5 Hard Truths About Healthy Church Growth

healthy church growth

Most church leaders I know would love to see their church grow.

Similarly, most leaders I’ve met want their church to grow for what we might call the ‘right’ reasons: they sincerely want more people to encounter the love of Jesus Christ.

That’s amazing.

And yet there’s a strong reaction against growing churches by many leaders.

For some reason, many people love to take pot-shots at growing churches and large churches.

Some are categorical denouncements.

I don’t know what to do with those. Sometimes I sense that underneath the anger are jealousy and resentment on the part of leaders whose churches aren’t growing.

Conversely, I also know many church leaders of small and even stuck or declining churches who don’t define themselves by attacking other churches that are growing. There’s a beauty and a grace in that kind of security.  Someone else’s success should never make you feel like a failure.

Someone else's success should never make you feel like a failure. Click To Tweet

Other times, I sense the critics are those who have been hurt by an unhealthy growing church. I have a lot of empathy for that. Read on below.

Inevitably, someone in the discussion will say what we need are not growing churches, but healthy churches.


But in the midst of it all is a polarized and often unhealthy conversation about church growth.

So here’s my bias: when you see baptism after baptism and hear life-change story after life-change story, it’s hard to be against church growth. Why would you stand against the expanding mission of the local church?

And yet the emotional debate continues.

As you plan ahead for your church, here are 5 hard truths to keep in mind about healthy church growth. The discussion is nuanced at times, but I hope the nuance is worth it in the end.

I imagine some church leaders can’t even have a  simple conversation with some of their staff, volunteers or elder board about church growth without it becoming volatile.

Externally, most of us have colleagues who have strong opinions for or against. It can lead to a very frustrating dialogue. Or none at all.

I hope these truths will hopefully help frame the discussion in less emotional, more realistic terms and hopefully help your team and your colleagues get closer to the same page.

Maybe we can agree more and better work on the mission together.

When you hear one life-change story after another, it's hard to be against church growth. Click To Tweet

1. Healthy Churches Grow. But Not All Growing Churches Are Healthy Churches.

You’ve heard the line before “Healthy things grow.” Fundamentally, I believe that’s true.

But even as someone who wants to see every local church thrive, I would agree that not all growing churches are healthy churches.

I think that’s where the conversation gets messed up.

Yes, healthy churches do grow. But not all growing churches are healthy.

I want to be careful what I say here because I don’t want this taken out of context, but sometimes unhealthy things grow too; like cancer.

Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Just because a church is growing doesn't mean it's healthy. Click To Tweet

And maybe that’s where the funk in the conversation comes from. We all know at least one (or more) growing churches that are not healthy.

But just because that’s true, it doesn’t mean all growth is unhealthy.

The key here is to not make the exception the rule.

There are thousands of small, mid-sized and larger healthy growing churches which are largely unknown that serve their communities well. Their leaders’ names aren’t household names, but they are doing the hard work of bringing grace into a broken world every day, and they have the thrill of seeing life after life, family after family and person after person discover hope in Christ.

Those kinds of healthy churches do grow. And sometimes, they become churches that are better known or whose pastors are better known. Most often they don’t. But those leaders do amazing work.

Not all growing churches are healthy, but healthy churches do grow.

If your church is healthy over the long haul, it will reach more people.

Not all growing churches are healthy, but healthy churches grow. Click To Tweet

2. Healthy Small Churches Usually Don’t Stay Small Forever

There’s also a thread of this discussion that suggests churches should stay small.

The challenge is it’s hard to stay small when you’re reaching people.

Sure, you can break up into smaller campuses and locations, or plant multiple venues. But the reality is that a healthy church over time will continue to grow.

And if they do stay small, it’s often because of an artificial cap.

Maybe you’re losing as many people as you reach, in which case you’re treading water. That isn’t optimal health.

And sometimes the barriers that keep a church from reaching its potential stand in the way.

More often than not, those barriers are structural, not spiritual. And they can be passed.

Accomplishing your mission means reaching people, and reaching people means growth.

