8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark

This is one of my most-read posts of all time. Times change. I updated the post and the reasons here. In the meantime, enjoy this original post. 

While social media and even traditional media are still preoccupied with mega churches and multi-site churches, the reality is that most churches in North America are quite small.

The Barna group pegs the average Protestant church size in America at 89 adults. 60% of Protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending.

why churches don't grow

Please understand, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church. I just know that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to grow.

I get that. That’s the mission of the church. Every single day, I want our church to become more effective in reaching one more person with the hope that’s in Christ.

So why is it that most churches never break the 200 attendance mark?

It’s not:

DesireMost leaders I know want their church to reach more people.

A lack of prayerMany small church leaders are incredibly faithful in prayer.

LoveSome of the people in smaller churches love people as authentically as anyone I know.

Facility. Growth can start in the most unlikely places.

Let’s just assume you have a solid mission, theology and heart to reach people.

You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance?

You ready?

They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.

Think about it.

There’s a world of difference between how you organize a corner store and how you organize a larger supermarket.

In a corner store, Mom and Pop run everything, Want to talk to the CEO? She’s stocking shelves. Want to see the Director of Marketing? He’s at the cash register.

Mom and Pop do everything, and they organize their business to stay small. Which is fine if you’re Mom and Pop and don’t want to grow.

But you can’t run a supermarket that way. You organize differently. You govern differently. There’s a produce manager, and people who only stock shelves. There’s a floor manager, shift manager, general manager and so much more.

So what’s the translation to church world?

Here are 8 reasons churches who want to grow end up staying small:

1. The pastor is the primary caregiver. Honestly, if you just push past this one issue, you will have made a ton of progress. When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding, funeral and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn’t scale. If you’re good at it, you’ll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can’t get to every event anymore. Or you’ll just burn out. It creates false expectations and so many people get hurt in the process. The best book I know on the subject has just been re-released with a new, updated edition. The answer, by the way, is to teach people to care for each other in groups.

2. The leaders lack a strategy. Many churches today are clear on mission and vision. What most lack is a widely shared and agreed-upon strategy. Your vision and mission answer the why and what of your organization. Your strategy answers how. And how is critical. Spend time working through your strategy. Be clear on how you will accomplish your mission and don’t rest until the mission, vision, and strategy reside in every single volunteer and leader.

3. True leaders aren’t leading. In every church, there are people who hold the position of leadership and then there are people who are truly leaders (who may not hold any position in your church). Release people who hold titles but aren’t advancing the mission and hand the job over to real leaders. Look for people who have a track record of handling responsibility in other areas of life and give them the job of leading the church into the future with you. If you actually have leaders leading, it will make a huge difference.

4. Volunteers are unempowered. Sure, small churches may not have the budget to hire other staff, but you have people. Once you have identified true leaders, and once you’re clear on your mission vision and strategy, you need to release people to accomplish it. Try to do it all yourself and you will burn out, leave or simply be ineffective.  Empower volunteers around an aligned strategy and you will likely begin to see progress.

5. The governance team micromanages. If you need permission every time you need to buy paper towels or repaint an office, you have a governance issue. Most boards who micromanage do so because that’s where most people simply default. You need a board who guards the mission and vision and empowers the team to accomplish it and then gets out of the way. This post on governance from Jeff Brodie is gold.

6. Too many meetings. I led a church with a grand total of 50 people in attendance. We had 16 elders. Overall, the church was in evening meetings 2-3 times a week. Why on earth would a church that small need to meet that often? I eventually repurposed most of those meetings to become meetings about vision and reorganization. We also cut the number of elders down. Now, although we have a much bigger church, I’m only out one or two nights a week (and then mostly for small group). If you’re going to meet, meet on purpose for the future.  Free up your time so you and your team can accomplish something significant.

7. Too many events and programs that lead nowhere. Activity does not equal accomplishment. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re being effective. If you check into most small churches (remember, I was there…I’m not judging, just being honest), there are a lot of programs that accomplish little and lead nowhere. Stop them. Yes people will be mad. Even have the courage to cut some good programs. Good is the enemy of great. Then go out and do a few great things.

8. The pastor suffers from a desire to please everybody. Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people. Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end. Eventually, many of them will thank you. And the rest? Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching many people either.

I realize the diagnosis can sound a little harsh, but we have a pretty deep problem on our hands. And radical problems demand radical solutions.

I’ve actually updated this post for 2017 with fresh reasons and insights based on a survey of 1400 pastors I did. You can read that post here.

In the meantime, what have you seen that helps churches push past attendance barriers? Scroll down and leave a comment!

8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark


  1. Frank on August 25, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Was just flipping through the comments section checking out the diversity of opinions…. and it got me to thinking about how all of this, as well as a variety of other problems that exist amongst Christians today, are the direct results of breaking away from the church established by the apostles, The Orthodox Church.
    Around the year 1050 The One True Church officially split up into two groups, the Orthodox and the Catholics (often referred to as “the great schism”), when the Bishop of Rome (today’s ” pope”) ridiculously declared himself “infallible” and the head of all of the church, amongst other things.
    And so thereafter the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics just kinda did their own thing for awhile, with the Catholics changing a bunch of stuff, going on crusades and the like, etc., and the Orthodox mostly sticking to their own age-old traditions.
    And then later, in response to the shenanigans of the Catholic Church in the West, the Protestant Reformation occurred… thereby giving birth to a movement that would eventually produce literally tens of thousands of sects.
    And now, today, anyone with an idea and a Bible can set up shop, call it a “church” and preach whatever ridiculousness he (or she) wants. Of course I’m not saying that all Protestant teachings are bad, but ya gotta admit that stuff’s gotten out of control.
    In my neighborhood there are Baptists, Methodists, a branch of a church/cult that was established by a guy in the Philippines, a lady who has set up a church in an old dilapidated house and refers to herself as an “apostle”, and another group referring to themselves as “Jehovah-Jireh “(only God knows what they teach), and on and on… and on.
    All of which can be traced back to the” great schism” and then the Protestant Reformation that followed.
    I’ve witnessed entire Protestant sermons that hinged on a mis-translated Bible verse.
    Of course I totally understand why the Protestant Reformation happened, I suppose it was a natural response to what was happening within the Catholic Church.
    But hey, here’s a thought: maybe at least some of you should give Orthodoxy a try- you know, the church that *literally* brought us the Bible? The one that honors the teachings of the early Church fathers and can trace its lineage back to the very beginning?
    Lets be honest here, the average Protestant knows nothing of Church history.
    If you’re sick of the money hungry word-faith/ prosperity preachers and televangelists, self-help gurus passing themselves off as “pastors”, or the various church denominations that have decided to conform to the world, the good news is that you’ve got options and Orthodoxy is one of them!
    And within Orthodoxy there’s something for everyone– you can simply attend church, or if you haven’t been called to marriage you can become a monk, and for those more spiritually inclined there’s a tradition of Christian mysticism/meditation within Orthodoxy!
    Of course there’s a variety of stumbling blocks for the sola scriptura protestant who decides to investigate the Orthodox Church –like Church tradition, the highly ritualized services, icons, etc.
    But it’s an option for those whom are fed up with today’s sad state of Christianity.
    Orthodoxy is literally the oldest living tradition of Christianity upon the face of the planet and one of the few that stubbornly (and correctly, imo) refuses to change or conform to this world.
    Oh, and our priests can be married👍
    But whatever the case may be, be blessed!

  2. Jake Tidmore on July 14, 2021 at 10:18 am

    I don’t recall Jesus emphasizing that we need to take care of the church or have a particularly large one. He spoke about taking care of the needs of those oppressed, those in poverty, those down in spirit, and people trying to live in this world – not so much about those sitting in pews Sundays.

    Think on how many times the parables and messages of Jesus were delivered to small gatherings versus the few times crowds were mentioned. Interesting to note that with one very large crowd, the message got scant mention but the author focused instead on the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

    One particularly disturbing thing about the focus on church attendance has been those churches, church leaders, and church members who ignored safety concerns and gathered together despite a deadly plague in the air. They had turned their church and church attendance into idols – worshipping the building and the event instead of the messages of love and concern for one another. Sadly, several lost members to COVID because of this form of idolatry.

    Maybe what some of us are trying to tell folks is that the love of size is the same as the love of money. It isn’t going to get you into heaven or make things better for this world.

    • Adeniyi Alese on August 12, 2021 at 6:30 am

      The bible gives us a clear direction on this issue. Moses was leading the people with small church mentality until his father-in-law (who had never seen God face to face (spirituality)) taught him how to disciple others by delegating smaller matters thereby freeing time to concentrate on bigger issues. This saved him from unnecessary burnout and untimely death. There is always something to learn from the secular- like effective delegation, project management that can add color to your spirituality. Remember no matter how spiritual was on earth, he still became hungry. On earth we children of God are humanly spiritual and spiritually human. We hide our weaknesses in spirituality instead of acknowledging them and seeking out people that sell what we need (the bible admonish the foolish virgins to go buy from those who sell).
      As long as you keep spending time in God presence and keep being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, learning the principles of church growth won’t make you carnal. After all, Jesus said he went about His Father’s business. For a business to grow we have to measure performance and prayerfully work in improvements in areas that require it.

  3. thomas nunez on March 10, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    very very good reading. most people aren’t ready to handle the truth.

    • Mark on May 7, 2021 at 4:44 am

      It’s sad, actually reading this article assimilating organized religion, a spike in church population,. When?.Well when people stop running churches like a supermarket, or a multi level marketing scheme, pushing a new book for every new concept about how to get more people with more more money,more everything, but the power that raised the dead.

      The simple solution is to make disciples, disciples make disciples, and God would rather have three disciples rather than three thousand bodies in a cookie cutter, modern day, multi tier church.. Groups, and more power trips..Too many personality prerequisites, like leadership. This is not the boy scouts, or the military. This is about, coming to the knowledge of the truth after God’s elect has been called to bring the gospel to open your eyes, nothing else..This article is a natural man’s concept of making a church grow by numbers rather than how the bible tells us to do it. It is everyone’s job to do the work if an evangelist..

      • Mike Kaas on May 7, 2021 at 1:59 pm

        There are only three sides to this argument. Some think numbers are most important. Some think discipleship and spiritual growth are most important. Some think religion is a fairy tale and believe both of the other groups are delusional. We can blend the first two ideas but one will always be most important in our heart. I would side with the discipleship and spiritual growth perspective but I’m not a pastor with an ego to feed and a peer group to impress. There is no need for any Christian to be obsessed with this matter. One day believers will stand before the Father and the Son and learn where our actions stood in their eyes. Do men bring other men to faith? I think perhaps that men bring other men to God and then God brings them to faith. Both approaches may be bringing men to God but to different rungs on the ladder.

        • Ronald Maragh on May 24, 2021 at 5:05 pm

          John 6:44 sums it up for me : No man can come to me, accept the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
          So it’s not man to man brings them in.

      • Johnny on May 28, 2021 at 2:32 am

        Wow, so we as disciples cant think critically about what is happening at small churches? Jesus’ instruction was to Go into the would Matthe 28:19 and make disciples In Acts 2 He gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be able to grow that mission .

        There are really challenges at small churches, Pastors burning out and eventually leaving or dying because they have done everything and the three disciples think it’s only about them and as soon as new people come its like the world is coming to an end. The Mission Jesus gave was not to make three disciples it was to make disciples… what is the use of a church building with three people in a community of 80000 people?

        I don’t think Mike forgot the spiritual element of grow here that is a given and that’s what most small churches are able to achieve a deep spiritual maturity, the church also has the responsibility to grow people three ways, in their discipleship (Based on the decision to accept Christ), growth in numbers .a.k.a. Make disciples) and lastly grow in service to meeting human needs in Jesus name (Service) .

        I am trying to understand the context you are speaking from in your response, but I am in total agreement with you that we should not focus on numerical and financial growth as a standard for the church, we should be growing in our faith and that should translate to others willing to join us, but that is not automatic the charge in Matthew 28:19 is to “GO ” this has the implication of reaching out, and I believe this is left to every generation through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to figure out.

        We might not agree on the style or management of how this should happen but I think we all agree it should happen, and what Mike is sharing I believe helps us think deeper about how to do it, and opens up space for the Pastor to decide which one of the 8 is their challenge and maybe have to set up a plan to work it out.

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  6. Mike Kaas on July 12, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    The older I get, the more I feel organized religion has become a measuring stick promoted by individuals and organizations who feel they are on the heavy end. I honestly believe Jesus did not die for all mankind who had lost their way in life. I increasingly believe he died and rose again for a billion individuals who had lost their way. There is no standard to compare to. There is no threshold to get over. I increasingly believe that God judges each of us individually, based on where we started and where we ended up. To those who is given much, much is expected. I have never been tempted by heroin so not being a heroin addict is not a feather in my hat. However, I have been tempted by alcohol and sexual pleasure and self serving thoughts. God knows me and all my failures and successes. He knows when I’ve struggled and been victorious and also when I’ve fallen short. I don’t think for a minute that God compares me to you. I think he compares me to what I was and what I could be. He’s the only person you will ever know that truly does so.

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  7. Bruce Considine on July 12, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    The Home Church of scripture is the ONLY church.
    –The Big Business non-profit 501(c)(3) “churches” are completely alien to scripture. The small 200 member non-profit business “churches” that steal from the giving that is due the needy believers, and instead, spend it on property, professionals to monopolize the preaching, professionals to manage the property, a money pit of chronic costs, and grant tax deductions for the giving, are also alien to scripture.
    –The Ekklesia, the LORD Jesus Christ Almighty’s group of believers, as they DID so must we DO too. Though Pastor Money preaches, and “Bible” $tudy Author teaches, those who proclaim themselves Christians seem profoundly ignorant of scripture itself. How can you think that these non-profit businesses, BIG or small, are an Ekklesia? Compare the BUDGET of the business church to the giving of the Ekklesia, they’re not anything alike.
    –You can’t obey the scripture’s interactive order of worship in an amphitheater designed to broadcast the actors on the stage out to the audience. The same goes for a 200 seat theater. And you can’t purchase either property without stealing the giving away from scriptural commands. There are many instructions and examples on how to give to those in need, none on how to buy property.
    –The Ekklesia provided for their itinerant preachers by them living in their own HOMES, not by paying an employee a salary through a business entity of the state. Though Peter and other Apostles lived in believer’s homes Paul worked to earn his own living. He admitted their right to do so but Paul commanded that the Elders (today’s pastors) work to earn their own living and to even give to the weak. Today’s business churches are so brazen in disobedience that some writers liken the Pastor to a CEO of a corporation. Why are so many blind to this wickedness?
    –In the Ekklesia, experienced preachers apprenticed trainee preachers. Trainees weren’t filtered by having to hop over money hurdles and debt to get a certification by a business (seminary.) Money was not the gatekeeper.
    –Rather than going on and on why don’t you all read (or listen) to your Bible (KJV.) Set a schedule to get through the whole Bible in a year, and then do that year after year after year… In 5 to 10 years you will sigh over getting so conned by the strange and false doctrines, and by the rebellion of the Business Church. Then take the blinkered bible $TUDIES out back and use them to roast marshmallows.

  8. Todd Freese on June 19, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    We would love to interview you for our podcast, Two Teachers In Texas, we have been youth pastors and pastors, have questions for you. I spend years trying to grow a church of just under 200 and see your point, but would love to ask you questions I have.

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  16. Mike Kaas on December 22, 2019 at 10:00 am

    I just received an email notifying me of a posting from another contributor. In it that person mentioned how big a business religion is today. Nobody can deny that fact. Unfortunately, it is hard to separate the sheep from the wolves. If one looks at only books, videos, musical recordings, concerts, seminars and the myriad of other things designed to appropriate funds from Christians alone, it is hard to see it all as missions. If every Christian took the money and time they spent on such things we can only imagine what could be accomplished. God saw fit to leave us with The Bible which to my knowledge never mentions profiting from praising, worshipping or studying. We find ourselves willing to endlessly study how to live, leaving us with far less time to actually live our lives. We see the role of growth like being a college student when it should probably be as the role of apprentices. We should be learning while doing rather than learning so that some day we will be prepared to do. We as Christians are a fickle bunch and that has obviously compromised our ability to actually live as Christians on an individual level. This undoubtedly then compromises the Church which is just a large collection of individuals. How foolish to think we can put a bunch of lemons in one basket and end up with sweet fruit. Therefore the Bible calls for us to correct ourselves individually and not be so overly consumed with the corporate Church. I hope to get to Heaven ahead of a great many TV evangelists who I fear will bog down the process of the Great Throne judgement. They are neither teachers or evangelists. They are profiteers selling good feelings and genuine splinters from the cross of Christ. The rest of us are lambs being led to the $laughter.

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  18. Eugene on October 29, 2019 at 5:51 am

    Thanks Carey for this beautiful post.

    Guys, it is not a thing of argument or who is right or wrong but a thing of what is the truth.

    Matthew 7:17-20 

    17 Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets].

    Now, according this scripture both the healthy and unhealthy would grow but it is the Fruits that determines the healthy church.

    In addition, I believe every calling or pastor or church would function accordingly to his or her grace. This means that, some has been given grace to lead alot of people while some grace to lead few all depending on the destiny and role of that ministry or pastor in focus.

    I hope this share some light on this issue.
    Thanks everyone.
    And God bless you and increase your greatness in Jesus name.

