5 Reasons Churches Stop Growing (Orange Conference 2015 Talk Notes)

This week I’m excited to be speaking at the Orange Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

As a way of serving those who attend my talks (and couldn’t be there but want to track with what’s happening) I’ll be posting the outline to each talk I give here on the blog.

Even if you don’t attend the conference, I hope you can glean a few insights from them that might help you lead better now.  And if you’re in the session, you won’t have to guess what that pesky blank you forgot to fill in was all about.

Here’s my talk outline for my 5 Reason Churches Stop Growing session.



It may not be wise to measure your church’s health by exactly how many people showed up on Sunday or attended your new member class last month. But stalled growth can be a sign of deeper problems. Whether your church is stuck or has momentum, take a look at the 5 big reasons churches stop growing, and figure out how you can get – or keep – moving again.

I.  Introduction

  1. Church growth is not as mysterious as we think.

2. In one way or another, healthy things grow.

II. 5 Reasons Church Stop Growing

1. You are more in love with the method than you are with the mission.

a. Your church’s passion for the past or present is more compelling than your vision for the future.

b. You’re afraid to risk what is for the sake of what could be.

2. Your structure is designed to keep you small.

a. The clergy-based model is designed to keep a church under 200 attenders.

b. If you want the impact of a supermarket, you can’t run things like a mom and pop store.

Church governance is often more of a hindrance than a help to growth.

3. You don’t understand the people you’re trying to reach.

a. 48% of millennials are classified as postChristian.

b. Family has changed significantly.

c. Culture is undergoing a massive shift.

4. You’ve bet too much on being cool.

a. What you define as contemporarymay not be contemporary.

b. Authentic is more powerful than cool.

5. You’re really not willing to change.

a. The gap between what you say and what you actually do is too large.

b. You are unwilling to plot trajectory.

c. You’re afraid (and the team hasn’t realized you can’t follow fear)


III. Moving Forward

  1. Create a white hot sense of mission.
  1. Structure for growth.
  1. Understand and love the people you’re trying to reach.
  1. Be authentic.
  1. Commit to change.

Want More?

Here are some related posts that can help you dig deeper on this subject.

10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Less Often

5 Reasons People Have Stopped Attending Your Church (Especially Millennials)

10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing

For further resources, access the free archive of thought-provoking, practical interviews with today’s top church leaders like Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Jon Acuff, Kara Powell, Ron Edmondson, Derwin Gray, Mark Batterson and more on The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.


  1. […] can be a sign of deeper problems. Whether your church is stuck or has momentum, take a look at the 5 big reasons churches stop growing, and figure out how you can get – or keep – moving again.”- Carey Nieuwhof from his session […]

  2. […] 5 Reasons Churches Stop Growing — Carey Nieuwhof […]

  3. christoph on April 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    #5 is the real issue, although nobody say it out straight

  4. davebaldwin on April 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you Carey. Wish I could be there this year and hear you in person. This is the next best thing. Next year I will be there! Praying for you and all those presenting this week. You guys are the GREATEST!!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 3, 2015 at 5:06 am

      Dave you’re so kind! Hope to se you next year!

  5. Todd Scranton on April 30, 2015 at 11:54 am

    In nature healthy things grow for a season – not indefinitely. The dogma of perpetual growth is a falsehood that the church has imported, with far too little questioning, from modern economic theory. It is both unnatural, and unsustainable. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these ideas; just the opposite – many of them are great. But the underlying assumption that numeric growth is the measure of the health of a community (and the counter assumption that a cessation of growth is always a sign of something “lacking”) is deeply flawed.

    • christoph on April 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      well multiplication would then be the right way. 10 churches of 200 each is better than 1 church of 2,000

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 3, 2015 at 5:06 am

      Thanks Todd…I appreciate that, but you’ve stopped growing then? Trees have stopped growing? People have stopped growing? I really do think healthy things grow. Numeric growth for sure isn’t the only measure, but it is an inevitable measure of long term health.

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