Accomplishing your mission means reaching people, and reaching people means growth. Click To Tweet

3. An Outward Focused Church Ultimately Creates the Healthiest Insiders

So what creates a healthy church?

Many factors, but outward focus is non-negotiable.

It’s a bit of a paradox, but an outwardly focused church ultimately creates the healthiest insiders.

An outwardly focused church ultimately creates the healthiest insiders. Click To Tweet

Why is that?

An inherent part of the Christian faith is death to self. And that also means death to selfish preferences.

In an insider-focused church, no one sacrifices anything for the sake of others, because people believe others ought to sacrifice to please them.

If the church exists to make you happy, why wouldn’t people sacrifice more to make you happier?

In outsider-focused churches, the opposite is true.

Insiders sacrifice for the sake of outsiders. They realize that when they give, others live. That when they decide the church isn’t about them, they find a joy that is so elusive to selfish people.

Externally focused churches realize that sacrifice for the sake of others is a pathway to joy.

When you die to yourself, something greater rises.

When you die to yourself, something greater rises. Click To Tweet

4. Decline Can Happen For A Season In Healthy Churches

So does being a healthy church mean everything is always up and to the right?

No, it doesn’t.

Like any living organism, churches go through seasons. Sometimes that means a healthy church will stall out or even decline for a season.

That can be because of a leadership change, hitting a new growth barrier, the need for systems to catch up to where the church has grown, and sometimes, for no clear reason at all (some of this truly is a mystery).

But healthy churches recover from that plateau or decline, adjust the sails and continue on with their mission.

You may be in decline for a season, but seasons have beginnings and endings.

If your church’s prolonged season of decline has no end, it’s not a season. You’re in decline.

This is the case for a lot of churches. If that’s the case, it’s best for a leader to name reality and admit that there are deeper issues that have to be addressed.

If your church's prolonged season of decline has no end, it's not a season. Click To Tweet

5. Healthy Leaders Produce Healthy Churches

I’ve been leading in the local church for 20 years. We’ve had seasons where we’ve seen 30% growth year after year, and seasons where it’s been flatlined.

Over the last two decades, we’ve gone from a handful of people to over 1200 today (plus more online), with a new location launching this month. Most of the people who come to our church for the first time self-identify as having no regular church attendance background.

When I look back at almost 23 years of leadership, I see a trend. When I wasn’t healthy, neither was our church.

Even in seasons where our church was growing, that growth wasn’t the healthiest (lots of turnover) when I wasn’t the healthiest.

Unhealthy leaders can’t lead healthy churches. Not over the long haul.

Unhealthy leaders can't lead healthy churches. Not over the long haul. Click To Tweet

If you think your church is unhealthy, look in the mirror.

As hard as it is to admit, you reproduce who you are, not who you want to be.

Leaders, you reproduce who you are, not who you want to be. Click To Tweet

But this is also true. As I’ve grown healthier, so has our church. So has our growth.

One of the most difficult things a leader can do is look in the mirror and face the truth. I’ve had to do that again and again.

The more ridiculously honest I am with God, with my team and with myself, the healthier I get.

I’ve seen counselors over the years, hired coaches, read books, gone on retreats and done whatever I can to become more emotionally, spiritually and relationally healthy. And like every leader, I’m a work in progress.

But here’s the good news.

Leaders, when you get healthier, your church gets healthier. So do whatever it takes to get you and your team healthy.

When the leader gets healthier, your church get healthier. Click To Tweet

Any Thoughts?

What do you see when it comes to healthy church growth?

And let’s play nice. Please don’t be that person in the comments. There’s enough of that on the internet already. Disagree if you will, but let’s not be disagreeable.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Hard Truths About Healthy Church Growth


  1. Dave Maxfield on August 20, 2021 at 10:04 am

    Entering a new phase this weekend- a small mission congregation is merging with a medium size “neighborhood” congregation which has experienced the “COVID- conundrum” of lower attendance and commitment. Your thoughts brought it home- the call to a new beginning- begins with me. It’s akin to the “new beginning” I am personally experiencing in post-surgical recovery (1 month ago) which has brought an intentional awareness to diet, exercise and self-care I had lost sight of over time of serving here. Sometimes the “good news” has a bit of sting to it- if only to call me to a deeper/healthier life and ministry. Thank you.