    • Mike Kaas on October 29, 2019 at 9:34 am

      If some have the grace to lead many and some the grace to lead few then why do we assert the human aspect into the picture. Your statement implies the man or woman with the grace to lead few has abilities or gifts that are not seen in the one with the grace to lead many. If not, why would God have not given all the grace to lead many. And if the grace to lead few is an attribute, then why are we even discussing the size of congregations. I fear we want to humanize the scenario by imputing business-like values on the individuals involved and hope nobody notices that the statement implies God is not really in charge. That he has not chosen who the leaders may be. OR, is the role of Pastor or Spiritual Leader merely a position that is predominantly filled by people who feel they’d like the position but who actually have no divine calling and never should have been there anyhow. Whenever we start thinking that God has ordained everything that is, we give credit where it is not due. I could imagine that much like God allows us to make mistakes so we can learn from them, he allows some less than adequate people into ministry in order that both they and we may see by example the difference between those responding to a calling and those who think they have attained a position of prestige and respect. Church going people are far too aware of what is taboo conversation and what is heartily received. Because of that The Church lacks the honest conversation required to flourish and grow. Just because your Pastor attended seminary does not mean he/she has a calling. Some should have graduated and taken a job selling life insurance door to door. Just perhaps your congregation is not growing because you/he/she or I should not be there in any position of leadership. Unfortunately, a church like any organization, does not get to pick the best person for the job. They get to pick what they feel is the best person out of those willing to serve. I have no doubt that God has and will put a call on the heart of those who should lead but he does not force them to respond positively. In the meantime we must make due with what we have and that may be a great many who feel that because they wanted the call they actually had it. THE CHURCH is made of imperfect people and therefore must be imperfect. We all know it could be better and we hold fast to the hope that someone (other than us) will make it so.

      • Eugene Ugbobor on October 29, 2019 at 10:20 am

        Matthew 25:14-15

        14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

        15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

        We just need to be Contented with what God has given us and where He has placed us. Every don’t have the same calling. As our calling differs so is the grace attached to the calling.


        • Cree on January 2, 2020 at 2:57 am

          Yes the most powerful churches where individual ministry is proven to be fruitful are under 200 most seasoned committed Padtorsvwho do not seek self glory nor large crowds to be puffed up recommend smaller churches so that the pastor can be involved relational with his members not just on offering days and pastor appreciation days nor birthdays ….. so do not forsake the assembly if has turned out into a mega business show and tell parade pastors have to go back to their calling and fine tune themselves

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 30, 2019 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks Eugene!

  19. DAVID ALAN JONES RIDGE on October 15, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    God blesses His Word not the organization. Just because you may have a megachurch don’t mean that He is blessing you as an individual. Here again, only His word is blessed. I adhere to the Plymouth Brethren model of church organization. The reason that certain cultic groups are thriving is because when they approach the 200 mark, they train new leadership then, demographically build a new building elsewhere, then like the bee, they hive off. The fellowship should still be small enough where the pastor should be able to at least know everybody in his flock by name.
    If an Elder has acquiesced to the negatives of your article, then there was something that was missed in the recognition process. The cost had not been counted on by that Elder. The prices and sacrifices were not taken into consideration.

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  21. Michael Kaas on September 9, 2019 at 5:32 am

    This all started as a commentary about why some churches don’t grow (in numbers). I assume it is possible that a church can grow in maturity and discipleship while not growing in numbers. In my eyes there is an overriding question that needs to be mentioned and eventually addressed and that is “IS THE CHURCH OF CHRIST GROWING?” From a Biblical point of view I would say growth of THE CHURCH is far more important than the growth of a church. If we are only shifting believers from one congregation to another, we have failed at taking the good news of the Gospel to all the world. If you are the Pastor of a thriving congregation, have you stopped along the way (like the good Samaritan) to lend a helping hand and encouragement to a struggling congregation or have you merely relieved them of their valuables (members) and left them as you found them? There is no room in God’s plan for peeing contests related to congregational size. Pastors, please leave your egos (thriving or bruised) out of the equation and focus on the size of THE CHURCH. Once you have shared the GOOD NEWS, it should not matter if that new believer attends your particular church. This is not about collecting scalps to see who won at the end.

    • Christopher Fillbach on September 13, 2019 at 12:42 am

      You definitely got that right. As the old saying goes;”I’d rather do one thing really good, then to do 5 things half-heartedly, to which the end result for a church ends up being either the “lifeless church” or the “lukewa church unfortunately.😥 In regards towards having a productive, growing church w/like 12 people because Jesus Christ Himself only worked submissively hard w/His 12 disciples . Just think about it. Jesus only had 12 people in His group/church, to which you know that a church is considered a gathering of believers only & so that’s the problem w/200 people in church. How many people in a 200+ church feel that they even belong, as towards using their gifts God has given them & God gives Gifts to “ALL” believers in His church because He is the church. The church is the body of Christ Jesus, to which each & every person in the church is a member of the body of Christ w/a Gift to share, in regards towards the church being on “fire for the Lord!” Amen!

      • Moses Ify on October 18, 2019 at 7:30 am

        Hello Christopher, you couldn’t have been more right than ever, i see that people are more interested in growing of individuals in number in respect of if they are saved or not than growing in the word of God Almighty [the mind and spirit of GOD ] What i see is that to many of these so called acclaimed “men of god” are in for congregational competition rather than spiritual growth and to that end miss the real call of God’s will and purpose 1 Tim 2:4 , People need to be saved and the only way is by God’s grace through faith in the blood of Yeshua i.e. proclaimig the gospel of our salvation to everyone we can reach and let the Spirit of God stair their hearts at God’s own time.

  22. Kevin on May 8, 2019 at 9:09 am

    It is sad that this fruitloop has escaped out of the box. Such reasoning ( if one should call it that) is but an example of an individual who is on the brink of moral and intellectual bankruptcy . He is fortunate to live in a country which flourished because of its belief in God, the Bible and all it contains. If he were to reside in some “Godless” place such as Cuba..He would likely be the first to cry out “God Help Me” in the midst of trouble. There is an innate quality and instinct in most if not all Humans that there is a Higher Power or God. If someone has an issue against Christianity, so be it…just keep living, that mind will change hoipefully sooner or later

    • Whit on June 22, 2019 at 12:59 am

      I am interested in your comment. Why a do you refer to this person as a fruitloop? Coming from a small congregation I identify with what this person is writing. Please elaborate on your mindset.

      • NG Brown on July 12, 2019 at 9:31 pm

        That comment seemed to have come from a place of anger. Certainly not an anger toward the writer but from within.

  23. Barry Brown on February 20, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Just came across this (2019) Has anybody changed their mind now that we see the church in the western world under attack and Christian churches and groups popping up under extreme prejudice in all sorts of places. God will give the increase no matter what we do or not do. He will not be beaten.
    We must obey what he asks. That does in no way take away from the original post, in fact, the original article was really good.

    • Pastor Nina on April 4, 2019 at 6:56 am

      He “started” with 12 and equipped them to empower others.

    • gary on April 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      Maybe the problem is that less and less people in the West believe in the supernatural. I think the Internet has a lot to do with that.

      • Heather Feather on May 14, 2019 at 8:57 pm

        You’d think humanity’s access to billions of cameras right in the palms of their hands would catch some supernatural miracles by this point, a decade in and worldwide. Pics and video of extremely rare moments in science are now being caught and recorded. Somebody is camera shy, but not nature 😀

        • Michael J Kaas on May 25, 2019 at 6:31 am

          Sure we have evidence of the supernatural. I saw Lt. Dan without legs in Forest Gump and saw him later on TV with legs. I believe I would put less trust in photographic proof of the supernatural today than ever. They used to say “seeing is believing” but we all know that is no longer true. Believing replaces the need for proof. I would suggest that one reason we have so many small churches is that way too many pastors and wannabe pastors start their own church. It creates a position which they control. No need to be 3rd fiddle in an existing larger church or perhaps a seemingly invisible congregational member. One day I may feel I am an under-appreciated member who has an anointing and the next day I am Pastor of my own little flock. Suddenly I find myself in a position that gleans respect and lends an air of superiority. It matters not that I have not thought about the responsibility part of that scenario. I get my 25-50 loyal followers (who I have convinced they are also anointed and special) and reign as Holy Man. The Church of God has suddenly in some part become the Church of Me. With so many churches having empty seats, why are we starting so many new churches. Is this what one would call good stewardship? I would suggest that in a typical church not all members agree on every part of doctrine, even though we probably agree on much. We should not be splitting up churches over the few disagreements that may exist. Because so much of the Gospel is a matter of translation, people are bound to see some things differently. Church leaders need to accept the fact that some people’s other points of view are in the end run as provable as their own views. I have no doubt that when we stand in front of the throne of God we will all find that some TRUTHS we clung to all our life were never really true. I believe Christ never meant for the church to fracture over questionable issues. God (with Christ at his side) will do as he wishes, not as we wish. Our truths will not hold reign over THE TRUTH once the veil is removed and we see clearly. It is better in my opinion to have fewer churches with the seats full than a thousand store front cathedrals holding twenty people in each. We are not special because God anointed us. We are special because God offered to adopt us, even before we knew what our beliefs would be.

          • Bua Emmy on October 5, 2019 at 3:16 am

            What I know is that
            All the church leaders now days
            Are very corrups
            That’s why every churches
            Are now not growing
            And then they have less people not
            Even 100 or 200

      • Osmo Joronen on August 24, 2019 at 12:15 pm

        Yes, this is true about Christians. Non-Christians look for the supernatural in the wrong places. If any church should suddenly start believing what the Bible says is true, it will start to grow. They say they believe but where is the proof. The Bible says that if what is being preached is what God wants to be preached, there will be signs confirming what is taught. No signs then there is no confirmation. In other words God is not happy with what is being preached. “These signs shall follow those who believe, they shall speak in new tongues…they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover…” “Is anyone anong you sick? Call on the elders and they shall anoint them with oil and they shall recover.” A huge part of Jesus’ ministry was taking care of the sheep. What shepherd will allow his sheep to be sick and do nothing about it? This is a major reason why churches don’t grow. The leaders don’t believe what the Bible says is true.

    • Richard Gunter on December 21, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Both myself and God have toward the same amount of children from St Jude’s Hospital. however unlike God, I am not directly responsible for millions of death including women and children. One author and historian meant to years researching and crimes 25 million would be a low number. Compared to the 60 that he estimates Satan killed if the Bible was anything other than a wholly fairytale I would go with Satan. Although I’m pretty sure he has it cured any children of cats are either. Religion is about a 90 billion dollar a year business.! There are quite a few pastors that can go supper over there concern in multimillion-dollar mansions. St Jude sure could use some of that money.! Perhaps some of y’all can join me and donate monthly thank you very much

  24. Leonardo Ramirez on December 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

    So I guess Jesus had it all wrong as well. He only had 12 members.

    • Captain Cassidy on January 21, 2019 at 2:31 pm

      I doubt he even had that many. We have no evidence of the existence of any of the “12 Apostles.” For all history cares, they never existed. All we have are unsubstantiated church mythology about them. The Gospels were not written by the people whose names attach to them now; that’s just a convention attached much later and likely has nothing to do with the imagined authors. In reality, we have no idea who penned them or edited them into their current shape (for example, the Great Commission was added much later, as was the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery–both of which are, incidentally, beloved of Christians who are in the religion just to exert control over others). In fact, we don’t have any record of Christians even existing in the historical record until the Epistles began getting written. Nobody seems to have any idea they exist at all until then.

      Now, a lot of apocalyptic preachers were running around Jerusalem around 0-35CE wailing and screeching about the end of the world; in fact, the observation gets made a few times about them. Jesus might have been one of those nameless, gormless, witless nutjobs, and maybe he did accumulate a small following as many of his similar peers did. But it’s unlikely that there were 12 exactly, and unlikely that their names were what we know today as the group. Much of the stories and art around those supposed men reflects the religious thinking of the ancient world. The simple facts around the similarities between the Gospel of Mark (likely the first written, around 50-65CE) and the long-known and much-loved stories of Homer’s epics should give anybody pause about their historicity. Look at the similarities between Castor and Pollux and the Apostles James and John – from the language used in the original texts to the earliest art depicting them in similar positions and situations, it’s clear that early Christians sure drew those comparisons.

      Between the years of 30-35CE we had dozens of educated men running around Jerusalem whose job it was to record the important events of their day, and not a single one of them actually wrote a single word about Jesus or his followers. Christians get around this difficulty by extending what historians require for contemporary accounts, but they’ve never been able to produce a single work between those years talking about anything real that Jesus or his followers said or did. When I entered college, I specifically sought these works out, and could not find a single one. I still haven’t seen one, because Christians haven’t produced any. In the early decades of Catholicism, that lack of contemporary accounts bothered at least one clergyman enough to write worriedly about it, but Christians these days just assume that anything that old and universally-accepted must be true.

      SO: Jesus didn’t get it wrong. He didn’t exist in the form conceptualized by most Christians, and by extension neither did his 12 members. So don’t worry, you won’t be violating his customs by wanting more members in a church.</B.

      • Chalk on February 7, 2019 at 5:22 pm

        You sound angry discrediting the only document that actually have other proof through family history of Jesus existance. Read the bible again without hate in your heart calling people names. Let me assist you: the disciples started as 12 and then multiplied. They are know as deacons minister apostles etc. The multitudes were the congregation. Even the Pharisees…say cheese! Also excuse my grammar and spelling.

      • Peter on April 21, 2019 at 10:21 pm

        Captain, you are a marxist in the wrong site. See the documentary The Masters of Deceit (Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUg3WAb6VCY&t=406s) and make yourserlf a big favor: stop being what Lenin called a Usefull Idiot.

      • Lee Ann on June 2, 2019 at 1:43 pm

        I wondered about the number 12 as well, when I read that another Judas said, “But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the aorld?”
        Was Jesus important to the Jews? No, he was just gathering crowds at the sea of Galilee and elsewhere. The Jews wanted to get rid of him and they thought they did.
        and you’re saying that Josephus’ writings are not close enough. Isn’t much of history looking back, not writing in the present time? hmmm.
        Many great artists and musicians were not great during their lifetime. Ah but History.
        and it is His story – The greatest one ever to unfold and it is still in process.
        The Creator and Lord love you. that’s what’s so wonderful – Free to believe or not.
        I hope you will eventually,
        Lee Ann

    • Chalk on February 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      Did you actually read the bible? If so…read it again.

    • Felix Adeyinka on April 12, 2019 at 6:16 am

      @ Leonardo Ramirez, you got it very wrong. Jesus Ministers apostles were 12, that was not the members. In Luke 10:1 and Luke 10:17 there were 70 disciples he sent on errand.
      In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Jesus was seen off by 500 brethren. when you talk about his members, there were multitude who followed him and were his members. In Mark 6:44; Luke 9:14 and John 6:10, there were 5000 he ministered to spiritually and physically. so your assertion is in correct.

    • Michael J Kaas on May 25, 2019 at 6:41 am

      Jesus was not running a congregation, he was running a seminary. His was the start of the EACH ON REACH ONE method of getting the WORD out to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.

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  26. Captain Cassidy on August 5, 2018 at 2:43 am

    It’s hilarious that you don’t engage with the most important reasons why the vast majority of Christian churches are small and shrinking.

    Christianity, as a message, is blithering, self-serving nonsense, and Christian groups are hotbeds of drama and unpleasantness–when they aren’t completely tedious and irrelevant Mutual Admiration Clubs (as my mother would have put it). Indeed, the moment Christians’ considerable powers of retaliation and coercion are removed from the equation, people leave their religion and they do not return. (It’s why Christians prey so hard upon children and extremely vulnerable adults–those are literally the only groups that will give their evangelists the time of day.)

    Christian leaders, especially in the evangelical/fundamentalist ends of the religion, aren’t at all ready for a world where they must work to make their groups and message appealing and compelling in their own rights. That’s why they are working so feverishly to enshrine their power into law before they lose the numbers to do it any other way. But we’re already seeing studies that indicate that their efforts backfire much, much harder than they could ever have imagined.

    Christian leaders: do you want your churches to grow? Then organize groups that are both safe and great to be around, and offer something reality-based that people can’t get elsewhere for far less spent of their finite time and money. You don’t even have to give up your ridiculous supernatural claims. Just find ways to engage with it that are real, relevant, and do some good (and no harm) to both members and their community. People have shown that they respond to that approach. My beloved MIL’s little rural church is growing because they’re doing that.

    Me, I think most Christians would rather see their religion disintegrate than change anything about their groups and behavior. I used to think there was time for them to right their ship. I don’t anymore. Not one single survey done in the last 5 years gives them any chance of regaining their onetime effortless dominance of American society. Instead, they’ll eventually bottom out at a Wingnut Factor that is the bare minimum of Americans who can buy into total nonsense and toxic groups, and that’s where they’ll linger. That is the real Good News here: in a few years, we’ll be free.

    • Leslie on September 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      Hmmm. You mention toxic groups at church. I am not a member of any one church–I attend various churches. I have yet to run into a toxic group at a church, however; your email was very toxic. In closing you mentioned that”the real good news” will be when churches bottom out of American Society–you went on to say that when that happens “that is the real good news, that’s when we’ll all be free” Freedom comes from within, not from what is happening around you. You will never be free until you realize that.

      • Captain Cassidy on January 21, 2019 at 2:14 pm

        Wow, Leslie, you really did show us exactly what I was talking about. Well done! My email was “toxic”? Why? What did I say that was toxic? I was critical of toxic church culture, and I showed my work. You just want to shut me down, and you did it by being exactly the kind of hypocrite I talked about. But you failed. YOU are why your religion is failing. YOU, personally, are a tiny piece of how people know Christianity is false through and through, and bad for humanity as a whole. Your beliefs haven’t made you a better person. Instead, Christianity has just given you permission to mistreat others. Where was love in your comment? Where was grace? Nowhere!

