes with the wind. And no, it’s not because the pastor has bad intentions or lacks integrity. It’s a lack of knowledge on exactly what system should be adopted and stuck with for the long haul. We give you that system.
  5. Security – This system should include a checklist of best practices when it come to keeping your church safe. And once again, as pastor, you can’t be the armed guard too. You can’t be in all places at once. You need a system that effectively equips a team to do the work of security. When your congregants feel safe(r) and know that their kids are safe, you will be more apt to grow than if you lack a security system.
  6. Children’s Ministry – The way to grow your church is to capture the young families of your community. That’s why having a next-level children’s ministry system is a non-negotiable. Happy kids equal happy congregants in 90% of the cases Retention, even growth, is all about the family. Doesn’t matter where your church is located or what your current attendance is, without a fail-proof children’s ministry system, your church can fall apart at any time.
  7. Staff Team – Look, if your staff team is a hot mess, your church is a hot mess. I’ve seen too many churches fail (as in go from 2000+ in TWA to less than 500 in a couple years) because of personnel issues. You cannot grow just by hiring people. But you can fail by hiring the wrong people. A system will help you hire slow, fire fast. It will help you develop leaders with potential. Don’t get this one wrong. Let the system help you get it right. And grow your church as a result.

Here’s the great news …

Here at MyChurchTraining.com … we recently developed these systems FOR you. Yes, you can have literal plug-and-play systems for all seven of these areas.

And no, these systems do not require you to hire more staff.

But they will allow you to grow to a point that hiring more staff may be an option in the future.

We’re calling them 7 Fail-Proof Church Systems

We’ve taken the best systems and distilled them down to the guides, documents, and templates that you need to make sure your church doesn’t fail in any of these key 7 areas:

… Outreach

… New visitors

… Follow-up

… Finances

… Security

… Children’s Ministry

… Staff Team.

Go here and discover just how affordable these systems are, and why you cannot run your church without them.

Solve the Problems You Have

A while back in Andy Stanley’s first “Be Rich” campaign, he shared a whole list of problems “rich people” have, things like “my grass is dying because the water restrictions won’t let me use my sprinklers”, and “the house I have for my cars isn’t big enough for both my seven-seater SUV’s”. 

One of the ideas that really impacted me was that we have become a nation of people who don’t replace broken things; rather, we upgrade to newer things. 

We don’t wear things out before we replace them. We don’t maximize what we already have.

Wherever you’re doing ministry right now, wear it out before you try to replace it or expand on it.

That means three services on Sunday, and there’s still a need to schedule another Sunday or Saturday night service. 

The reason for this is critical mass!

People won’t involve themselves in the solution to a problem they don’t have.

Critical mass in your current facility will help everyone become involved in the problem and give you leverage for involvement and buy-in to find a solution.

If people in your church don’t think you need a building, you’ve got a tough road ahead. So pack those pews baby!

Here are a few questions to answer before you take off.

• Is your worship area space maxed out?

• Are you celebrating in at least two services each week, if not more?

• Are you turning away parents with children because you’re out of space?

• Are people driving into your parking lot or walking into the church and turning right back out again because they can’t find a parking space or a place to sit?

Any or all of these problems can form the basis for creating a compelling reason for a new building. 

Again, when people experience the pain of a problem, they often want to become involved in finding the solution.

Speaking of solutions, did you know that mychurchtraining.com has a number of programs, and that perhaps just one of these programs will offer the solution you need? Visit our home page and see for yourself what 2,500+ pastors just like you have used to find breakthroughs for your church.

6 Things Pastors Forget About the Rest of Us

I love my work. I get to help churches grow. Over the years I’ve become aware of just how different church environments are from any other work environment.

Lately, it seems churches have become really good at developing high-quality work environments. In fact, some of you are working in your city’s “best places to work.”

For the rest of us, things might be a little bit different.

1. We’re Fat.

58 million overweight; 40 million obese; 3 million morbidly obese.

Eight out of 10 over-25s overweight.

When we wake up in the morning, we don’t see what God created. We see something less than … and we’re using a scale with a number on it to quantify our real worth.

The obesity cycle looks just like the cycle of sin. See something, take something, hide and repeat.

If we don’t feel good about what we see in the mirror, how likely are we to share with others the One who created what we see in the mirror?

2. We’re in Debt.

More than 40 percent of U.S. families spend more than they earn.

Americans carry, on average, $8,400 in credit card debt.

The solution to this problem isn’t talking less about money … it’s talking more about how freedom feels when you treat your money the way God instructed us. If you teach on this with our best interest in mind, you can’t lose.

3. We Hate Our Jobs.

Employee surveys show that more than 65 percent of workers are not satisfied with their job.

These numbers are consistent over a wide variety of professions, and the studies were performed with massive amounts of people to validate the results. Most people don’t ever get the opportunity to know their work changed eternity for someone.

4. We Have Tension.

Whether we’re a school teacher or a CEO, we come to work, day in day out, with an objective in mind we have to accomplish or our job is at risk.

The tension is always there and we’ve learned to live with it, maybe even forget it’s there from time to time.

But make no mistake, we are all in performance-based jobs. Fail to perform at the minimum required level and someone else is waiting to fill our spot.

And that’s what many of us do, perform at the minimum acceptable level to keep from losing our job. There is no passion!

We Pay Taxes.

Between state and federal income tax, as well as property taxes, the effective tax rate for middle America is somewhere between 11.5 percent and 15 percent.

The reason I mention this is, with the deductions clergy receive for mortgage interest expense, along with being able to receive a significant portion of your salary in the form of a housing expense, a pastor’s income of $85,000 looks a lot different from that same salary for one of your members.

I think that’s an important distinction to make when you compare your giving as a pastor to “their” giving as members. Particularly in the “tithing before or after taxes” debate.

6. Our Marriages Stink.

After 10 years of marriage, it is predicted that only 25 percent of couples will still be happily married (Glenn,1996).

This stat should enrage you! My wife is the primary opportunity I have to love God.

If only 25 percent of us are “happy,” what does that say about our relationship with the One who created us? If we aren’t “happy” with our marriage, there is no chance we’re growing spiritually.

You got into ministry to help people grow in their relationship with Christ, right?  

So here’s why I’m on my soapbox this morning: We’re dying a slow death, and I don’t think you’re fully aware of it. No, this list doesn’t represent everyone in your church, but these are real stats for average Americans. So they do represent the majority of people in your congregation.

Wouldn’t it be wise to consider this information as you prepare this weekend’s message?

Most of us don’t give many people permission to speak into our lives, but we’ve given it to you.

You have a unique opportunity to be used by God to inspire us to have:

  • Better marriages
  • Be more generous (and pay less taxes) – “Generosity is the cure for materialism.” – me
  • Make our work about reaching people, which will skyrocket our job satisfaction
  • Treat our bodies as God’s temple

If we’re showing up to your church, we’re giving you permission to influence change in our lives.

What will you do with it?  

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  John C. Maxwell

A Unique Opportunity to Grow Your Church (and Letting My Team Help)

If your church is declining (or not growing at the rate you would like) you are not alone …

Of course you’re never really alone – God is always with you.

But sometimes, when you look out at your sanctuary and not many faces are looking back at you it’s easy to feel like you’re failing.

The sad thing is that this trend is becoming more and more common.

All across America the last 40 years has been marked by a steady decline in the amount of people regularly coming to church.

Pastors everywhere are struggling……

Which means you’ve got less resources…….

Which means you’re reaching even fewer people.

Don’t let this be you. For the past five years, I have partnered with Jerry Lawson of 24toDouble …

Check it out for yourself.