  2. David Roadcup on August 20, 2021 at 8:56 am

    Really good insights and information. Super good point about a church being large but not healthy. Keep up the good work.

  3. Larry Holland on August 20, 2021 at 8:36 am

    Great wisdom and very balanced. Absent legalism and criticism. Edifying.

    Everyone (including pastors) go through unhealthy seasons but no one should stay there.

    Keep up the great work

  4. Mary Lindloff on August 24, 2020 at 11:10 am

    It looks like this post is from awhile ago but I’m hoping that you’ll still see my comment! I am wondering if you have any research or data to back up #3 AN OUTWARD FOCUSED CHURCH ULTIMATELY CREATES THE HEALTHIEST INSIDERS. I don’t doubt it but I’d love research or data to help persuade churches that this is truly important! Thanks so much for all the information you provided in this post.

  5. Peter Charette on August 15, 2020 at 9:15 am


    What I’d truly love is an e-mail discussion with you or one of your staff on the foundations of Church Ministry and growth. When you use the term “growth,” that term is clearly defined in your thinking. When I use the term “growth,” I have what I think is a significantly different idea of what that means. To be honest, I have differing views from you on some of the basic tenets of Church, her ministry and function. But I’m not rude, not attacking, and not looking to tear down. I think an e-mail conversation would help me to understand more, and that’s always a good thing.

    I wait with patient expectation your reply.

    Pete Charette

  6. E. J on April 22, 2019 at 2:49 am

    Hello Carey, thank you so much for this article. Right now my church is as bad as it gets. We are not in decline, we have declined to practically nothing, but after reading your very informative article, I now have a great prayer point and a starting of a plan. “Lord change me, and help me to become healthy. Show me what I need to do to become healthy. Amen.” I agree with you that the church will be as healthy as the leader. It is a hard bitter pill to swallow, but rather than sit still, get up and do what it takes to be in a healthier state. I am juggling work to keep a roof over my family’s head and being a good pastor. I am sure there are more pastors out there in the same predicament, who need to take a long hard look in the mirror and swallow the pill of honesty. God is not telling us to give up, but to give in to the knowledge that we may have made mistakes and ask His forgiveness and be determined to make it right. God will help us to get there. There will be a change of focus in both my church and personal life. Thank you once again.

  7. Russell on April 16, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Interesting article and helpful insights. Have you read anything by Karl Vaters? He has a very healthy (no pun intended) outlook on this subject, I think. He blogs on the Christianity Today website. His website is newsmallchurch.com. His book, “The Grasshopper Myth” liberated me from some unnecessary pressures I was constantly dealing with and increased my motivation to pursue church health and growth. For what it’s worth.

  8. Jim Egbert on April 15, 2019 at 10:50 am

    The congregations of many churches do not wish to grow. Personally, I don’t believe that my church should take this position. A few years ago, my church (including the pastor) did not appear to be pro-growth. After several years of working and failing as a lay person to encourage growth, my wife and I left our church (after 12 years of membership) and joined a great pro-growth church. Now, 7 years after the change, we are happy and very blessed!

    • Gary on August 20, 2021 at 8:07 am

      Jim, I see my and my wife’s story in yours. Our “new” church of 10 years is still our church, but having come from another church and already having a personal relationship with Jesus as opposed to coming in as “seekers” or new Christians, we often feel like “damaged goods.” We make an extra effort to NOT talk about our previous church or say things like; “At our old church . . . . . ” in any setting, but the fact that our present pastor attended and was actually on staff at the old church doesn’t help. Did you experience this?