        Freedom does come from within. And from within, we are rejecting your brand of toxic religion. From within, we are choosing a better way. From within, we reject claims that aren’t true and seek what actually is true. It’s a pity you can’t work out how to make that reality work with your religion, and instead seek only to slam and silence those who speak out against it. I’m already free, but you’re laboring under doublethink: Slavery is freedom, freedom is slavery. Ha! How about freedom is freedom? I’ll go that route, thanks!

        Your comment back likely made you feel very good, but you did it at the expense of your religion’s credibility–and your own.

      • The tale is here!! on June 6, 2019 at 9:59 am

        You’ll make a great Martha.

        We know you won’t be a handmaid, as you’re dried up and smell bad.

      • Mike Kaas on January 2, 2020 at 9:52 am

        Oddly enough, the intended habitat of Christ is in the heart of each and every one of us. That is by his choice, not ours. Our role is to open the door if we choose to let him in. If each of us could find a path through our own pride, ego and prejudice we might find all we need of God. The Church is designed to assist us in being diligent to love one another, share with one another, understand God and surrender our self-centered nature. Our role is to be encouragers of each other to improve our thoughts and actions. If we had the capacity to accomplish all on our own there would be no need for churches, in the same way that if we were all perfect there would be no need for a cross, a savior or forgiveness. To the extent that a church helps you in God’s eyes it is doing God’s works. To the extent that it is not helping you in his eyes it is not representing God’s desires. The call is not for non-believers to go into all the world to look for an evangelist. God does not force the non-believer to listen. He calls for the believer to find a way to crack the door to a non-believers heart. The message is to be offered to the non-believing lost, the hard nuts to crack. Should it be delivered as thunder or as a gentle falling rain. I am always amazed when I hear someone say something like “75 people came forward and gave their lives to Christ at last night’s meeting.” I am left wondering how many times a year some people come to Christ at an altar call. Are there really 75 non-believers at a faith centered event? If there are, did 100% of them come forward? If only 10% came forward then were there really 750 non-believers in attendance. This entire dialogue started about congregation size. The remarks that came later point out a great many concerns that those posting (believers and non-believers) have about churches and The Church. Churches have become obsessed with metrics much as business has. There is such a hunger to come up with data that proves the efficacy of a particular program or the worth of a particular leader. Business leaders live and die by end of month numbers. The worth of church leaders will more likely be judged by end of life numbers. God will let the imperfect in under the umbrella of Christ’s perfection but when they are asked who among the saints referred them to salvation, will any mention our names?

    • mathew on November 30, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Thank you for showing the very qualities that you characterize the church about.

    • Bertha on January 9, 2019 at 9:09 am

      It’s the battle of the Light and darkness , real easy to see, just let the scales fall off accept Jesus and you will see clearly.. Hallelujah!!

      • Captain Cassidy on January 21, 2019 at 2:17 pm

        Bertha, you have no idea in the world what you just said looks like in the real world. This level of magical thinking would be comical, except you clearly think you said something profound.

        It’s not “real easy to see” this cosmic battle of “the Light and darkness.” In fact, it’s impossible to see our universe as the setting for such a battle once you understand a little astronomy and biology. It looks exactly like what we’d expect it to look like, given the time scales and forces involved. You can’t support a single supernatural claim you’ve made here with any real-world observations, but if you go for broke on profundity, that’s just the same, amirite?

    • Jennifer on April 8, 2019 at 7:23 am

      Cassidy you made some good points about church today. I would be curious to know exactly what your MIL little rural church believes and/or “engages” in as you put it? What does safe, great to be around, reality based, revelant and do good look like to you and your church? Be more specific please.

    • Robert Elmore on September 9, 2019 at 12:31 am

      Such pseudo freedom could come at the highest cost. Fact: Jesus loves you. Fact: Jesus died for you. Don’t wait until you find yourself at the judgement seat and cry Oh God! There are no unbelievers after death. Just wide and narrow paths that have eternal destinations. The Lord is gentle and kind that would forgive you of your sins. I choose in the perfect design. Pray this, Jesus I want to invite you to come and reveal truth to my mind, heart, and spirit. Find His truth and you will live the abundant Life. Say to Jesus I am coming to the end of my self made naturalists, realists, and distained fallen creation of God. The real miracle would be your transformation into the kingdom along with the acceptance of your adopted blood bought family waiting to welcome you as you are. I pray for that miracle. In Jesus’ name, Amen

    • Mike Kaas on April 30, 2020 at 8:01 am

      I would suggest the dwindling influence of the church on American society and perhaps world society is more a matter of distraction. People are increasingly busy in their lives. The advancement of technology has people increasingly communicating far beyond what might have been normal 50 or 100 years ago. Between working and social obligations (real or imagined) a great deal of many people’s waking hours are consumed. When we finally find a quiet moment we fall victim to our self indulgence. Is our first thought to take those moments to talk with God or study His word? I would suggest the first impulse is often to seek distraction from all that busyness. Certainly that distraction could be in the form of prayer or meditative contemplation but our thoughts are often bouncing around like a leaf in the wind. There is an inability to focus which makes the attempt to experience solitude all but impossible. Just as one benefits from stretching and warming up before physical endeavor, one must be able to enter into a desirable state of mind that is conducive to introspection and prayer. Anybody can blurt out a “Lord, give me this” prayer in any state of mind. It is a prayer no different from ordering something on Amazon. If our hearts and minds are to be changed and made whole, it requires that they be fertile soil for the seed of God’s love to take root in. Eliminate all the time consuming distractions that consume our downtime and you just may start to see a gradual return of people to spiritual things.

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  28. Jana Nelson on July 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    The Church is an Organism (Body of Christ) it was never meant to be an Organization (Business) .
    Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and it is He who grows the Church not the Pastors..Elders..Deacons or the Laity/Congregation. We (The Body of Christ) are sent out to join others to the Body of Christ by bringing them into the Kingdom of Heaven and the Family of God as we compel them to come to Jesus by Faith through Grace FREELY. Not win them in an “Organization” Small or Large/Mega. (Period).

    • elizabeth on December 25, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      Captian Cassidy:
      You have the traits if a Very Toxic individual.
      Your email reflected the following:
      1. THE CRITIC- nothing but criticisim.
      2. PASSIVE AGGRESIVE – a detected a tone of this
      personality disorder.
      3. NARCISSIST – is the best st everything, knows
      everything and is not afraid to tell you.
      4. STONEWALLER – Comes off as cold and heartless.
      5. ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY – No empathy

    • elizabeth on December 25, 2018 at 10:33 pm

      Captian Cassidy:
      You have the traits if a Very Toxic individual.
      Your email reflected the following:
      1. THE CRITIC- nothing but criticisim.
      2. PASSIVE AGGRESIVE – a detected a tone of this
      personality disorder.
      3. NARCISSIST – is the best at everything, knows
      everything and is not afraid to tell you.
      4. STONEWALLER – Comes off as cold and heartless.
      5. ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY – No empathy

      • Mike Kaas on August 20, 2020 at 5:44 am

        Captain Cassidy is obviously a nonbeliever. That is a position that many believers held at some point in their past. You may recall in the old PEANUTS comic strip the saying “I have met the enemy and he is us.” The greatest thing that holds back the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth is the ungodly nature in all of us. Gandhi said ” be the change you hope to see in the world.” Not quite as virtuous, Michael Jackson’s song said “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” We humans tend to be like today’s left-wing liberals who decide what change they’d like to see in the world and then look for everybody else to make their vision come true. We tend to look for someone other than ourselves to do the heavy lifting necessary for that to happen. When you and I are finished generating the necessary change in ourselves, there will be plenty of time to look into changing others. Don’t let the condition of society and the world steal your joy. If you are certain that God has you in the palm of his hand, saturate yourself in the wonder of it.

    • Heidi on March 15, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      I totally agree with your Comments. I am a Christian yet I have become very discouraged about attending ANY Church, anymore, because of the very reasons you stated above as well as other reasons: Many of the Churches are Now requiring “Membership Covenents”, which is Contadicting everything Pastors who do so, when they Preach “Faith in Christ” and Then Contrary to “Faith in Christ” and Even Contrary to Christ’s Own words in Matt Ch 5:34-37 (please read ), They nullify the Word of God, By their Own “Tradition of Men”, thus Creating “Another Gospel”! Also, Adding a NEW COVENENT, to the New COVENENT of Christ, because They, (Those Pastors) really prove that THEY, Have NO FAITH in JESUS CHRIST at all, and Prove by their OWN requirements, (Membership Agreements/Contracts) that THEY ARE HYPOCRITS, who DONT have FAITH THAT JESUS, through the Power of the HOLY SPIRIT, is Fully Capable, on his OWN, to Build HIS OWN CHURCH, (Not a Building or Organization) BUT A BODY of BORN AGAIN( Converted/ Regenerate) Believers in Christ ALONE for Salvation! Then to top it all off, THEY LIE to the body of Christ about “Tithes”, deceiving “Members” and Guilting them into Giving 10% of their income to the Church Organization, which was a LEVITCAL Law only ( Old Testament Law not Binding on the New Testament Body) and was not Currency, but was Produce and Animals, given to the Priests, brought to the TEMPLE in Jerusalem, for the Poor, Stranger and Widows that were in the Land of Israel! NT giving was by Devine Influence on the Heart! Not of “Cumpulsion” or of “Necessity” it is ALWAYS a FREE VOLUNTARY ACT OF LOVE, NOT LAW!!! ( 2 Cor. Ch 9:7) (2Cor. Ch 8:1-24) see also Acts Ch 15, where is the “Tithe” commandment? God called us to Freedom, and THOSE FALSE SHEHERDS, want to place CHRIST’S FLOCK, back under the YOLK OF BONDAGE, by imposing their FAITHLESS Membership SELF IMPOSED requirements!!!!
      These Pastors are Wolves in Sheeps clothing and Jesus said,” BY THEIR FRUITS, you will KNOW THEM!!!
      That is why, I think, the churches are Shrinking, and why I am even Discoraged about “Finding Faith on the earth”, because, I see these, so called Churches as “WELLS WITHOUT WATER” and SEEK instead, in The WORD OF GOD, and within the Pages of my KJV Bible, THE WATER IN THE WELL (JESUS CHRIST) ! I don’t have to look to fruitless Shepherds for that at Empty Buildings, Just LOOK UP, and Invite JESUS to MOVE IN, to His BUILDING, MY BODY, then Go OUT INTO THE WORLD, and Make Disciples( Through LOVE, not FORCED ALLEGIENCE, which is NOT LOVE AT ALL!😥

    • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 3:13 am

      Do we have to ignore all the scriptures on church growth just to make every pastor who is not reaching the lost feel good? There are about 10% of Christians who understand Christian spirituality. The rest are mostly church goers. If they all shape up the 75% of the world’s population will be easily convinced by their faithful love, evangelism and charity as well as spiritual and moral superiority to become Christians. Saying numbers dont matter contradicts Christ’s vision for the Church.

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  31. Greg Allen on January 18, 2018 at 8:18 am

    I have often struggled with the idea of how much do we depend on the spiritual and how much on strategy. My personal observation over the years is leadership that is not strategic usually fails. I have been under leadership that says simply “God will grow the church” and I have served under leadership that took the position our planning and strategy can be an outgrowth of a spiritual base. In my experience the spiritually based leaders that also use strategy are able to reach more for Christ. I wonder how many of the negative commenters in this thread have ever significantly grown at church in present times.

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  36. […] 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break The 200 Attendance Mark […]

  37. Gary on May 11, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Great article! Thanks for the tips Carey!

    • Ryan Cooney on June 4, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      Or what about bigger churches having an actual “organized children’s ministry”? That is a big one!!

  38. EEL on April 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    I would suggest that you are leaving out a HUGE aspect as to why many go mega churches (not all but many)…to hide or even get self serving needs met. Look at the crowds that followed Jesus. Most of them followed him for health and food. In John 6 Jesus calls them out by telling that they don’t seek him but seek the physical needs he meets. By verse 66 most find that the cost isn’t worth it and leave. We have had people leave our small church for bigger ones so that they couldn’t be seen and held accountable for missing service (et al) or didnt want to help or serve in anyway. They can just punch their attendance cards and go home. You can’t have these types of people in small churches very long. You can’t hide, you cant get by without serving in a small church. I propose small churches consist mostly of people who put their hands to the plow. Most arent there to punch cards and meet selfish needs from self serving programs but are there to work and serve the Lord.

    • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 3:27 am

      Then they cannot remain small for long. I am a pastor at a small church of less than 200 worshippers with a 400 seater sanctuary split into two services. I came from a church which had 600 worshippers for a 600 seater sanctuary split into two services and before that a 1000 worshipper plus church with a 400 seater sanctuary split into two. The difference here is what Carey outlines. We are all of the same denomination and worship style but the larger Churches take leadership development, volunteer deployment, evangelism, discipleship, etc serious. The Church I am in now has all the problems outlined above if not more. So claiming small churches are super spiritual is strange. If they were then they will be bursting at the seams or opening new branches. Period

  39. Osmo Joronen on March 26, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Why can’t a church grow and have groups within the church, each with a different mission but all meeting together to discuss what was accomplished and the next project. People can move from one group to another if they want. Some will grow, others will shrink. It challenges each group to perform. Anyway, here is what I think on this subject of why most churches don’t grow. Let me say this: Jesus’ church would not have grown either had it not been for the fact that his fame spread fast, not just for his preaching, but for his healing. He was teaching his disciples a duplicatable system that should reach the entire earth by the time he is ready to return. These in turn were to teach others and so on as the group grew exponentially. Sometimes a thousand people were saved because one person was healed. You can’t get a better system than that. The system broke down somewhere between 200 – 400 AD at least during the reign of Constantine who made it a state religion and built churches, and only returned relatively recently. Pagans filled this new church and the Holy Spirit left. The Bible says that some churches have a “form of godliness but deny the power (of the Holy Spirit). From such stay away.” Unless there is healing, meaning the Holy Spirit is present at every meeting, and miracles, signs and wonders are seen, then I would stay away from such a faithless place because it is catching and I don’t want it. Healings also confirm the message spoken according to the Bible. If Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in us, we already have the healer. If Jesus took our sicknesses on himself, we are already healed, we just need to have the faith to manifest it. That is what the Bible teaches, and if we ignor it, we do so at our own peril, we die early. My eBook “Christ The Healer In You” about this subject is on Amazon. It only costs a couple of bucks but it will help to build any church because there will be new converts. There is nothing like proof to dispel doubt and change lives.

  40. Daniel John Dombek on September 29, 2016 at 10:22 am

    When I was in seminary, we were taught that, when your congregation reached 200, it was time to split into 2 churches to better serve the community. The professors’ idea was that 200+ churches become impersonal/program churches, unable to care closely for the needs of its parishioners; sort of the equivalent of the smaller classroom/teacher-student ratio idea. I thought it was a good idea.

    • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 3:51 am

      Unfortunately that is a terrible idea. Smaller churches cost more money to run placing a financial burden on the shoulders of a few. What you could have is a cell system, missional community, house church or Bible study group centred on the church building so that it takes care of the intimacy needs and have the large gathering give you the economies of scale freeing you to fund more evangelism and charity ventures as well as invest in discipleship and evangelism.

  41. Chris Todd on August 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    One of the dirty secrets of church growth I found in a footnote of a national church paper on growth. Churches tend to grow in communities that are growing and tend to shrink in communities that are shrinking! If you are leading a church in a small town that a lot of people (especially young people) are leaving, you can do everything right and still see your church get smaller.

    Another dirty secret is that churchgoers self-select for size. Some people want a small church and will leave if it gets larger. Some people want a medium-sized church and some want to go to a megachurch. Though few people will admit aloud to not wanting their church to grow, they might find their family-sized church comfortable and not really want it to change.

    • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 4:55 am

      I side with both points

  42. Jeff on August 8, 2016 at 11:16 am

    All of these things are relevant, but only for churches in a certain context and demographic area. A lot of churches never “break the 200 barrier” because there aren’t 200 un-churched people within a reasonable driving distance.

    Context is king.

  43. Bridger54 on July 24, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Yeah, I really like the part in scripture where the megachurch would gather in a house and really share the spirit and word.

  44. Bud Brown on June 27, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    This issue has been widely researched, using a variety of different instruments, for many years. (I recall that my alma mater once did such a study, only to discover that the vast majority of their alums pastored churches of 200 or less).

    What’s usually overlooked in all of these studies is the underlying realities of cognitive psychology called the “channel capacity” (look it up in Wiki). This term refers to the factg that our brains have limited capacity for certain kinds of information.

    When we examine channel capacity from the lens of social psychology we discover that when networks grow beyond our capacity to maintian social connections, we begin to feel estranged. We feel that our contributions are no longer valued and so our “conversation” stops. In other words – there is a human limit to how large our social networks, including our churches, can become.

    The magic number seems to be about 150 people in our network. Malcolm Gladwell writes about this at length as “the Rule of 150” in his book, Tipping Point.

    Now, in response to this blog post – which is quite good – I would add that the FIRST and PRIMARY reason why churches top out at 150 (or less than 200) is that the pastor fails to understand this fundamental feature of human cognitive and social psychology and adapt to it.

