A Church Growth Checklist (Suddenly Surging Part 5)

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(Part five of five in David Roseberry’s Suddenly Surging series on church growth.)

A Pre-Flight Checklist

A friend of mine had a passion for flying small planes as a hobby. He had invested countless hours in classroom instruction, flight training, and simulations, accumulating hundreds of hours in the cockpit. As an engineer by profession, he was meticulous and loved creating detailed lists for every aspect of his life. One clear Saturday morning, he invited me for a flight. After years of making excuses, I finally ran out of reasons to decline his offer, so I reluctantly agreed.

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When I met him at the hangar an hour before our scheduled takeoff, Russ did something that immediately put me at ease. Despite his extensive experience, training, and nearly two decades of flying, he pulled out a notebook containing a comprehensive checklist of everything he needed to consider before taxiing down the runway. To my surprise, he read each item aloud, line by line, marking a checkbox as he completed each step.

In the spirit of Russ’s approach, I want to conclude by offering you a similar tool: a checklist to help you grow your church. My list may not be as exhaustive as my friend’s pre-flight checklist. However, it will serve as a starting point for your own growth strategy. I encourage you to add items specific to your context and remove those that may not apply to your setting. The goal is to create a personalized checklist that aligns with your intention to move your church off the plateau and fully engage in the growth opportunities.

A Checklist for Church Growth

Here is the checklist I have compiled based on the insights shared throughout this series. This list might seem overwhelming, but thankfully, it doesn’t have to be done in order, except the first one.

  •  Keep Christ at the center of all growth efforts. Trust in His guidance, rely on His strength, and believe in His promise to build His church.
  • Assess the current state of your church’s growth and identify if it is on a plateau.
  • Develop a plan to help your congregation cultivate a heart for others, fostering a desire to reach the disconnected and lost.
  • Develop a clear action plan for engaging and integrating visitors, assigning a designated person to oversee the process.
  • Reallocate the pastor’s time to dedicate 10+ hours weekly to connect with new people and visitors.
  • Prioritize the development of a robust, adaptable small group system that caters to various life stages, interests, and spiritual needs.
  • Invest in training and support for small group leaders to ensure the health and effectiveness of the groups.
  • Teach and train members to invite others, providing them with resources like leaflets, business cards, and elevator pitches.
  • Focus on providing high-quality music and preaching that inspires, instructs, and motivates both members and visitors.
  • Evaluate the church’s music style and ensure it aligns with the intended target audience within the community.
  • Create a welcoming culture by training greeters, ushers, and members to make visitors feel valued and informed.
  • Implement a systematic follow-up process for visitors, including personal contact, welcome packets, and invitations to events or small groups.
  • Provide training and support for lay leaders to be effective ambassadors of Christ in their service areas.
  • Share testimonies and stories of lay leaders making a difference in the community regularly to inspire others to get involved.
  • Foster a mindset shift among members to view themselves as ambassadors of Christ wherever they go.
  • Unite the congregation in prayer for growth, visitors, new members, and the surrounding community.
  • Assess and adapt the church’s programs and ministries to ensure they effectively meet the needs of new and existing members. To attract visitors, create a comprehensive marketing plan utilizing social media, advertising, and storytelling.
  • Develop a newcomer’s event or class that allows visitors to meet church leaders, learn about the church’s vision, and find ways to get involved.
  • Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the church’s growth strategies and make data-driven adjustments as needed.
  • Celebrate victories, no matter how small, and share testimonies of lives changed, relationships restored, and communities impacted.

By diligently working through this pre-flight checklist and adapting it to your church’s specific needs and context, you can create a personalized roadmap for breaking free from stagnation and experiencing renewed growth, vibrancy, and Kingdom impact.

A Riddle to Remember

When church leaders prioritize and pay attention to visitors and new members, they are more likely to see an increase in these areas. There aren’t too many guarantees in life, but this is one: You will get more of whatever you pay attention to the most.

So, this is the riddle to remember: your church should pay close attention to those who are not yet there. This should remind us of the statement from the late Archbishop William Temple: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

As we lead our churches off the plateau and into a season of growth, we should recognize the widespread impact of a robust visitor engagement program. Beyond the immediate goal of attracting and retaining new members, our efforts to welcome and nurture visitors have a “halo effect” on the entire congregation.

Connecting with Visitors, Strengthening the Body

As we develop programs to connect with visitors, we meet their needs and strengthen Christ’s entire body. A small group ministry that helps visitors connect to the church and grow in their faith will also attract members who want to be a part of it. When pastors focus their time on connection to new people, they discover more about the community around them; their preaching improves. It might be even more relevant. Ministering to the newcomers is no longer just preaching to the choir; we are speaking directly to the heart of our culture.

Visitors are like vitamins, and our churches need them. The efforts to create a welcoming environment and meaningful pathways for growth will have a halo effect that touches every aspect of our congregation’s life. Existing members will be invigorated, preaching more relevant, and the church will become a beacon of hope and transformation.

Final Thoughts

Every church that finds itself on a plateau will inevitably get off that plateau, one way or another. The question is, which direction will it go? Churches that fail to adapt and take these steps towards growth—or at least some—may fall off the plateau. They will experience a decline as members age out, leaders burn out, and pastors check out. But churches that embrace changes and reimagine themselves as a growing body of Christ will find renewed energy, purpose, and impact.

A Necessary Comfort Shift

Finally, the most challenging aspect of implementing any growth strategy is the comfort shift or change for the community. At some level, paying attention to new members and visitors is a disruptive element, as all change is. However, change must extend beyond the pastor and leadership team to touch the congregation. It should be the pastor’s desire that church members have a heart for the lost. They should also have a deep-seated trust that their church would be a tremendous blessing to those who join and form close bonds with the people of the congregation.

By keeping these three points in mind, diligently addressing the areas outlined in these articles, and acting on many of the suggested “Next Steps,” church leaders can guide their congregations off the plateau. They can enter a new season of growth, vibrancy, and Kingdom impact. As the church becomes a beacon of hope and a place of genuine connection and transformation, it will naturally attract those seeking to experience the life-changing love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Breaking from Stagnation

Remember, breaking free from stagnation is not easy but a worthwhile pursuit. As you embark on this journey, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Countless churches have faced similar challenges. Many have emerged stronger, more vibrant, and more effective in their mission to make disciples and impact the world for Christ.

As you implement these strategies and witness the transformation in your church, celebrate the victories, no matter how small. Share the stories of lives changed, relationships restored, and communities impacted. These testimonies will serve as a powerful reminder of why you embarked on this journey in the first place and will inspire others to join you in the mission.

Above all, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Trust in His guidance, rely on His strength, and believe in His promise to build His church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).


Footnotes

[1] The report is titled “U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades” by Jeffrey M. Jones, published on Gallup’s website on April 18, 2019. You can find the full report here: https://news.gallup.com/poll/248837/church-membership-down-sharply-past-two-decades.aspx


Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay, courtesy of Canva.

Author

David Roseberry

David Roseberry leads the nonprofit ministry, LeaderWorks. He was the founding rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, and is the author of many books. He lives in Plano with his wife, Fran.

View more from David Roseberry

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