  9. Chris Sweet on April 15, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Hello Carey. I’ve been following a while. I listen to your podcast, read your blog and I have met you in Atlanta at ReThink. I am a pastor of a church that averages about 75. The church has been up to 150 in the past before I came. They hit a trouble spot when the long-time pastor retired. I came in after two years of struggle. I have been here almost three years. This is my first lead pastorate though I had been an associate for about 27 years previously.

    Here’s my question: When you were in your churches at the beginning, when the congregations were so small, what were some practical things you did to reach and keep people? This church is great. The people are super nice. They don’t complain about anything really. They are content, but I don’t seem to know how to get them to engage outwardly and I don’t seem to be able to get people to connect enough to stay. I push small groups constantly and have just started a discipleship ministry, but not many are answering personal invitations from the leaders of those groups. I just can’t get the back door closed nor engagement from the committed.

    Thank you for all the leadership help.

    • Terri on August 20, 2021 at 12:20 pm

      I believe the answer is contained in the line, “They are content.” They are content with how it’s going and they’ve entered the Maintenance Mode. New people will upset the apple cart. They are inwardly focused and see no reason to change. It’s an inertia I’m dealing with now, too. I had someone say to me, “We’re happy with how it is, and new people will want to change things.”

  10. mohd shahnawaz on January 13, 2019 at 1:37 am

    great article I just loved the way you have written this article. it was so easy to understand yet very helpful. keep up the good work

  11. Jason on January 4, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    This is not directed at Carey, who I thank for always presenting all known sides of an issue, but more to some of the comments here… I get really tired of the Pastor being blamed for lack of growth… WE CAN’T GROW A CHURCH! Jesus builds it, the Father grows it.

    1 Corinthians 3:6-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
    “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD GAVE THE GROWTH. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.”

    Sure we are called to labor in planting and watering (preaching, teaching, baptizing, discipling etc.) And if we don’t do these well, we will stunt any growth! BUT God causes the actual growth. And I think that bothers many leadership gurus who would like more control of the growth itself.

    We need to stop putting this pressure on the shoulders of our Pastors… No wonder so many are leaving Church ministry.

    I have known many small church Pastors (In Canada) over my 20 years in ministry, they we’re visionaries, wise, loving, faithful, godly, versed in the Word and prayer and they never pastored a Church more than 80 – 120 people before they retired.

    I think the actual percentage of “the mystery” Carey mentions as to why some churches don’t grow numerically is a lot higher than we’d like to admit.

    I’ve just heard people constantly blaming Pastors for decline, or lack of growth over the years… it’s getting old. We all have a responsibility to reach out, not just your Pastors. It takes all of us. One Pastor I knew did everything he could to encourage people to reach out to their friends, he even led teams to teach them how share the Gospel…. nothing… people refused simply to reach out.

    There a lot of factors at play, simply blaming the Pastor, firing them, and hiring a new one to also burn out… IS NOT working.

    • Steve Hofstede on April 14, 2019 at 9:43 am

      I would go so far as to say that growth is actually not the point of a church. A church is a space where the Kingdom is real. If people find that attractive in various seasons, great.

      The role of a Christian pastor is to stimulate growth of a beautiful community that will be so undeniably attractive to the lost and broke that they will race to become part of it.

      Outward focus is great, and we need it to not become an dinward looking cesspit. But I’d argue the best strategy for growth is to leave the harvest to God and simply do our jobs as per Ephesians 4 – equipping the SAINTS to the work of ministry. It’s not just on the pastor. It’s on the community.

      As well, it depends on context. Some of the healthiest churches cap out at 180. I don’t get why that’s wrong.

      And as for the suspicion about growth in large churches, not all of it is envy or jealousy. Eugene Peterson expressed his suspicion of growth centered churches in Working the Angles. It has more to do with the fact that most Kingdom growth is low and slow, not a flash in the pan. How many churches grew exponentially only to discover their growth was cancerous? Too many to count.

      As Carey points out, you need a healthy leader to sustain such growth. And we have precious few healthy leaders.