    But, that’s the subject of another book!

  45. YoungChurchLeaders on May 9, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Number 2 is gold. Strategy doesn’t have to be perfect, but it gives you the framework to know what’s broken. As always, keep writing!

  46. Brian on March 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Carey – great stuff and the podcast is amazing. Recently you and Brian Wangler mentioned a Reggie Joiner sermon using shopping carts. Anyway you can link me up to this? I can’t find it anywhere.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 16, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks Brian. Bad news. It’s off line now. Not available anymore. It was at Willow c.2005.

  47. Relationship Medics on February 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    I was glad to see Reasons #1 and #4 on the list because I’m dedicated to empowering members to attract/retain newcomers/members through the way they communicate and form bonds, and that takes a huge burden off leadership. Super significant and SO OVERLOOKED as a solution to membership issues! –Carol

  48. Pastor Joe Bell on January 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    The Brodie page is down. Is there another source for that article?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 29, 2016 at 8:11 am

      Unfortunately not at this time. Sorry Joe!

  49. Travis Stephens on January 17, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a church that’s went from about 85 in attendance in our first year, to over 700 in our tenth year. All in a small town of about 2,200 people. I have to say the suggestions Carey makes are exactly right, if you want to see your church grow you have to be willing to make some changes. I’ve written about our experience at http://travisstephens.me/smalltown-church-growth-1/ if you want to read more.

  50. Kent Murawski on September 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Carey, I just heard you speak at the Activate Conference and really enjoyed it. Can you break down the strategy piece a little? What is your strategy? Have you written some posts on it? I know you use Deep and Wide, but can you give an example of some of your strategy? I pastor a church in academia, near to Harvard called Journey Church. We are clear on our mission and vision and somewhat clear on strategy but this is the piece I could use the most help on.

  51. Kenny Tsatsunon Tsikata on September 4, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you Carey. I’m a young preacher from Ghana; and your write ups inspires and sharpens me a lot. Thank you for always sharing.

  52. DGP on July 9, 2015 at 3:59 am

    Smaller churches are better. If the church grows, the original member goes.

  53. David Roth on July 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Carey, I’m writing a book I’m calling The World, The Flesh and The Church. You just covered chapter of my book for me. I’m looking at the difference between the first century church, which I label the GO church or the Great Commission Church to the 21st century church, which I have labeled the Field of Dreams church. We’ve forgotten the first command our Lord gave us – GO – Baptize – Teach! Great Essay. Thanks.

  54. capdee71 on May 4, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Thanks Carey , this has been really helpful.

  55. Brian Johnson on April 17, 2015 at 12:18 am

    What is most interesting and telling, is this compulsion to bring other people into your delusional fantasy world. Many of these “sheep” are vulnerable because of mental or emotional problems and are willing to drink the cool-aid despite the bitter taste of cyanide. Rather then learning to overcome the loneliness and isolation that life often throws at us these “harvested” souls become dependent on the emotional security the comes with being part of a group and just like any addicted person, they alter their perception of reality rather then face the fact their group is freakier then nerds playing dungeons and dragons every waking moment. The nerd will actually admit that although playing make believe games is his greatest pleasure he knows that his level ten wizard spells won’t really have any effect. The poor deluded Christians never stop trying to effect change with their incantations…er, I mean prayers.

  56. christoph on April 8, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Right on. not too long ago I came across an acrostic on the word “Strategy”. Obviously in some small communities there are churches under 200.

    • normanprather on April 17, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Most churches, of which I am aware, are well below 200 attendance.

  57. GenXr on April 8, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Three years ago I probably would have considered myself an “8” out of “10” on the engagement scale. I was very involved in many activities and in leadership roles at our church. In the past two years I have witnessed much of what you recommend in this article executed at our church. I now consider myself more like a “3” and sincerely disenfranchised. I acknowledge that some of this shift in my own personal faith journey has been based on my being re-judged on my “leadership” qualities (your point #3). Some of this shift also has to do with my perception of your general approach, which I suspect has been utilized nearly point-for-point at our church. This formula can be seen as very cynical and corporate-like numbers crunching. I work in a corporate setting and it is a real turn-off to experience the politics, picking of favorites, subjective judging of peoples’ capabilities, back-channel deal-making, chasing the dollars, and viewing people as numbers at my church! Not all of the disenfranchised will have other options, even at “lamer” churches that aren’t growing. Furthermore, some may become disenfranchised not just with their current church, but with organized religion as a whole, which is where I feel I am now. I’m sure It is very comforting for you to believe that those that leave will simply move to another church and not give up on the whole thing. Deal with the fallout of your “radical solutions” and understand that this fallout may be contributing to the overall problem of people giving up on organized religion altogether. Also bear in mind that some of the “3”s were “8”s or “9”s, and some of the 8s and 9s may be 3s or 2s next week. And those numbers represent real people on a journey together, and who experience ups and downs. Growth initiatives don’t have to be so cynical. Just one perspective.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Whoa! First, that’s a sad story. And second, I don’t really understand how you imposed such a cynical agenda on my advice. I actually lives through these principles and led a church through change. Many stayed with it throughout. Many more people are in a relationship with Jesus because of it. This is not a cynical ploy to manipulate people. It’s energizing dying churches.

      • Credo1970 on August 19, 2015 at 12:34 am

        Sorry, but in the haste to defend an article centered around MBA types of ideals, you’ve neglected to listen to GenXr’s more spiritual concerns and support your ideas about how to create and manage ‘church growth’ with scripture.

        Great…you’ve become good at attracting a crowd and teaching organizations to examine leadership models and adapt a few of them. The article makes plenty of GOOD POINTS, and I personally appreciated the article very much from a ‘humanistic/business/organization’ frame of mind.

        GenXr seems like the type of Christan who realizes the benefits of a well organized ‘machine’. That’s not good enough for him though. He wants some solid scripture to back it up. There are a few red flags in this article for those of us who have grown up in small towns, full of THRIVING small churches.

        A 200 member church, among dozens of other 200 member churches in a community of less than 4,000 is NOT a dying church.

        The article sounds more like someone from Hollywood trying to make his MBA degree look good than someone from a religious seminary. Not one single aspect of the article was Biblically based (or even supported).

        If you’re going to tell people how to run churches…it’d be a good idea to prop that advice with scripture.

        If the general idea is that a church below the magic number of 200 is dying, that’s a pretty messed up idea. I may well be wrong…but please show us the scripture proving that America has been doing its rural and suburban churches wrong all these years.

        Every time churches listen to this non-Bibically based nonsense, they celebrate their 14 new big screen TVs while another food and medicine distribution program bites the dust. Then these same high and mighty ‘church reformers’ invite the POLITICIANS in to convince us to vote out the secular attempts to do Christ’s work as well.

        The whole idea of trying to quantify saved souls based on ‘service attendance’, or even ‘number of members’ in a church is absurd.

        Many communities have very ecumenical relationships among the ‘pastors’, and these ‘dying churches’ as you put it…ARE acting as well tuned
        mission clusters.

        Small towns across the country are losing many of their most important missions, that reach and effect 4 times the number of souls as any ‘worship service’ or ‘Christian production’….because young ministers are being encouraged to ‘shut that mess’ down in favor of more ‘profitable and quantifiable’ missions.

        So many communities are suffering because a new wave of young ministers are isolating themselves from these ecumenical groups and trying to duplicate or compete with programs that already exist in the small community (20 churches fighting over members in a town with only 3,000 people in it). They’ve decided that ‘our leaders are not the right kind….so lets push them out of the way’.

        What they fail to realize, is the 200 member church across the street has ‘the leaders’ he ‘thinks’ he wants….and the leaders he wants to ‘get rid of’ had a very valuable and important set of skills and programs going to serve a different set of community needs.

        If your goal is to be a ‘small church KILLER’, and have the largest and most ‘monopolistic church’ in small town America….then your proposed model just might work….that is, if you’re good enough to pry people away from all the ‘other churches’ and gradually ‘squeeze them out’.

        If your goal is to work with all the other ministers in the area, lead your church in a direction that fits the leadership and resources of the congregation that you DO HAVE, while propagating the gospel, and serving the public AT LARGE with programs that assist in the healing of bodies, and providing sanctuary for salvation and health of Christian souls, then the number of people that come to ‘worship services’ shouldn’t be quite so high on the list of ‘priorities’.

        In all of my Bible studies…I don’t recall any description of Jesus asking anyone to count attendees for him, and quantify the popularity of the message (or lack thereof). In fact, we see him do quite the opposite as he constantly asks the Rabi as a young man in temple why they place more value in counting/recording attendance and accounting for alms than they do visiting and teaching. I do recall Christ teaching the early disciples of his church how to witness, share, and spread the news (the news to be spread is pretty well covered in the New Testament).

        • Tricia N on September 18, 2015 at 5:38 pm

          Your reply is well-thought out and I enjoyed reading it. You make some very good points, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll suggest that Carey’s advice is to help churches be proactive and is directed to those churches which are stagnating because of practices which hinder them from potentially reaching new people. If a church is 200 and healthy, it probably can’t help but grow. But if their 200 because they’re bogged down with programs that keep people preoccupied with themselves or even stunt them, then Carey is providing suggestions to evaluate and take action so we can run the race well as the church should naturally desire. Again, I think Carey’s advice is directed to those small churches that are small because they are bogged down and wish to cast off that which is slowing the purpose of reaching new people and to help existing members be participating disciples. The advice is for churches that do have a problem or soon will, and they know it. It’s not for the healthy ones. Even though Carey doesn’t quote scripture, his advice is actually biblical (minus the arbitrary 200 number 🙂

          • Credo1970 on September 18, 2015 at 8:42 pm

            I agree with the thesis of the article itself, and I think Carey only has the best intentions with the article. As I read the article itself for the first time I couldn’t help but whisper Amen to a number of the points.

            In hindsight however, I realized most of my Amens were more about practical, business, and political matters than spiritual and theological ones. My Amens were mostly wishful thinking that humans and their communities would be easier to manage into my personal world view.

            What drew my tangent is the way those with questions or warnings for organizational experts are handled.

            Well…if someone misinterprets, or finds a hole…plug it with solid scripture! If you can’t find the scripture right away, acknowledge that you’ll take it to prayer in order to strengthen the case, or repent before ‘the Lord’ and change direction as soon as possible.

            While I personally didn’t get a bad vibe the first time I read Carey’s article…I began to realize how ‘some’ people…particularly someone who may have just gone through a difficult church experience might see it, and ‘later’ I found a few red flags:

            Fault finders in and outside of a church do have a purpose. It’s not enough to simply replace them or push them out of the way. Keep teaching this to new generations of ministers, and we’ll soon see our Christian churches morph from healing, service minded, spiritual organizations…into little more than money changers and political machines all too happy to play ‘musical chairs’ with their membership roles. Again, I don’t think Carey meant for people to take his words in this way…but if you’d just been through a painful divisive situation in a church, the ideas can easily pop out from the context of the article’s words.

            In ’empathy mode’, I sensed a kind of strong ‘good riddance’ tone between two Christians. Well, congratulations…because there’s at least 4 generations out there with a TON OF QUESTIONS on all of this ‘reorganizing’ of churches, and all of the ‘change’ into ‘highly efficient one size fits all political machines’ who have replaced the Bible on the alter with collection plates.

            That form of comment fielding (deflecting back to the commenter and taking a self defense stance) made me re-read the article a number of times, searching for what ever it was that seemed to bothering GenXer. That, along with the quick self defense plea, is when I started to see (or imagine) some other messages in the ‘re-organizational’ model agenda.

            It wasn’t until Carey’s reply that my mind became twisted:
            “If someone disagrees….get rid of them!”
            If someone disagrees, “They are sad and cynical.”

            OK….if you’re going to discount or get rid of the people ‘holding back progress’….then you’re going to need strong scripture to back up this practice.

            I do understand that pastors do not have the time and stamina to dig through their Bible and convince every single nay-sayer in person. There just are NOT enough hours in a lifetime to address every single question; however, he can make some notes that will lead to more air tight articles in the future, and stick to more encouraging sorts of responses such as, “Thank you for the concern, you’ve made a number of points I will take to my chambers in prayer.” This way, the pastor will be able to collect theological grounding over time for the issues he is clearly ‘correct’ about, and address these sorts of questions better in the future. He might also learn over time that scripture actually steers him in a different direction than he’d initially envisioned. The Pastor doesn’t need to repent to his congregation…but he DOES need to keep a constant attitude of being able to repent before the Lord in private prayer.

        • femiosunjaye on November 24, 2015 at 9:37 am

          Personally I don’t think Pastor Carey meant to ignore some of the valid points you raised but just a kind of additional knowledge to help ones efficiency in the kingdom.

        • Jeff on August 8, 2016 at 11:20 am

          Good words. Sound advice.

        • pastr on January 31, 2017 at 10:22 am

          “If the church is in an area with too few churches, and a large population of non-Christians, then the article fits!”

          Carey is from Canada- in an area that has an exploding “Rurban” population that would be considered under-churched. Much of Urban Canada would be considered the same. Similar to New England, US West Coast and other areas.

          It fits where he is, it fits where I am, it fits where many of his readers are. I do not think Carey is targeting communities of 10,000 people with 50 churches of 200 people like you see in many areas of the South East US. This is not about killing various small churches to build one big one. It is about organizing ourselves in a way so that we do not hinder the expansion of the gospel.

          In Many of these areas the Scripture is Descriptive, not necessarily PREscriptive. We know this, or at least we should. Disciples are being made. People are being saved. Lives are being transformed. God is being glorified. In Carey’s case, in my home area which I have been away from as a missionary for 20+ years, I for one am blessed to see that even in that difficult area, the Kingdom is expanding.

          Praise God

      • WILFRED on May 25, 2018 at 1:19 am

        Greetings to you in mighty name above all other names Jesus Christ. Im very much happy to write to since i have went through your website and have seen great work on which you are doing by the grace of God to spread the true gospel.
        Am pastor Wilfred Kerosi from East Africa Kenya of Ribate fellowship christian church with 63 members ,55 Children whereby 34 among the children are poor orphans under my care .
        I hereby request for affiliation to partner with you in spreading the true gospel of which you are doing as the say that ; go to all nation and preach the gospel to every creature on earth. As we are one in Christ even if far in distance continue to pray for us here in Kenya to have material for preaching the gospel since we do not have enough bibles to read here in the church since many Christians here don’t understand English therefore pray for us to have bibles of our local language.
        Also pray for poor orphans under my care to have enough food , clothes ,shoes and blanks since we don’t have enough at the moment.will be happy to hear from from you brethren as pray to each other.
        yours faithfully in Christ Wilfred

    • Dean Loveland on July 15, 2019 at 10:43 pm

      What about 7

  58. freshaes on February 23, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Hey Carey, as a lay person volunteering at a church, why do you think there is so much push back against being strategic or changing structure (based on comments on this post)? – Raj

    • James on April 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Hello Carey,
      My question is a little different.
      When dealing with volunteers and paid worker in the church, is it a good idea to give them equal treatments?
      We are in the process of ordaining some faithful volunteers and someone brings a suggestion that one of the paid workers should also be ordained. My stand on the issue is that this may discourage the faithful volunteers, seeing that some are being paid and more so they are coded differently under the Fair Labor Act.
      what is your opinion on this? Thanks

      • Emily Lauren on April 28, 2017 at 4:08 pm

        Ummm, ordination and pay are two different areas of church decision-making. At my church the three pastors/elders get paid when they speak. The administrators get paid per month as well as the worship pastor. This is what we can afford. Everyone else is a volunteer. Four of the volunteers are being made deacons – two are being considered for the eldership.

        If the accountant is jealous that an usher is getting ordained to be a deacon, that cannot possibly inform leadership’s decision! X) If the eldership does not think they are qualified, then they shouldn’t covet what they don’t have. Now, if the person is qualified, then the church eldership can put him/her in that leadership position. But, if they don’t, it probably means that they think they have enough people with leadership titles, paid or not. This is up to the discretion of the elders and church council.

        That is sad that someone getting paid by the church expects to hold an ordained role as well. Unless they are the youth pastor/children’s director/or worship leader (and they have all been trained in church leadership) then I might see why they might think that they require an ordination to serve and have authority in guiding the church’s decisions. Other than that…like I said, an accountant – or a tech guy or the janitor – you may pay them, but ordination should only be a serious thought by the eldership and the church council. They should not be two conflated categories. But you probably already knew that. 🙂

    • Credo1970 on August 19, 2015 at 1:35 am

      Ground your ‘strategies’ in scripture.

      That’s usually a good start.

      Young pastors often come into churches full of people with twice their education and ten times their ‘worldly experience’. Many people in these churches ALSO have an MBA or higher…and have run businesses and organizations since long before the minister was born.

      What ‘they’ don’t have that you do is knowledge of scripture, and the time to meet with people and LISTEN. That is where the pastor is supposed to have the upper hand when it comes to organizational strategy and leadership.

      Don’t try to tell people who are twice your age how to run an organization! It makes you look foolish and naive. Even if you have great ideas, the way you communicate with elders, or other ‘esteemed’ individuals of status in a community has EVERYTHING to do with them adopting the strategies and policies you believe in.

      What you should do…is LISTEN to their discussions, and uphold the ideas that you can back with SCRIPTURE. Shoot down the ideas that are specifically forbidden or warned against in SCRIPTURE.

      • RWilliams on January 18, 2016 at 9:08 am

        How long would you propose to go through this process?

        I have been a full time pastor at two different churches over the past ten years. The first church I was at had an organizational structure much like you just described. The pastors were subject to a board and most any new ideas were placed on the table for discussion, and then simply tabled for months, sometimes years on end. Some would say that this was wisdom (the elder board was made up of men with more degrees than California in the summer, and most of them were at least 55 or older.) We got very little accomplished and saw very few come to Christ because the status quo remained as such and the young pastors with less education and less wordly experience as you called it were told to simply wait.

        The problem I have with your assertion is that it completely flies in the face of the New Testament church that I see in scripture. The disciples were young men who had been called by Jesus to be a part of his mission. They were (mostly) uneducated men who went out with the Spirit of God and started a movement with the Gospel that would change the world.

        “Time and time again, we often do not see the seeds a pastor planted in a church start to sprout until years, or sometimes even generations later.” – How much of that is because most churches are unwilling to change for years or generations later? How many more could have heard the Gospel if action was taken quicker and the young pastors weren’t stifled?

        • Credo1970 on January 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm

          What sort of things are you putting on the ‘table’?
          How exactly are you ‘measuring’ how many ‘come to Christ’?
          Again, luring 50 people from a different church over to yours isn’t really ‘reaching out’ and bringing new souls to Christ.

          If your yard stick is based on how many people come to ‘worship services’, then the number is skewed. Luring people from other churches because you have a better choir or bus service isn’t the same as reaching out and doing long term missions.

          To get a better idea of how to help you promote positive ‘change’ in a church, we’d need more specific examples of the kinds of ‘changes’ you’re trying to push through.
          If you’ve programs in mind that simply get existing Christians to move their letters around from one church to another…..think twice about it. Especially if you’re speaking of small towns or rural communities where 90% or more of a small population are christened into the faith as infants.

          If your goal is to reach out to that 10% who are not born into the faith, then there are a ton of things you can start working on right away that do not require any board approval!

          1. Learn the languages of those remaining 10%, and get to know their community leaders…PERSONALLY. Chances are, they’re not going to be English speaking.
          So…are you multilingual? If not….get started learning right away! Get out and meet Christians who speak the language and will assist you in ministering to them.

          2. There’s a high chance that the few people in such areas that are not already members of a church will clash culturally and linguistically with the congregation in your church. Are you equipped and prepared to deal with this?
          Again, simply changing the dynamics of a church’s membership roster is not always synonymous with ‘growth’.
          There is always the chance that bringing one group in, might cause another group to ‘flee’.
          Christ’s early church dealt with all this by having many early Church leaders, who spoke different languages and understood different cultures. They each set out into the world to minister to these different cultures in very unique ways.

          3. Get to know as many pastors in your area as you can! If it’s really about bringing people to ‘Christ’, then it’s important to get an idea about what church can best serve a person’s spiritual needs! Communicate with your area ministers on a regular basis, and serve your community as a strategic group front.

          I.E. If you find a Hispanic family that needs a Christian ministry….do you send them to a church that is equipped to help them, or do you try to equip your own church?
          If there are no churches in the area that can minister in Spanish, then it makes rock solid sense to push your own to start building programs for them. You can start with YOURSELF, long before taking anything to a ‘board’ for approval. Set the example, show some success, gradually introduce the new culture to your old church and THEN start asking for more support.

          If there are already 3 churches in your county that are well equipped to minister in Spanish, then it makes the most sense to call one of those pastors and send the family to him. Eventually you’ll establish relationships with like minded ministers, and you’ll constantly be sending each other individuals and families. In short….you do NOT need the board’s permission to start building your own networks for ministry.

          Really….my whole point is something that church Elders often do not communicate as well as they should.
          Bringing people to Christ is not about ‘numbers’. It’s not about how many people pack an arena to hear ‘preaching’ and ‘sing songs’.

          Growth in the Christian faith is very difficult if not impossible to ‘quantify’. There are many different sizes and types of Church models for a reason. Each one serves a purpose in an ever changing fabric of humanity. God wants it that way.
          If every church looked and functioned exactly the same, then frankly, we wouldn’t have very many Christians on the planet today.

          Churches do change every single day as the balance and makeup of the population shifts. Change is not something that has to be ‘forced’. My home church is quite different today than it was 20 years ago (even though it’s pretty much the same people).

          Stop asking old churches full of members who have already raised their kids to try to act like what they are NOT…a church full of 30 somethings raising kids.
          It’s not always their ‘fault’ that the demographics of their neighborhoods have made it difficult or impossible to maintain a better ‘balance’ of membership among the generations. Being angry at some old folks because of demographics that they can’t control doesn’t fix anything.

          Understand your community, and use its currents to your advantage. Fight them too hard, and you just end up ‘church bouncing’ until you hopefully find one that ‘fits’ what you ‘think’ a church is supposed to look and act like.
          The sad truth is that the older people controlling out of balance churches (generational balance) eventually will pass on, and their homes will be sold to a younger generation (and in many cases even a radically different CULTURE). At that point….it’s almost like starting over to build a new congregation, but do not underestimate or be too quick to dismantle the ‘foundation’ that they leave behind for you. Take your time…because it took generations for them to build it all….yet it only takes a couple of years to knock it all to the ground and loose EVERYTHING.

          Instead of over-fighting it…look at the tools they have for very different, but equally important types of missions. You can drive yourself crazy trying to fight the Cycles of God….or you can learn from them, and use the currents to get things done for Christ. Not every church is geared to be an evangelical power hose, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a very valid and super important church with much to contribute to the fabric of Christianity.

          • RWilliams on January 19, 2016 at 9:05 am

            “As long as it takes…
            It might even take multiple ministers and a new generation. That’s life….always has been, always will be.”

            – Yikes…. sounds like stagnancy to me.

            I’m having a hard time responding to much of what you assert here, mainly because it sounds like you have only been a part of or seen churches that do one of two things:

            1. Nothing – status quo isn’t challenged and people simply get comfortable and stagnant.

            2. Grow by simple attrition of other church members shifting membership to your place.

            You seem to be arguing for #1 (for reasons that quite simply I disagree with vehemently) and saying that the only other option is #2.

            Our church is multi-generational and we have seen over two hundred people go from having nothing to do with God or church to responding to the Gospel and trusting in Christ for salvation and new life over the past 6 years (For His glory, not ours). Most of these people are now serving in the church and are being challenged to continue to reach out to their friends/neighbors/coworkers… who are far from God with the Good News.

            Why is this happening? Because our leadership made the decision to stop catering to comfort and challenge our people to get on board with the mission of the Church. Sadly, we lost quite a few people. I don’t mourn over that because the people we lost will walk out the door and find a new church home… but people who are far from God now walk in our doors and hear about salvation in Christ.

            We changed everything about our methods, processes, practices, to make sure that we don’t forget the mission. We are called to go and make disciples. I should also let you know that when we made this shift, we lost familes from multiple generations, so this isn’t about simply age.

            You said at the end that not every church is geared to be an evangelical power house….. Again, not certain what you mean. Every church should foundationally be about the Gospel and making that Gospel known to as many as possible in their community.

            Just to play out an extreme: If every person in that community is reached (which i would venture to say happens extremely rarely), then begin brainstorming other ways to reach even farther (small church plant etc…), but never get off the boat of our mission.

            Last thing:

            “Understand your community, and use its currents to your advantage. Fight them too hard, and you just end up ‘church bouncing’ until you hopefully find one that ‘fits’ what you ‘think’ a church is supposed to look and act like.”

            What do you think a church is supposed to look and act like? Because I believe a church is a community of people tied together in the Gospel on mission to make that Gospel known to any and everyone. Make changes necessary to be a part of that mission. A dying church is simply that: dying.

          • Credo1970 on January 19, 2016 at 12:59 pm

            Interesting….you know that these 200 people ‘had nothing to do with god’ until your ‘benevolent change in leadership’….how?

            They are being charged to reach out to friends, neighbors, and coworkers…….

            How is that a radical change that requires board approval and strong arming changes in congregational leadership? Are you honestly trying to tell me that the churches you were involved in had people that needed to ‘go’ because they STOPPED you from encouraging this?

            Are you telling me that young ministers need to wrest the power of a church’s purse, and push people they do not ‘like’ or agree with out out of leadership roles in small churches in order to encourage people to witness? NONSENSE….

            Are you saying that a ‘change in leadership’ will magically shift the economy and demographics of an area chock full of small ‘dieing’ churches (under 200)?

            I still maintain that just because a church has fewer than 200 does NOT mean it is dieing. I know of quite a few that have NEVER had more than 100 memebers, but have been going strong for nearly 200 years. I can think of a pocket of about 12 of them in Texas that have put air bus hospitals in every international disaster zone (with missionaries) since 1984. Built dozens of home for people in need. FOUNDED community hospitals or health clinics and keep them well maintained, etc. They simply do a different kind of outreach and mission……

            Some of us are NOT cut out to witness face to face, and do far more damage than good when sharing our walks with Christ with others. Some of us are much better equipped to play supporting roles. Some of us are better at quietly providing Bibles, homes, and refuges for worship.

            Consolidating everything Christian into fewer mega-churches is not really the same thing as ‘growth in the faith’.

          • RWilliams on January 27, 2016 at 10:10 am

            Very long deflection and refusal to own a simple problem. You’re still missing my point. The change in leadership isn’t a change in style but a change in missional focus. Too many churches have stepped away from THE mission of THE Church. I simply refuse to agree with you that a church should sit and get stagnant. This will be my last response as it seems you have dug your feet pretty deep into your defense and it is not a good use of my time to continue the conversation.

            P.S. Every Christian is called to be a minister and an evangelist…. Not sure why you disagree with that either.

          • Credo1970 on January 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

            First, I’m not ‘deflecting’, but rather hoping to get the point across that ‘how many members a church has’ is NOT a clear indicator of a church ‘dying’
            Just because a church is ‘small’ does not mean it needs to be ‘changed and reorganized’ by challenging and strong-arming the elders.

            I didn’t take the time to post all this to be written off as ‘deflecting’. I spoke of VALID Christian missions that many small churches are involved with (and have been for centuries).

            I never disagreed to your PS. I just happen to believe that there are many missions and styles that contribute to that purpose. Quite a few of them have missions that would cost more time and money to ‘quantify’ possible results than it takes to just ‘do it’.

            Gideons pass out Bibles at no charge…there is no form to sign to get one, no requirement to show up any specific ‘church’ and there is no way of knowing (other than finite math…probabilities) for sure or quantifying if a single soul gets saved by that mission. A youth group 4 from a 50 member church can pass out 4,000 Bibles in Guatemala and not grow a single member back home.

            Some churches have big programs to help the elderly and infirmed, as well as the incarcerated. These programs are not likely to lead to ‘church growth’ in terms of number of members either. Since such programs don’t fill pews on Sunday, or make the collection plates overflow…does that mean they should go?

            I agree that all Christians are called to minister and share the gospel, but I can’t find the scripture so far that says anything about all Christians counting heads, making lists, and ‘taking credit’, nor do I see any scripture that says there is only one style or method.

            The goal is to foster and create opportunities for people to know about the Word of God and come to know Christ.
            That mission is not an ‘instant one’ that can easily be ‘quantified’. Pushing a church to grow past 200 is not really superior to doing ecumenical missions that have a very high probability of helping 400 different churches grow by 2.

          • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 5:42 am

            Frankly speaking if all the 50 congregations have a board of elders and pastors sharing the 10000 members and as such the area has only an extra 2000 people outside the church then you have too many people in ministry and mission in that small area. Better some churches fold up so Pastors can be redeployed, resources reallocated and new missions started in unchurched places. Looking at the bigger picture helps. Sometimes persecution helped spread the Church by pushing pastors and skilled lay ministers where they were needed. Maybe a 10000 capacity megachurch will help with that and sponsor the Pastors who are willing to move to underserved communities. There is no excuse for keeping churches small and uneconomical which hampers their ability to do mission.

  59. davebaldwin on February 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    What I have thought over the years is a lack of strategic planning when it comes to hiring the next person. I believe it needs to be a generalist. Someone who can work in several areas at once. Back in the day the second position would be a youth pastor. The church would grow by another 75 people, but not enough to add a third staff member and continue to grow. It couls be just that simple as well.
    Yours are all noteworthy and true Carey. Just throwing in another factor in my opinion.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 23, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Great point. So appreciate it…and you…Dave!

    • Credo1970 on August 19, 2015 at 3:35 am

      Great question. I think it often has to do with the entire community the church serves. What are the demographics of the area? What missions might be duplicative of what other churches/organizations are already doing well, and where are there serious shortages?

      I.E. Some parts of the country have really large numbers of retirees, and fewer young families.

      I.E. Some communities might have college campuses and need more services for young adults and ‘intellectuals’.

      I.E. Some areas might be terribly undeserved in every respect, and any direction you go can lead to growth.

      I.E. Some areas might be very culturally segregated by race, economic class, etc. Is your intent to go with the flow, or do something different and less segregated?

      I.E. Some areas have few if any services for immigrants or anyone that’s speaking English as a ‘second’ language.

      I could go on hours with things to consider. The point is…take a step back, talk to other pastors in an area and consider moving in directions where you’re not trying to duplicate or out-right ‘compete’ with other programs that may be light years ahead of anything you could put together in the short term.

      When you realize the challenges and opportunities of the entire community, it can shine a light on the type of ministers and pastors to seek out and hire.

    • Emily Lauren on April 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      I’ve always heard of a “small group” pastor as being almost like a second in command (although we know that’s not always how the church’s dynamics work). I think the best “generalist” person, as you say, for a third pastoral position would be a counselor. Trained in both biblical study and counseling of all types of people in different situations, he could be the most valuable asset in helping the other pastors/elders to reach out and visit others. They can also be put in charge of any other program/vision your church has been wanting to do for the community, but didn’t have enough time to organize without a third elder.

      The Pastor of Counseling. The Counseling Pastor?

      Uh…I’ll work on the list later. XD

  60. Dean on February 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Here is the paradox I find myself in: I have read and applied so many leadership principles that seem to work in the word, and so often work in churches, and I also read and study my Bible, and it seems that the answer to God working and moving powerfully among us is his people’s holiness. Now I don’t mean perfection, nor do I mean law vs. gospel. What I mean is his people repenting of their sin, humbling themselves before him, and having him raise them up. It is grace from top to bottom.

    However, whenever God’s people become complacent, indifferent, follow the gods of the age, or drift off into blatant sin, he begins to withdraw his blessing and increase his discipline. We see this throughout Exodus, Judges, the Kings, the prophets, 1Corinthians, Revelation 2&3, etc. And when his people humble themselves, repent and seek the Lord, he blesses. Isaiah 58 is a great example of what I am talking about. In the first part Israel is described as “seeking him daily,” “delighting in his ways,” “asking for righteous judgment,” and “delight to draw near to God.” (v.2). And yet, God tells them why he does not answer them, hear them, or acknowledge what they are doing. He says in v.3-7 that they seek their own pleasure, oppress their workers, quarrel and fight, they don’t give freedom, they don’t share their bread with the hungry, they don’t bring the homeless into their home, and they don’t cloth the naked. But if they would repent of these things, this is what he promised he would do for them in v.8-12, “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ … then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched place and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

    Now that is what the church needs! And that is what would cause the church to explode in America. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t say all this to disagree with the need for the things you spoke of, I only say this because I think the true need for the church today is for God to show up. And once he does, we will have to apply all this stuff just to minister to the multitudes who are being transformed by his grace!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 10, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      Dean…you are so right. The basis for all true growth in the Kingdom is reliance on God. Without it, you’re not building a church. You’re building an organization. With it, you have the foundation on which to apply the skill that often makes our effectiveness greater. Thank you!

  61. MSP on February 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    In item #1, you say that the pastor should not be the only one making all the hospital/home visits, which makes sense. However, you also state that he/she should not have to do all of the weddings and funerals. These are functions for which an ordained pastor has professional training, and in the case of weddings he/she must be officially recognized in order for the licence to be legal. I’m unclear as to what you think the alternative should be.

    • Larry on February 8, 2015 at 6:17 am

      Ephesians 4:11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

      We should be raising up other pastors to help with the work of the Lord. One main thing we should be doing is discipling, to many think the church is a one man show, the body is made up of many parts and each has its purpose. So the alternative is to raise up other pastors to help with the ministry.

      • MSP on February 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        But in a church where there is only one pastor, and that’s all the budget will allow, that person must be the one to handle things like weddings and funerals which require an actual officiant. Laypersons can be trained to do many other jobs, but there are limits. If these small churches raise up other pastors, which often they do, then these new pastors are called to serve other congregations, fulfilling the Great Commission.

        • Emily Lauren on April 28, 2017 at 4:45 pm

          🙂 Most church governments I’ve seen have more than one pastor, or at least a boat-load of elders to keep the pastor accountable and help him with any of the other duties – besides weddings and funerals. But stuff like weddings and funerals don’t happen like every single week, ssooo… it shouldn’t be a problem. 🙂 Even for one pastor.