      For sure we need to be aware of growth. But I wonder, how much of our so called growth is width wise, lacking spiritual depth? Let’s not lose our spiritual development for the sake of growth…

  12. Morice on October 27, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    I am so bless from reading your comments about healthy churches will grow, but all growing churches isn’t healthy. I agree!

  13. Morice on October 27, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    I am so bless from reading your comments about healthy churches will grow, but all growing churches isn’t healthy. I agree! I am learning a lot from reading your articles on church leadership, how to find leaders when your don’t think you have any and ….

  14. J. Livingston on October 27, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Greetings Carey,
    I was blessed by your article: 5 HARD TRUTHS ABOUT HEALTHY CHURCH GROWTH. You stated: “If the church exists to make you happy, why wouldn’t people sacrifice more to make you happier? In outsider-focused churches, the opposite is true.”
    I’m not as to what you are saying here. Could you elaborate. I’m sure it’s not your writing but my ability to understand. Also, My Church – Remnant Fellowship a church start for Millennials, what programs would you offer that might help me engage, nourish, restore and equip young adults for Christ.

  15. Michael Cooper on October 4, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Great insights. our church is struggling through one of those challenging seasons. we have seemed to lost our focus and turned inward. helping our leadership to see this reality has been a trying challenge. I especially resonate with the thought regarding how outward focused churches will foster healthy insiders.

    Blessings on you and your ministry

  16. Scott on October 3, 2018 at 8:55 am

    If the head of the church is truly Christ then the leader is always healthy. Is one serious problem (I don’t think I see it mentioned here) that church members have an indirect relationship with Jesus through their leader/pastor instead of a direct relationship with Jesus which will withstand the period when the pastor is in the pits? If the church rises and falls with the pastor, maybe that’s because too much focus is on the pastor instead of on Jesus… (?) What if it’s the church structure making the church unhealthy? (Good luck with changing that…) Of course the pastor and elders, and each church member should be healthy and if there is poison in the leadership it will filter down. I don’t mind improving myself for the glory of God and for the church body’s benefit, but at the same time I’m going to also work to redirect focus from myself to Jesus when at all possible…expose pastor idolatry. I’ve somehow missed the articles on that subject. 😀

    • John W on October 3, 2018 at 9:34 am

      This article was apparently designed to discuss a few aspects of healthy churches and was not intended to be a thesis paper.

      Since you didn’t post the question first to Carey, he did not answer a question that had not yet been asked.

      I believe that these statements wrap their arms around the need to “expose pastor idolatry”:

      1. Leaders, you produce who you are, not who you want to be.
      2. Unhealthy leaders can’t lead healthy churches. Not over the long haul.
      3. If you think your church is unhealthy, look in the mirror.
      4. When I wasn’t healthy, neither was our church.

      From my reading/listening to CN over an extended period of time, I believe that Carey promotes self-exposure and accountability rather than being exposed. He promotes character development when no one is looking.

  17. Rev. Snyder on October 3, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Thank you for the encouragement. My nursing home Bible Study went from 2 to 6 yesterday. I do not despise small beginnings. I know I am going to have the church/ministuy God gave me and I will remain faithful. Thanks and blessings to all on your blog and especially you Careyfor your faithfulness to God and us.

  18. Gary S on February 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    I would add that healthy growth is also painful at times. Change is difficult and growth can mean letting go of meaningful past preferences and choices so that others will be impacted.

  19. Malachi Dean on January 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Carey, thankful you have been teaching others through the journeys that God has allowed you to be a part of. It was great to hear you share in Dayton, Ohio area in 2017. May God continue to reveal new things to you. I’m in my first lead pastorate role of a 70 person church, so this article was very helpful. In my first 3 months major changes were required if our church ever wanted to see “healthy” again. Those changes have been in progress and have brought new life to the church, but it seems that it’s taking longer than expected to get folks to become “active” or fit in their faith and having eyes and hearts beyond a Sunday morning service. Were there any steps that you took early on to transition your folks to see the need for health and growth, and in turn, they began to do it?