          But a church’s leadership shouldn’t be so light at the top. You didn’t mention your church in detail, so I don’t know the entirety of it’s structure, but in reference to churches with only one guy at the top: there needs to be at least one other qualified elder. This is to keep the pastor accountable and help him share some of the load of teaching, even if it is not on the exact same level of teaching as the pastor (an elder just needs to be qualified, not “genius”). 😉

          The church I currently attend has three pastors. All of them preach, though their qualifications can be labeled in ascending order. We have two pastors with a bachelor’s degree, one who is youngest and less experienced, especially with preaching, and the eldest who has the most experience of the three pastors and is great in facilitating meetings. The second eldest one has several masters degrees. Many in the congregation consider him the best preacher (though he has stepped aside to let the youngest pastor preach 3 Sundays a month). These are the dynamics in the pulpit, not to mention the behind the scenes with church planning, decision making, and accountability and prayer partners. They also split their time meeting one-on-one with the different families in the church. They can do a lot and still have time to be with their families, which is a benefit to having responsible brothers right along side of them. 🙂

        • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 5:57 am

          I don’t know why a lot of churches are allergic to either ordaining elders to actually do communion services, weddings and funerals and preach. Those are very practical skills that don’t really require a degree. Besides that it means they understand they won’t get paid. Most elders dont minister but rather sit on boards to let the pastor know who is boss. That is wrong. Elect 12 elders with pastoral responsibility and 12 stewards with diaconal responsibility. They can all 19 sit with the pastor to discuss finance and administration after they have helped him with preaching, funerals, visits, weddings and whatever else he must do. It saves him from burnout and he is able to guide and train more efficiently.

          • Nii on May 27, 2021 at 10:20 am

            I meant seven stewards

    • Jeff on August 8, 2016 at 11:24 am

      The requirements for doing funerals vary widely from state to state. In some states, literally anybody can officiate a wedding. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

  62. Gary Banks on February 4, 2015 at 11:06 am

    You said, “this is the best book I’ve read on the subject”. The link did not work. What is the book?

  63. Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 9:30 am

    How would prayer not fix all these things? “Quality Christians means quantity Christians” no?

    • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 9:42 am

      Maybe this is a false observation but if I wanted to build a mega church, I’d go somewhere where it’s really rough. Violence in the streets rough. “Personal” sins people tend to justify as not hurting others but when they see killing in the streets, it puts a person in a pray or be preyed on mode. Or maybe in a country where your biggest problem isn’t if you can have a bible verse on a poster at work but if you can even read it in your spare time at home. If that were true, I could probably, by faith, have Lamentations and Numbers memorized!

      • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 10:12 am

        A lot of people want to be a servant to the Most High God. What they don’t expect is when God gives you a job…He actually gives you a job. I get the feeling a lot of the time Paul and the other Apostles looked like fools to their followers. Always having to take the low road and look weak. I never thought before I became a Christian that credibility with the world was earned with a flogging stick or actual chains. Not fuzzy diamond lined bracelets but actual chains. Ouch!

        • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 10:46 am

          When I said “their followers,” I should have said the followers of Christ that they were in charge of or their brothers and sisters in-Christ but anything but “their followers.” Maybe the human side of me got loose again.

  64. Bobby Wood on January 26, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Good stuff. I especially resonate with empowering volunteers. If you don’t have volunteers who are empowered to lead, you have reached a lid of how many people you can reach, disciple, etc.

  65. Alyssa Rockstar on January 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Carey, thanks so much for this article. It’s bang on in a church I’ve attended for several years. We barely break the 50+ mark and many wonder why. I’ve worked at non-profits and served on committees and boards, and when I came to this church board, I was amazed and awe-struck.. not necessarily in a good way. I definitely agree with your first 4 points so much!
    Although I have been to various sized churches, it was hard to learn that apparently there are two types of churches (I was told), pastor-led churches and board/elder-led churches.
    It was a bit disheartening to learn over the years that no matter the suggestions or desires from the congregation and even the (volunteer) experience and leadership some had, they were not used or else it was too late (like 5 years later) for something to come forth from it. Or else the title of “worship leader” was slapped on because although this person was quite talented musically, they didn’t know *how* to be a leader and weren’t trained to be one. It’s one thing to be passionate about something, but I think it needs to run hand-in-hand with some sort of training or experience. BOTH are needed.
    I flip-flop between wanting to go to a church that is a smaller community both on Sunday and every other day of the week, to a large church that I can disappear in and not volunteer ever again.
    Perhaps even small churches, that don’t feel the need to grow, still have these problems? For #5, we had the opposite problem, which is why I felt the need to pull away.
    And as someone mentioned below, I definitely miss the salvation message being preached. Although small, do you think these churches still need it in some way? When I used to go to a mega/large church, every service had the (re)salvation message again (opportunity for new believer or if you want to come back to Jesus again). Not only is the “Who you are in Christ” message powerful, but maybe it’s just me, I like to be reminded why Jesus came for us and what He did for us, even if someone has never heard it before or it’s their 99th time.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks for this Alyssa…I appreciate your perceptive and empathize with your frustration. As to the Gospel message. Yes. Yes. Yes. That might be a reason why the church isn’t growing actually.

  66. Jim Bass on January 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I enjoyed your article. The you for sharing it. Carey, I think you and I would be in agreement that the root cause of this particular growth issue is lack of vision, strategy and/or a desire to grow. I would like to add, though, that some of this could be attributed to resource constraints, both financial, and lack of skills and knowledge.

    What if we turned this problem around and looked at it from a different angle? Could we shift this paradigm? I think a lot people who attend church want a small, intimate feel. Maybe 100, 150 or 200 is just right for their needs. Could we look at this in a different way? What if churches grew by adding many small congregations? Is that what the denominations are doing today? To understand this we would need to see data from the denominations to really know what is happening out.

    Also, what if growth from the inside was more important than growth on the outside? Are attendance numbers really the ultimate measure of success? Are spiritual needs being met? Are people growing in a relationship or in a religion? Does this change as more people fill the church building?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 14, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Jim…Thanks for this. I appreciate your heart and thoughtful response.

      My dilemma is simply this. Truly healthy things grow, and the thrust of the mission of the church is outward. As a result, growing past 200 should seem inevitable. It would be possible to reproduce at 100 or 200 into new churches, but the outward thrust and growth that is inevitable with the church’s true mission demands reproduction. That’s the part I can’t solve any other way. At least from where I sit. Hope that clarifies a bit. Thanks again!

      • Jim Bass on January 15, 2015 at 8:11 am

        I agree that reproduction should be an outcome but maybe we need to keep an open mind that a specific number in one congregation may not be the critical measure of success. We need to embrace other growth measures and not exclude individual growth. What are the members doing and how are the impacting lives of those around them? In this world of “bigger is better” we need to really examine ourselves, pray and ask for God’s direction and input. Is bigger really better in this situation?

        • MSP on February 4, 2015 at 2:45 pm

          I agree. Demographics must also be a consideration. We live in a small town with a very high number of churches per capita. We strive to make a difference in the community, even if those people we serve do not ever attend our church.

  67. Eric Chen on January 13, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Hi Carey,

    Great thoughts here, especially in terms of strategy and scaling. A healthy organism grows and a healthy church, in theory, should grow. But how do we measure growth in terms of discipleship, impact on the community, depth of relationships, and etc. I am convinced strong organizational leadership will lead to numerical growth, i.e. over 200, but I am wrestling over whether numerical growth due to strong organizational skills translates into discipleship growth. Willow Creek was very strong organizationally, hence.the numbers, and I am sure they implemented the principles listed but their self-report indicated a lack of depth in discipleship. Also, I do wonder why Jesus did not create an organization of weekly attendance in the Gospels although he did have organizing principles, i.e. focus on the 12, 3, 1 and sending of 72. I am honestly searching and asking hard questions, not trying to be negative or critical.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 13, 2015 at 5:57 am

      That’s a great question Eric, and I appreciate where you’re coming from. I think discipleship can be measured in different ways.

      I actually just blogged my thoughts on discipleship here, and you can click on the other links in the article to read more posts on discipleship I wrote: https://careynieuwhof.com/2015/01/5-signs-spiritual-maturity-actually-show-lack/.

      Bottom line, I think our understanding of discipleship is broken. The biggest question for me is whether people look more like Christ or less like Christ 3-5 years into their journey. If they look more like Christ (growing in faith, knowledge, love and wisdom) then your discipleship strategy is probably working. But don’t set perfection as your standard. The church in Corinth makes Willow look mature, and yet the church in Corinth was a church God loved, God used and God called to keep growing. Hope this helps!

  68. John Boyd on January 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Carey, I have not read your book. I only hope that, unlike your article and 8 reasons, it has some references to the main reasons that churches reach a cap. As old fashioned as it may seem today, I believe that the issue is really a lack of kingdom-growth motivation. By that I mean there is no reason for a church that is sold-out to the Great Commission to ever suffer from plateau syndrome! We have the keys to the kingdom and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to witness to those around us and the whole world about the Lord Jesus and His salvation. If the pastor isn’t an unashamed soul-winner, you can’t expect his deacons, Sunday School staff, other leadership, or his members to be soul-winners. If the church doesn’t have as its first order of business the salvation of souls through personal and programmed evangelism, and the second order the discipleship of converts, then it IS NOT THE CHURCH of the Lord Jesus! Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Lost people produce lost people; Christians produce Christians…it’s that old universal truth that fig trees produce figs, etc!
    The true Church is the body of Christ which carries on the goal of Christ…to seek and to save that which was lost, namely the souls of men. If evangelism and discipleship (that produces witnesses) are not the first and second priorities which amount to over 75% of any fellowship’s activities, then it is not a church of Jesus Christ. A simple testament to the Christ-likeness of any church fellowship is: how many members does it take to produce one convert? Just check the baptisms/members ratio in the annual report. Pretty scary for most churches!

  69. juarez on December 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    What’s the use of having many members and all going to hell, not on fire for God (lukewarm). Its trash in God’s eyes..just so u can look good as a pastor competing with other churches..we will all be judged for our motives on judgement day!

    • Balaam on January 1, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      What the heck is wrong with you? You need to repent.

  70. juarez on December 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    What’s the use of having many members, if they’re all going to hell and not truly on fire for God (lukewarm). its trash in God’s eyes, just so u can look good as a pastor

  71. Josh on December 9, 2014 at 3:57 am

    No scriptures even mentioned. Is God’s way not good enough?

  72. Jim on November 29, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Many of these observations are true in larger churches, too: I am the interim pastor of a church with 1,000, which is 500 less than it was ten years ago. I agree with many observations, but resist the notion of either/or. Many people here are involved with congregational care, yet I still believe it is important for some of my time to be available for pastoral counseling and homes and hospital visitation. It is one way I feel the spiritual pulse, and it grounds me when I have to make difficult or unpopular decisions. I am a Congregationalist and I believe the Holy Spirit is revealed through group process, and can be diminished by hierarchical structures of authority. I’ve worked in all sizes- – and I grew up in an 8,000 member church. They all have value; some lack intention.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Jim…thanks for the insights. You’re right, these are universal issues.

  73. Mike on November 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Might I add the following: Marketing. This is assuming the church is rock solid, sermons are inspiring and Christ-centered. Assuming the church good, if the community doesn’t know it exists they will not know what they are missing and will never step foot in the door let-alone know their is a door! Our Church has a good budget and runs between $125-$200k safety buffer but is only allocating $1500 a year total to advertising/marketing. The congregation old old and dying off and I find this alarming. There is acknowledgement that the younger generations are passing us by yet the leaders will only allow a pittance ea. year to advertising/marketing. The result is a church that is dying not through lack of Christ, but through age and mortality.

    • Ntp on November 21, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      I pay very little attention to marketing (possibly because I currently live check to check) how well does church marketing work?

      • Carey Nieuwhof on November 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

        In my view, great marketing helps a great idea or product spread, and it makes a bad product fail faster (David Ogilvy).

        • normanprather on November 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

          I cannot imagine any non-believer motivated to check out any of the churches I hear advertised on the radio. I suspect the only effective advertising for a church is word of mouth coupled with the community seeing the church working in the community.

          • freshaes on February 23, 2015 at 9:45 pm

            I suspect advertising to the wider non-believer community would be more successful for events such as Christmas Carols, Easter or ministries like Alpha which help them more with questions they are asking rather then a church program

    • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      It is alarming to me the lack of Christians who do not see money changing in the Temple. Marketing? Let’s market Jesus? When is someone going to wake up and realize we are treating the Church as a business, we’ve put the American stamp of approval on it, and we’re building it into a multi-billion dollar industry in which God is our Sovereign Wing-Man (as long as He doesn’t say or do anything that would offend the people contributing to our paychecks)? Evangelicalism has become idolatrous. God bless the smaller churches–you think they’re doing something wrong? Look at the mega churches! When did our ruler for success start to pattern the world? It’s idolatry. I started reading this article and God spoke Ezekiel chapter 8 to me–idolatry in the temple. Hear the Word of the Lord: it is not time for small churches or the church in general to aspire to the worldly success of mega churches with their pillow prophets–yearning for numbers, for what’s comfortable, popular, convenient. Evangelicalism has become idolatrous. The great commission is not God.

      “The pillow prophets are still with us! They talk about the Word of God,
      about prophecy, and they salt their soothing messages with a lot of
      Scripture. But there is a falseness in what they preach. They are not
      preaching the Cross or holiness and separation. They make no demands on
      their followers. They seldom speak of sin and judgment. They abhor
      the very mention of suffering and pain.” –David Wilkerson

      • Carey Nieuwhof on February 16, 2015 at 10:57 am

        We all have to guard against idolatry, but just because a church is big doesn’t mean it’s bad. By that notion, the early church would have had to be shut down. It grew by 3500 in a single day.

        • screwlucy on February 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

          That’s right–without a “strategy” that modeled a business structure. The Holy Spirit moved. The early church also had dysfunction stemming from any number of issues we still have today. The problem is, we can leave our small church or any church for that matter and go to a church that doesn’t require us to listen to a Paul who will tell us we need to get our act together and grow up in the faith. The small church is moving without a business plan and will rise up and smash the idols of well-meaning people who wanted to support the comfortable yet idolatrous “growth” of the American church. It is time to turn our eyes and hearts to God and trust Him to do the work even if it doesn’t look like success or what we intended Him to do.

          • Carey Nieuwhof on February 17, 2015 at 8:20 pm

            I think you’ve made up your mind. Structure is all over the scriptures…Exodus 18, Acts 6..Paul’s ordering of the NT church and Jesus’ modelling of the 70, 12, 3 and 1. And if you study the universe, God is a God of math, order and meaning. Being smart or strategic does not mean you aren’t a Christian.

          • spw on August 30, 2015 at 4:11 pm

            “Many are called but few are chosen.” Religion of the Gospel will always be the way of man, but Relationship is the way of the Father. Big churches loose site on the sheep and relationship. Big churches cannot disciple as God intended. Big churches are more about to the business affairs of the building and not the burdened affairs of the body. When God saved the multitude, it was to show His power to the community that He is God. It didn’t take long after that for mans church structure to take over with the Roman Empire and changed the direction of growth, “Spiritual Growth”, from that point on. Today things have not changed. Man still wants what he wants when it comes to the business in the man made temple called church that God does not dwell nor has any part in. Sin will have to come to a head before His return. It would be in our best interest to go to the streets to seek the lost, help them grow in the faith of our Savior and to be ready Spiritually at all times. This is better done without the interference of religion. We don’t need large church buildings with all the perks to achieve this. In fact spreading the gospel and discipling sheep will be better achieved without idolatrist mindsets. Its up to the faithful to GO and obey.

      • spw on August 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm

        Amen!! What we see in churches today that have gone the way of the world with their ministries and church growth movement ploys, I believe is the great falling away from the gospel and faith in Christ to lead His church. God is in the business of reaching His people and leading His people home by His Spirit, not seeing how many come to a church building. God is way bigger than mans ideas to do anything of material substance. This is where the Focus is lost.

      • Mike Kaas on April 21, 2020 at 5:48 am

        I don’t think we will find many church people in positions of authority who will publicly challenge questionable ministries. There must be a clause in their union contract that forbids pointing a finger at other ministries. I will never see how one can look at the gospel and not see something terribly amiss with “ministries” that take advantage of tax laws and gullible Christians to accumulate multi-million dollar mansions and personal jets. While we as Christians are called to clean our own hearts and minds, is there no call for The Church as a body to clean its own house. One may use the excuse that God will provide the justice for their questionable ways. I wonder then why we don’t just take that stand on every concern. If God has given a pastor a flock to care for, does that pastor not have an obligation to point out the wolves in the field? Apparently a wolf is not a wolf if it disguises itself in Christian cloaks. While I as a Christian can create eternal issues for my soul, I really have too little influence to do much to others. For those who have increased influence there must be increased scrutiny. The love of money has ruined many a person and many a ministry also.

  74. danith on November 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for this article.
    I read the book you recommended about breaking the two hundred barrier back when I was a youth pastor anticipating moving to the lead pastor role. Now that I have just begun as a senior pastor I am re reading this article and I am convinced you hit the nail on the head. Thank you again.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Danith…awesome! Excited for your new role, and that continues to be a FANTASTIC book. I wish every church leader read it!

      • caio on December 31, 2014 at 10:34 am

        What book?

        • Carey Nieuwhof on December 31, 2014 at 10:37 am

          How to Break Church Growth Barriers by Carl George and Warren Bird.

          • P.J. Murray on January 28, 2015 at 6:49 pm

            A great book and one to keep on your shelf and close at hand! Carey, I didn’t even check the link to see that was what you were referencing. Great article by the way

          • Carey Nieuwhof on January 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm

            Thanks P.J. 🙂

  75. Jim on November 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Maybe the goal should be to follow the heart of the Father, not being so very concerned with how many people there are or aren’t. Let God take care of the growth, our churches have enough to do learning how to love people as God loves them.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Love the sentiment behind this Jim, but even the early church had to reorganize to respond to growth (Acts 6). So did Moses (Exodus 18), and clearly Jesus was concerned with organization and impact, dividing his many disciples into groups of 70, 12, 3 and 1. It’s actually a very biblical subject.

    • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Be bold with that truth, Jim. The church had to reorganize to respond to growth in Acts 6 and in Acts 5 Peter had just gotten out of jail for preaching the Gospel and in the following chapters you’ll read about the persecution of the early church. When Jesus started preaching a hard Gospel to swallow many of his disciples deserted him. If we based the picture of the healthy church on Christ’s ministry then we would have thousands listening to our message then our closest disciples deserting us at the end of our ministry. THE CHURCH IS NOT A BUSINESS. What you’re really doing here is picking out the growth of the church in Acts and then neglecting the hardship and the absolute dedication to worship in every form of the early church. I am so sick of hearing about strategies, programs and anointed worship leaders. Where is the worship of God? It is sickening to me that the church cannot feel God’s presence without a laser light show and a rock band in church. I should be able to step into a liturgical church reading the Book of Common Prayer and seek God’s presence because I am seeking God’s presence in every day life.

  76. John Sorrell on November 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    An absolutely fantastic post, Carey. #7 is our greatest struggle at this time. I’ve really pushed our team to consider the next steps after the event before planning the event itself. If we don’t have a tangible next step which either aids in assimilating the unchurched with our community or activates our members to further ministry then we scratch the event off of the calendar or restrategize. Focusing on less to be more effective is a tough conversation in an established and overly-programmed church… but we’re making headway. Thanks for speaking so much truth into my life and leadership.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Love it John. Keep going!

      • James on April 6, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Have some questions?

  77. Eduardo on November 4, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Thank you so much – but please help me a little more. You say: 2. The leaders lacks a strategy but what must I do to form a strategy? I think I have the other parts clear – but – please help me to form a strategy! Thanks

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

      I would suggest reading Deep and Wide and the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley. Also, this blog is full of strategy tips. Hope this helps!

      • danith on November 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

        thank you for adding this comment to Eduardo. I was feeling the need to read Deep and Wide for EXACTLY the reasons he mentioned. I appreciate this article greatly.

  78. David Snead on November 3, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Great post! 😀

  79. Brenda North on November 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Just discovered your great blog! Thanks! Having just lead a congregation well past the 200 barrier this year I agree with what you listed as possible barriers. However, in my experience sometimes DESIRE and PRAYER as very really barriers too. We never would have made it without increasing our desire…because it was easier to think “if people want to come, they can! we are fine as we are without changing” rather than fully embracing the call of God that insists good news is for the sharing. And we would not have been as successful but fortunately God brought us new members from other towns and congregations who were bold enough to say in love, you all aren’t praying enough and helped lead that very thing.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Brenda thanks for this…it’s so exciting to see growth! I agree that prayer is essential. It’s foundational. I write about other factors because I think it’s more than prayer. There are a lot of dying churches in which people are faithfully praying. But you are right, God’s grace and favour is amazing and is foundational.

      • Eugene on October 29, 2019 at 4:41 am

        Thanks for the post Carey.

        In my experience, faithfully praying would definitely increase your life and ministry.

        I started leading a group since when I was 14 and up till now my great source of strategy, power and strength is not conference, conference are good but when I pray I get ideals directly from God on how to move things to the next level.

        I believe concerning growth of the CHURCH whether spiritual growth or growth by size, GOOD EFFECTIVE PRAYER can make a huge difference if people know the principles that makes prayer works not just knowing how to pray.


  80. Pastor Zhonzell L. Watson Sr. on October 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    I belive that you’re right about leading as many people as you can for Christ. You made a great point in a comment you made saying, a healthy church grows. Ask a farmer, does a damaged plant grow, or do only healthy plants grow? Anything that is damaged can only grow if it’s fixed, restored, and healthy again, otherwise it becomes dead. That’s what is happening in a lot of our churches today. Some churches are just simply healthy, fine, and well because they obey God and are well rooted in . Others are damaged, injured, and ruined because they disobey God and arent well rooted Him.
    Simply put, we have to obey God if we desire to grow and be healthy.

  81. Chris on September 7, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Carey – I very rarely comment on blog articles, but this was powerful. Great stuff, and very true. I’m dealing with a similar situation in my church, but never could find the words for it. This was really on point, thanks for sharing.

  82. […] 8 Reasons why churches never break the 200 attendance mark. Never been a big fan of Barna since they popularized the whole “Half of Christian marriages end in divorce” trope. But our pastor has worked with a lot of struggling small churches over the years, and thinks this list is pretty good. […]

  83. Colbey on August 6, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Carey, I am going to email these points for reference later. Thanks for your courage in publishing.

  84. Troy on July 20, 2014 at 3:13 am

    Numerical growth is not a tell tale sign of success. I constantly hear “Healthy Things Grow” one day I took that statement to God and I heard Him say “Tumors Grow too” and tumors are not healthy. John 6:66 If healthy things grow and Jesus our ultimate leader saw many disciples desert/leave His ministry (opposite of growth) because He preached the truth. Sometimes superficial growth come by itching ear preaching. If I feed your flesh physical bread you gain crowds but when you take it to another level and teach eat the Spiritual Bread of commitment and Lordship you lose crowds John 6:50-66

    • Derek Ouellette on July 20, 2014 at 7:20 am

      It’s true that growth is not the automatic sign that a church is healthy and successful. I agree with you completely there! But neither does being a small church make it holy and spiritually successful. So we should avoid giving an excuse for being small by saying “it’s because we preach the truth.” Peter preached the truth on Pentecost and thousands were saved that day!!! It’s not about a small church or a big church. It’s about a healthy and effective church that is fulfilling the call of God to make disciples of all people (which leads to growth). Sometimes that calling is hampered by practical things such as poor leadership, thinking and habits that hinder growth, some of the points listed above by Carey, and more. But you are right that growth by itself does not suggest that a church is spiritually healthy!

      • Carey Nieuwhof on July 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm

        Derek…you said what a lot of people are thinking. Small is not an excuse for ineffective. Appreciate that!

  85. Norman Prather on July 18, 2014 at 9:51 am

    This, largely, describes nearly all the churches I served over 19 years as a OD (other denomination) pastor in an UMC conference. Granted many of those are in rural areas with declining populations.

    Currently I am a chaplain and do not serve in a church. I have no desire to attend a large church, the very thought gives me shudders. How can anyone be comfortable in much less worship in such a setting? My point is we need churches of all sizes because each of us is different. I have no trouble speaking before large (or very large groups) however I am very uncomfortable “in” large or very large groups.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Norman…thanks for all your years of serving in the church. Sorry you don’t enjoy large churches. I know many people do, but I’m glad you have some churches in which you feel comfortable.

  86. Roger Haber on July 18, 2014 at 9:32 am

    We need to emphasize church health. Healthy things grow. Some faster, some slower, but they grow. We need to see churches that are inwardly strong and outwardly focused; not inwardly focused and outwardly weak. Some say, well we’re faithful. But the parable of the talents teaches that we must be faithful and fruitful. “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks Roger!

  87. Richard Cranum on June 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Hi all, I’m a staff Communications Director at a small church (150 avg) in the midwest. Yes, it’s an uncommon title in most churches but created so that our two staff Pastors didn’t have to do everything. I handle printed materials, electronic methods of spreading the message, internal information, and outside promotion. I think some miss the point of this article. It’s not that being a small church is bad. There are places where a small church with a tight knit community is exactly what God wants. Small towns and rural churches may have a lower number count, but it might still be a high percentage of the area population. Numbers is not the true gauge of a church’s value, leading people to salvation is.

    However, if you are running a church that is indeed leading people to salvation, if you are indeed prioritizing the ministry and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ… then your goal should be to reach as many people with that message as you possibly can. Every individual is important to God. Every single one. I have told our Elder Board that my personal goal in external promotion of our church is to make us world famous. What God wants to allow us to do after that is up to Him and I will accept that. My fear is that in becoming satisfied with a small congregation we are also becoming complacent, we are becoming luke warm in terms of the Grand Commission. My greatest fear is that becoming satisfied with our small community we may become an anchor to God’s work and intention. He wants to work through us, He does not want us to hold Him back.

    Let me ask a question, if you are leading people to Christ who do you not want to lead to Him? How many people do you hate so much that you’re willing to let them spend an eternity in purgatory? I’m hoping that number is zero. So then, if you are leading people to Christ why would you not want millions in your congregation?

    Granted, this is unrealistic in a functional sense… or is it? Scale it down, thousands then. What if you had the potential to lead even thousands to Christ? Would you take that opportunity? This isn’t about people in seats, it’s about numbers of souls saved and every single soul matters.

    “Oh, but then we can’t take care of the individuals and will loose that sense of community!” See the authors points 1, 3, and 4. As the congregation builds, build your team. Develop leaders! Develop spiritual care givers!

    All that said, I’d like to add my points 9 & 10.

    9) Does your congregation act like Jesus to new people? Are people with tattoos welcome in your church? Are people in biker leathers welcome in your church? How about people with purple hair, black lipstick, every skin color in God’s creation (Humans are a Calico Race), single parents, the poor, the homeless, the broken, the lost…. the people that Jesus ran to? Are they welcome, truly welcome and made to feel welcome in your church? If you answered no any of those, if you can answer no to any human being… you need to rethink your point of view.

    10) Communications guy speaking here… advertise! There was a time when the “build it and they will come” ideology worked just fine. We used to be able to fish with a net. Today we have to fish with a pole and bait. Part of the bait is Biblically sound teaching, part of it is engaging worship music, part of it is childrens programs, but none of that works if people don’t know your church is there in the first place. Matthew 5:15 “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

    There are a thousand more interesting things competing with a persons time in church, and many churches to pick from even if people are looking for a church. I think we can all agree that many churches are not leading people to Christ. If yours is, make sure people know you even exist!! The small city I live in has around 200 churches. Some are very good, some not so much… in terms of teaching the Bible and leading people to Christ. If people don’t know about your church, if they can’t find you… how can you lead them to Christ? Allocate budget to advertising. This is where the business model comes in. Advertising is an investment, just like the building you meet in, not an “expense”. Unfortunately, what I often see is the Biblicaly sound churches that lead people to Salvation not letting the community know they are there and thus leading only a small number of people to Christ. On the flip side, and my own city has this, I see “fluff churches” that make people feel good, teach very little of the Bible, and don’t lead people to Salvation… spending a lot of money on advertising and growing to an attendance of thousands and leading them no where. The one I think of in my city is up to 7 services a week with three extra churches where people watch a satellite feed from the main “campus”. Their building methods are not necessarily bad but their teaching is empty. Great entertainment though.

    So, do churches have to grow to be successful. Of course not. There is no doubt in my mind that God wants some churches to remain smaller to do the work He wants done at the particular place. However, it should still be the goal of every Christian to see absolutely every human being have an opportunity to spend and eternity in Heaven! Why would we want to hold God back from doing that? If your one of those people who thinks your church should not grow, that it should not be a goal, please stop and ask yourself: Is that God’s will speaking to your heart or your own? Are you doing exactly what the Lord wants you to do or are you being lazy?

    Mr, Nieuwhof… very good article with good things to think about. Thank you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 24, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Richard…thank you. You make some great points. You really do. And I appreciate you clarifying (once again in this comment thread) that I am NOT against small churches. It’s just that effective churches grow. And that leaders who want to introduce more people to Jesus do need to plan to become a larger church. Thank you Richard!

  88. Jeff Shoup on June 17, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Maybe smaller churches where the pastors and elders know everyone is, I don’t know, healthier and more biblical than large churches where subsets form and pastors don’t shepherd (as the word “pastor” implies) their flock, they just preach and deal with the all-stars. Big and small churches alike will have problems, so describing those of small churches doesn’t discredit their existence or make their “failure” to become a large church really that much of a problem.

    It’s just weird that this post is devoid of Scripture or even a meaningful discussion of early church history. That is, I have no reason to think any of it is a product of Godly realizations.

    Even if you have other posts that do so, you ought to revise this to include those verses. This reads like a product of human yearning, not a product of Biblical church sustaining.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 24, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Jeff, Thanks for sharing your view point. A couple of things. I don’t always include scripture because I assume most of my audience is Christian. And I don’t want to get into ‘verse wars’ with people. I would hope and pray that each of my posts is grounded in scripture and rooted in healthy, historic Christianity. Second, healthy things grow. There is no merit in being small or large. There is no vice in being small or large. I just think there is merit in being Christ-centered, healthy and effective in your mission, regardless of size.

    • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Thank you, I agree. Don’t start telling me about how the early church was big in numbers until you start writing a book that also pushes how the early church got there. The early church spoke in tongues, laid hands on sick strangers who were healed, and risked death for worship. If you want to read a book, read the Bible. Healthy things grow, as a mantra, is such a deception. We have to stop catering to man and start glorifying God. This nation needs to repent of being like the world with their love of convenience and superficiality.

  89. Kyle Smith on June 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I am a Deacon at my church of about 200 attendees in So CA. Our church has been a “revolving Door” in recent years. Our advantage is we have a prime location. We have first time visitors every week. However our new members numbers don’t grow at the rate we would like, because we have a poor children’s ministry. That is a completely different conversation as to why that is, but my take is if a church has a poor Children’s Ministry, the church is not going to grow. You also mentioned its what the church wants to do in the end. Our church holds a “quality ministry” versus a “quantity ministry”

  90. Chris Swafford on June 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Sorry, but this is the usual human rationale aimed at a spiritual matter. NEVER works. I could go on and on but the problem is at the foundation. So called preachers are usually too worldly to make a real difference. You can’t hold hands with Yahshua and the devil.

  91. Guy Rock on June 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    No. No. No. No. No. While I don’t necessarily dispute the fact that pastors try to do it all and don’t empower others to lead and all that jazz, the simple truth of church growth can be boiled down to one issue: People aren’t getting saved in those churches. We can all talk until we are blue in the face about missional living, engaging culture and being relevant, but unless people come to know Jesus, a church will NEVER grow. I know a lot of pastors, church planters and the like. I don’t go to nor recommend others to their churches because I don’t trust that their churches are places where the lost will be found. Sure, they might be fine communities for fellowship and relationship, but nobody is going to bring their unsaved friend or family member and watch their world get wrecked. Churches like that will never gain any momentum. They will just be placeholders for the body of believers to attend until they find something that is truly making an impact. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the truth.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      Guy. I agree. People need to come to know Jesus. 100% agree. It’s just many churches in which leaders have a heart to have people know Jesus still struggle with these issues. It’s all about helping people connect with Christ.

      • Guy Rock on June 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm

        Forgive me for being so passionate about this topic, it’s just that I’ve grown weary of the modern pastor and their boatload of excuses. This is coming from someone who has spent the last decade as both a church attender/volunteer and then as a church leader. In reading your post, I honestly don’t find you to be complaining or weary-I truly believe you have a desire to see pastors be better and thrive. However, most pastors simply read and share blogs like this simply to make you the sounding board for their internal frustrations. So in essence, your words allow them to be whiny or passive aggressive. The fact is we are in an interesting season in the Church. Over the past decade, thousands of Christians have moved away from their “home” church where they got “saved” and grew in their walk with Christ. So when they relocate they seek to find a community that resembles that which they once knew. So now, churches are being filled not with new converts, but with transplants who are in search of something a bit more unintangible. But I keep just hearing such a complaining spirit from pastors who are not able to retain these Christians. Because that is what they feel defines their church health-attenders. They start preaching for the found and not the lost and fill their sermons with so many cliches you need a decoder ring to decipher it.
        All that to say, if the grass weren’t dry, the sheep wouldn’t be seeking greener pastures. But instead, the shepherds always complain about the sheep-as if it’s their fault. In no other vocation do I see leaders attribute their level of success on those they are supposed to serve.

    • Robert on June 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      I was saved in a church of 40 after attending a church of 400. Your implication is not founded in truth, but rather an opinion. Sure, I may be the oddball out, but I know that a small church is probably more in tune with the needs of the individuals than a larger one simply by the dynamics.

    • cjb on July 18, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Sorry. That is not “truth”. That is your opinion, and the opinion seems to be based on a pre-conceived notion. How can you know what’s going on in churches you have never attended.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on July 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

        It’s true. I haven’t visited all these churches, but I have visited many and connected with many leaders and done some reading. Its amazing how human behaviour has common characteristics and I’ve been trying to isolate those. That’s what this post is about. If it misses your story, I’m sorry. I think it catches many.

  92. Gordon Taras on May 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I agree with the premise, but offer alternatives to some of your 8 points. I have a blog post that addresses 1,3,4, & 5 from a different point of view: http://gordontaras.blogspot.com/2009/01/leadership-and-management-are-just-tip.html.

    It is not only that mom & pop run everything, they also empathize with everyone. @200 people in an organization, the top leaders not only know everyone, they know everything about everyone. To grow to 1000, the leader must give up knowing everything about everyone. They must know everything about their associate leaders, and they must train and trust their associate leaders to know everything about everyone else. The skills the leader must develop are no longer solely on leading people, they must learn to lead culture.

    The comments address the concept of grow-or-die. I believe that is a fundamental reality about humanity and its tribal nature. However, there are multiple models for growth. A church founded on congregational principles will resist growing to 1000 because in order to grow to 1000, the church must establish a hierarchy. An alternative is to treat your congregation as a family and recognize you will have rebellious teenagers. Train them well then let them go free. Encourage a division of the church to plant another church. With an amicable split you will then retain the ability to cooperate on missions. You achieve the objective of growth without having to resort to the tactic of trying to organize 1000.