    • Devin Schultz on October 3, 2018 at 8:17 am

      I am in the same boat, and suspect that much of the impediments to getting beyond Sunday morning can come down to one word: passion. Is there a passion on the part of the people to do more, be more, love more, accomplish more? I have not been able to accomplish a turnaround, but I have seen fruit where I have assessed who is willing, and who is not. I’ve loved them both, but concentrated on the willing and begun to organize a ‘church within a church’. I have not neglected those who are somewhat apathetic, but have launched the willing into ministry and this is beginning to see some results in our health. Carey is the expert, so don’t take my word for anything, but this is my experience.

  20. Jim Egbert on January 12, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    My wife and I have been members of small, medium, large and mega churches. Each have provided us with great spiritual growth. We are currently members of a mega church that we are enjoying greatly.
    Looking back on 65 years of church participation, each of the smaller churches had reasons that kept them smaller. In some cases it was intentional. In most others, it was leadership ineptness.
    In no case was it because “that is how God (or more specific, the Holy Spirit) wanted it”.

  21. Jared Willey on January 11, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Our attendance has been flat for a while now, even as we’ve added campuses. We know that more people are attending, just less frequently than they used to (we’ve analyzed children’s ministry check-in data to arrive at that conclusion). That begs the question: what defines growth? Is it higher attendance? Or more people attending, even if it is less often? And related to that: what is health? Can a church really be healthy if the new norm is people coming 1-2 times/month instead of 3-4 time/month like it was 10 years ago?

    Thanks for all you do Carey, to make us all ask better questions of ourselves and our churches!

  22. Wendy on January 11, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Carey, does your wife do any speaking from her perspective of growth and burn out in ministry … My husband is a district superintendent and I am the Care Director for Ministry Wives. I’d be interested in your wifes journey through your growth and learning.

  23. John Juliano on January 11, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Are we truly discipling our people or are we simply providing services and events. Building disciples is the foundation to real growth.

  24. Josh Poe on January 10, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    It’s not about the numbers BUT we have a saying, “Every number has a name, every name has a story and every story matters to God, if it matters to God it matters to us!”

    We have a very energetic vision driven pastor and I’ve had the priveledge of serving under him for the last 9 years as the church has grown from 50 weekly act to almost breaking the 1,000 barrier now.

    This article has some great insights. We have always been an outward driven church and that is something that our pastor has stayed true to. It in our vision statement “to bring those far from God close to God one step at a time”… and we want to bring as many people on that journey as possible.

    Thanks for the article.

  25. Ken Greer on January 10, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Subdivision is not growth. Pastors and congregations who claim that they are growing spiritually while their numbers remain stagnant or declining, are nursing that excuse. I ask them for proof of their assertions. Interesting that we cling to our “barriers” …..expecting God to answer our prayers for growth by populating our nave with people who are “just like us.” We want them to look like us, think like us, act like us.

  26. Kelvin Box on January 10, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Carey, just wanted to say thank you for all you are doing to help us build the body of Christ.
    We are currently teaching our Wednesday night Leadership class with your your book.

  27. Ann on January 9, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Cary as a UMC conference leader I and former staff member of a large church in Ohio, I agree with your points. What I have to help leaders I work with understand that the idea of healthy church and unhealthy church are foreign concepts so the majority of our membership. If they are happy they consider their church healthy and have a multitude of excuses why others don’t attend church today. My experience has been helping churches define “unhealthy” so that they may be awaken regarding areas that they could be better. But amen and amen to your comment regarding the leaderships’ health.

  28. stephen Albert Etyang on January 9, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Thanks dear Carey for this post. Iam lifted and blessed by the insight you share on leadership. Looking forward.

  29. ELMER BATTUNG on January 9, 2018 at 4:32 am

    This is a very helpful reminder. A person who by God’s grace is using to share what would make the Church of Christ healthier and more people to come to Christ. Praying for more God’s wisdom. Thank you!

  30. Rev. Johannes G. Janse van Rensburg on January 9, 2018 at 1:49 am

    Again, I agree! … but growing a local church for God under Afrikaans speaking people in South Africa has its challenges. The birthrate for Afrikaans speaking people are down 72% + more and more Afrikaans speaking people now lives oversees. The one thing that I personally focus on is: healthy leaders produce healthy churches! This is also the season where we can focus on growth that is much more than numerical.
    Rev. Johannes G Janse van Rensburg
    South Africa
    +27 82 927 3700

  31. Dwyte Hoffman on January 8, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    I understand your point about an outward focused church, however, John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I believe that part of a healthy church is a body that has learned to truly love each other to the point that that love overflows to the outside. The outward focus becomes a natural consequence of learning to love as Christ loved.

  32. REV. ROBERTO SANCHEZ on January 8, 2018 at 2:29 pm


    • Becky on January 9, 2018 at 7:16 am

      Hi Roberto! If you take the breaking 200 course Carey offers you might find some of the specific answers you are looking for. I’m going through it very slowly to let it sink in but it is a source of great practical advice that can help churches as they shift mindset and seek to grow in a healthy way.

  33. Ben Styles on January 8, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for an extremely insightful and balanced article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2018 at 6:05 am

      You’re welcome Ben!

  34. Jason Lieberg on January 8, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I agree! This was not only helpful, it was also encouraging.
    One battle I am facing as a leader is GROWING THROUGH CHANGE. It was much easier and more natural for me to lead our church TO change, but it has been very difficult to lead IN that change.

    I have to continually remind myself that this is first and foremost about Jesus (I am complete in Him), and that growth takes TIME.

    Thanks so much Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2018 at 6:04 am

      So true Jason!

  35. Robert Mesnard on January 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I agree that all healthy churches grow, but there are many ways a church can grow other than simply the number in attendance. The church to which I am appointed stays at about 110 on the average. That is the size in which this church does its most effective ministry in the small, rural community where it exists. Efforts to “grow” the church beyond that number have met with temporary “success”. It is the size that God wants it to be. Not every church is supposed to be over 200, or even over 100. Our members are growing in Christ, and I’ll take that growth any day.

  36. Cliff Leslie on January 8, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Growth is not a measure of success but obeying God’s words in the Bible is essential

    • Scott on October 3, 2018 at 9:10 am

      Cliff, isn’t there more than one measure of growth? In Acts, the author was not shy about reporting numerical growth. Maybe we need to define ‘growth’. The NT talks about maturity or spiritual growth. And I agree with you that obeying God is a kind of success.

  37. Michael on January 8, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I’m a lead solo pastor in rural alberta and am looking to create change here. I sense God leading us in a direction that may upset some people and yet, I can’t get past the vision that God is giving myself and other leaders about the church

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2018 at 6:04 am

      Change always upsets people. 🙂 But if its well done, it helps far more people.

      • Chris Logan on October 3, 2018 at 2:53 pm

        I’ve been a transitional worship pastor and can attest to the fact that often, growth first requires a pruning process, either spiritually speaking or numerically speaking … but usually both. For the church to grow, sometimes the barriers that need to be removed are people who won’t budge with their selfishness over a preference or their sentimentality or their nostalgia. Don’t take those people leaving as an indication of the church’s lack of health, even though I’m sure you’ll get people who miss them that then say it’s unhealthy. It’s a fine line though. And you never know, they might come back when they see what God is doing.

  38. John Patterson on January 8, 2018 at 11:01 am


    I’ve seen your course on breaking 200. We did that years ago and made not just a few mistakes, for which we had a period of several years of being stagnant. Most of this was due to the mistakes I made in breaking 200. Now we have corrected a number of those mistakes and are pushing 600. Do you have blogs, book, etc that helps churches break the 600, 800, and even 1000 average attendance

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2018 at 6:03 am

      Hey John…thanks for asking. I have my courses but it you just search this blog and type in some key phrases, or search Google with my name and key phrases, a host of posts will come up. Also see my Top 10 podcasts of 2017. The #1 episode is about breaking all those barriers. https://careynieuwhof.com/the-top-10-podcast-episodes-of-2017/

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