  93. Guest on May 19, 2014 at 8:58 pm


  94. Carol Gammon on May 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    This article is so encouraging. My husband and I are pastors and we re-arranged our Sunday service to allow a faithful minister to have time before each message to share thoughts and sing a few old-time praise songs. This was initially suppose to be short and sweet, but somehow turned to an actual second service with the person opening the bible and preaching their own message. We then would proceed to deliver the message the Lord laid on our hearts. After a couple years of this we had to put it to an end. It made the service too long and gave us much frustration. I should have listened to the Lord when he told us in the beginning not to allow this, but we were trying not to hurt their feelings. Well needless to say they left the church and took others with them. But we are so liberated and free to do what God has called us to do.

  95. Carol Gammon on May 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Carol Gammon • 6 minutes ago
    This article is so encouraging. My husband and I are pastors and we re-arranged our Sunday service to allow a faithful minister to have time before each message to share thoughts and sing a few old-time praise songs. This was initially suppose to be short and sweet, but somehow turned to an actual second service with the person opening the bible and preaching their own message. We then would proceed to deliver the message the Lord laid on our hearts. After a couple years of this we had to put it to an end. It made the service too long and gave us much frustration. I should have listened to the Lord when he told us in the beginning not to allow this, but we were trying not to hurt the feelings of this person (a faithful family member). Well needless to say they left the church and took others with them. But we are so liberated and free to do what God has called us to do.

  96. Carol Gammon on May 19, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    This article is so encouraging. My husband and I are pastors and we re-arranged our Sunday service not trying to grow the church but felt bound and constricted. Before the message was brought forth, we allowed a faithful minister to have time before each message to share thoughts and sing a few old-time praise songs. This was initially suppose to be short and sweet, but somehow turned to an actual second service with the person opening the bible and preaching their own message. After a couple years of this we had to put it to an end. It made the service too long and gave us much frustration. I should have listened to the Lord when he told us in the beginning not to allow this, but we were trying not to hurt the feelings of this person (a faithful family member). Well needless to say they left the church and took others with them. But we are so liberated and free to do what God has called us to do.

  97. […] 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark | careynieuwhof.com. […]

  98. […] Nieuwhof gives some practical reasons why churches remain relatively […]

  99. Scott Aly on May 13, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Just one last comment from me.. After I am saved then what??? Do I stay at home or go to church?? If I go to church will that not cause some church to grow??? So if I am going to cause a church to grow, which seems to be a bad thing, then maybe I shouldnt get saved and go to church?? Isnt this kinda like the Sin and Grace abounding conundrum???.

  100. Scott Aly on May 13, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I was actually at a church that the Pastor and Assoc. Pastor were both asked to leave because they were bringing in too many “outsiders”. New converts and people being brought back into their race..

    • Robert on September 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      I was a preacher at a congregation that had that same issue happen…they asked me to resign because I was visiting too many non-members. Sadness!

  101. […] Continue reading. […]

  102. Spencer on May 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I used this article to help with a music theory final and how the demographic of my home town lead to the formation of 17 small churches and the social psychology lead to the formation of one large church. I then compared in person the music at each church using Alan Merriam’s tri-partite method. I then attempted to explain how the dynamics of the small churches coupled with the denomination was an explanatory variable to the texture and timbre of the music… that is what you get when you are an accounting major that takes a music theory class. Anyways thanks for the article! (yes I did cite this source)

    • normanprather on November 22, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      what did you conclude?

  103. Pastor Hicks on May 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I would like to know who won this argument, and could sum all this up. But then again, I guess we’d start all over again. Come on guys, God is not the author of confusion. Who is convincing who of what? My head is spinning. Love all you guys!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 4, 2014 at 5:07 am

      Thanks for your kind, moderating words. —
      Sent from Mailbox

  104. Ben Trolese on May 1, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Wow! This is an incredible and challenging article. Thank you for taking the time to distill and write for others of us to grow and lead. Blessings!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Thank you so much Ben!

      *Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor *
      *Connexus Church*
      *546 Bryne Drive, Unit E Barrie Ontario L4N 9P6* *connexuscommunity.com * *careynieuwhof.com *
      *facebook & twitter cnieuwhof*
      *instagram careynieuwhof*

      *Sent from my personal email account. **If adding others, please use cnieuwhof@gmail.com to include me in the conversation. Thank you!*

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  106. JDGraham on March 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    It amazes me that you take the time out to answer each of your critics… I love your blogs and just recently came across them. I think you articulate the things that many of us pastors think but just have never systematically written down! It comes down to leadership- there are leaders and then there are followers. The word pastor means shepherd or leader and it’s not for everybody- not everybody can or should do it. But if you are a pastor you should always be working on becoming the best shepherd/leader you can be through God’s grace- that is why I find your blogs so refreshing! Please keep it up as this shepherd constantly needs to grow in my leadership/organizational abilities

  107. PeaceBang on March 13, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful article. Leaving the fruitless argument about growth aside, it’s a good article about having a healthy church — and who doesn’t want that, even if they feel that numerical growth is not a realistic goal?

  108. Michael Pollard on March 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Numbers matter. Numbers have names, and names have souls.

  109. Ken Noble on March 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Carey, thanks for sharing your thoughts. But even Cancer grows! Here’s my thoughts on a general note. Apparently, you have good intentions, but you seem to erroneously equate church growth with numbers the way political economics talk about job numbers. By so, you advance carnal methods and undermine the place of sanctification and the leading of the Holy Spirit even in small churches. While I do not believe it is your intention, you subtly undermine small churches as somewhat failing churches (You have denied that. But it’s what your post clearly suggests). I notice you don’t do scriptures that much (it looks intentional), but while Acts 2:47 actually supports your inclination to numbers, it also questions your goal. The goal from that scripture is: “…those who were being saved”. Your goal seems to place emphases on the number part as an evidence of the salvation part. Have you not thought how wrong your hypothesis possibly is? God doesn’t do numbers or leadership like we do as business people. Lastly, while growth can be an evidence of soul winning, the caveat is that, with the increasing taste for worldly desires these days, and if 2 timothy 4:3 is anything to go by, such growth can also be a product of world friendly messages and strategy. Even your incessant use of the word “strategy” is a bit unsettling by the way.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      I appreciate your correction, but Christ died and rose again to draw people to himself. If, overall, the church doesn’t grow, we cease to embrace the mission to which Christ called us.

      You’re right, I don’t cite scripture much because I assume a biblical worldview and I don’t want to get into ‘quoting wars’ with people. But I hope and pray every post has a deep and real scriptural and orthodox rooting. And so, I hope, will the ‘strategies’ I share. That’s my prayer. That’s my hope. That’s my goal.

      • Ken Noble on March 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm

        Thanks for your characteristically respectful response. Of course, that’s why Christ died and rose. And of course, the church should grow. I’m just saying, God doesn’t do numbers as we do. A church may be small for reasons outside strategic failings of the pastor(s). It may just be that it’s in a small town. It may even be that its in a big city that is characteristically hardened against Christianity, and so even their 90-100 genuinely saved members is a huge achievement. But more importantly, just as (your quotes here): “Activity does not equal accomplishment”, and “being busy doesn’t mean being effective”, so also being large doesn’t mean being productive in soul winning. They may be related, but they are not necessarily correlative. That’s my point. We just cannot correlate a small church with not drawing enough men to God, simply for being a small church; while also acknowledging that, that could be the case (I admit). Even a so-called large church may be full of unsaved people who are attracted to e.g., the music, the glitters, the connections, the fame, etc; while I must again admit it may also be a product of healthy growth. We just can’t say, “if this, then that”. But I understand where you are coming from.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on March 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

          Ken, thanks for the nuance here. It’s hard to catch the back story in a comment thread. I think we largely agree. There are larger unhealthy churches and for sure, smaller healthy ones.

          I picked 200 as the number because it’s a barrier most churches can’t break through even when they have the potential and desire to do it.

          I’m into seeing churches thrive and I would love to see that happening in every context. On that, I’m sure we agree.

        • tommy on June 3, 2014 at 11:22 pm

          Its always people who dont pastors a church that know everything lol

        • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

          This comment is even more brilliant.

      • Mike on March 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm

        Carey, I posted earlier but wanted you to know that I appreciate your work and engaging us in these very relevant topics. Great thinking comes from a great challenges. Be blessed

        • Carey Nieuwhof on March 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm

          Thanks Mike. Appreciate that. Love being in this together.

    • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      This comment is brilliant.

  110. Guest on March 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Carey, thanks for sharing your thoughts. But even Cancer grows! Here’s my thoughts. I admire your calm responses. However, on a general note, you have good intentions, but you seem to erroneously equate church growth with numbers the way political economics talk about job numbers. By so, you advance carnal methods and undermine the place of sanctification and the leading of the Holy Spirit even in small churches. While I do not believe it is your intention, you subtly undermine small churches as somewhat failing churches (You have denied that. But it’s what your post clearly suggests). I notice you don’t do scriptures that much (it looks intentional), but while Acts 2:47 actually supports your inclination to numbers, it also questions your goal. The goal from that scripture is: “…those who were being saved”. Your goal seems to place emphases on the number part as an evidence of the salvation part. Have you not thought how wrong your hypothesis possibly is? God doesn’t do numbers or leadership like we do as business people. Lastly, while growth can be an evidence of soul winning, the caveat is that, with the increasing taste for worldly desires these days, and if 2 timothy 4:3 is anything to go by, such growth can also be a product of world friendly messages and strategy. Even your incessant use of the word “strategy” is a bit unsettling by the way.

  111. […] article by Carey Nieuwhof outlines 8 reasons that churches fail to break the 200 barrier. All of them are rooted around […]

  112. Darian G. Burns on March 7, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Here are some reasons –
    Perhaps God in His sovereignty desires that some churches remain under 200. Perhaps He does for reasons beyond our understanding.
    Perhaps He measures success differently than us and numbers are not as big of a deal to him.
    Perhaps a pastor who is the primary caregiver is exactly what that church needs in that place and and time.
    Perhaps small country churches far from mega “success” need quality teaching and preaching and that measure the quality but the content rather than the delivery.

    Many of your points are solid and good; however, the assumption that if a church is not growing numerically, over 200 and financially well off it is not fulfilling its purpose and bringing glory to God, is at best asserting a modern American success cultural bias that comes more from business than the Bible.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks Darian. I don’t think that all churches should be over 200. But I do think many have the potential to and that God, in his sovereignty, desires that the church should grow. Scripture makes the clear. I just hear far too many church leaders stumped at why their church isn’t growing. Hence the post.

      And again, business principles are not 100% incompatible with God. In fact, many business leaders have discovered godly principles that church leaders have forgotten. The business/church dichotomy is not always as stark as some church leaders make it out to be. We do not have a monopoly on virtue in the church.

  113. Nolan Galido on March 5, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Would you recommend any other books or articles that deal with building structures and systems for growth?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 5, 2014 at 8:07 am

      The best is the Carl George and Warren Bird I reference in the article. Other books to read. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley. The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren (old but classic).

  114. Unashamed Overcomer on March 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Im not pastoring a church (I used to, a small one that didnt crack 200) but I oversee a network of believer groups in an organization based on individual membership. When I read this my dam broke. Its what I KNEW but perhaps didnt want to face. I was hoping I was wrong but on closer observation, these are some of the key areas that inhibit our growth management and development. Reading it forced me say to myself, its time. Time to make some hard decisions but if you want the work of the Lord to grow strong, you have to do it. So thank you (as inadequate as it sounds) for this uncracked mirror. I see myself and us and we can be much better in our future than we are now.

  115. Diane K. on March 2, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but
    this man’s post grieved me. Maybe I am misunderstanding, but how
    could you compare advancing the kingdom of God to the same strategy
    that a supermarket would use? Do we fight against flesh and blood or
    against powers of darkness? I am so burdened that we would advise
    marketing and consumer driven tactics to increase attendance without
    mentioning the Spirit of God. How can this be? Why the fascination
    with attendance anyway? Would Christ prefer large attendance or true
    spirituality. I find it concerning that he says lack of prayer is not
    the problem. How can you assume that to be when some polls give very
    sad averages of how much time pastors spend in prayer? Supermarkets
    succeed because they offer the lowest prices, etc. But are we filling
    our churches based on having the lowest prices on carrots this week?
    How can that ever stand against persecution or hardships? I am sorry,
    but I don’t think you would hear this kind of language from pastors
    in any other country than ours (or one as consumer driven as ours
    is). In fact, I do not think this was the language of Christ either.
    If this guy’s advice is sound, shouldn’t our pastors be sent to get
    their business degrees instead of bothering with theology and matters
    of the spirit? I in no way believe myself to be greater than the
    pastors sharing and agreeing with this post, so please correct me if
    you see flaws in my reasoning. But I think I am speaking the truth.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Diane…I appreciate you sharing your views. Just to clarify, I did not mean to suggest the mission of the church is like bananas on sale.

      The point is organizational structure, something that both supermarkets and Jesus have in common. Among all the things the early church was, it was organizationally thought through and responsive to massive growth. That’s all. We need to be prepared to accommodate and serve the people God sends our way.

    • screwlucy on February 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Don’t apologize. You are spot on.

  116. […] That’s why I write posts like this. (If you want more posts on growth, you can check out 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Make It Past the 200 Attendance Mark and 6 Keys to Breaking the 200, 400 and 800 Attendance […]

  117. Anthony on March 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Thank you for your very thought-provoking post! I love hearing from other leaders on how they approach the obstacles that present themselves in building and growing the church. However, I’m a little embarrassed at the amount of backlash from other readers. I don’t believe this was written as a “one size fits all” formula or to demean small churches, which is clarified throughout the post. Rather than attack these thoughts, why don’t we consider if any of them might help our situation and, if not, move on?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks Anthony. This hit a hot spot for sure! I still stand by what I wrote, despite all the reaction.

  118. FLMom on March 1, 2014 at 10:20 am

    The experiences I have seen are “elders” in the church overly empower themselves. The issue is these elders/governors want things their way and not to the overall benefit of the church. It seems a generational issue of what is desired in a church. It is unfortunate as all of us Christians should have the same goal of saving souls and that requires adjusting to the times we live in without giving up standards. It is certainly not easy to achieve that balance.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      That’s an unfortunate formula for sure. I get that. I’m very grateful for the government we have in our church.

    • Barry1234 on March 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      My experience is – and Carey hit on it above- that many “elders” are ill equipped to serve. They are willing, but may not have the abilities to serve in some positions. I’ve seen “elders” in a church try to act like the supervisor/manager in various church issues- but in their private life they have no supervisor/management experience in anything. To me that’s a recipe for a problem. That’s not to say you only search out elders that are supervisors in the private sector. But at the same time, you don’t necessarily put someone that has no experience with budgets or finances to oversee the budget committee at church either.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

        Barry…wow. That’s a tough point. But a good one. Thank you. Wish it wasn’t true, but too often it is.

  119. Paul on February 28, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    You just perfectly descibed the church I work at in every way. They deal with all 8 (and I’m sure more) of these reasons and they have been stuck at or below 185 for many years. Unfortunately, they have no desire to change these things and a leader who is unwilling to see them. I’m quitting because the lack of leadership and support has led to personal health issues. I pray that other pastors who work in this type of church see it soon enough to change.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      That’s a hard story Paul on both fronts. I hope and pray both you and the church find a new beginning.

  120. Mike on February 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I appreciate your insights Carey. I enjoy reading your blog. I am
    a pastor of a church of about 80-90 and am also passionate about Jesus and the great commission. I understand—I get it. But I believe that your opening
    premise of what our goal should be is off. Our goal is not to grow, but
    to bring glory to God by being faithful to obey the great commission the best
    way we can, using what we have. Our resp is to communicate the purpose, mission, and vision of the church and then lead people to accomplish it with us. Glory is our part growth is God’s part. (Romans15:5-7; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 3:7)

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 26, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Appreciate your heart on this Mike. But I do think a by-product of obedience to the Great Commission is growth. And this is a strategy piece on how to navigate that in our culture. That’s where I’m coming from on this.

      • Mike on February 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

        And God knows we need help with strategy:) Growth is a byproduct…but not always in the way we think. That’s why that part is up to God. And I do think your suggestions are very good. Obviously they are working for you. But in the average one pastor church the challenge of “growth” is much more real and much more difficult. Our focus must be God’s glory and faithfulness and obedience to Him. That’s where I am coming from. Then max “growth” for that particular church will occur. We will then be able to do our best with what we have where we are. Thanks again for sharing.

        • Alpharetto Jonez on March 1, 2014 at 10:23 am

          Mike, I am going to be really honest with you right now. This is not a personal attack against you in any way, but your vision may be too small. What is “max growth”? Do we not serve a God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine? Yes, I understand we want God’s glory to be seen throughout the lives of our congregation, but wouldn’t that be attractive? Wouldn’t people like to know the reason for our joy? And what is our best? Our best is certainly not God’s best because His ways our not like our ways. Mike, it is my prayer that God would shake you and your church to the core so He can build His perfect bride from the ashes.

          • Mike on March 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

            Thank you for the challenge and for your prayers. Love Eph 3:20 too. We
            are having revival services in a couple of weeks. I would love for God
            to shake us to the chore and see real growing healthy disciples of
            worshipping, serving, and sharing the Gospel with others so
            more will be reached and know the one true God!!! And so our church
            would grow more!
            To answer your question…Max growth is making more
            disciples of Christ the best way possible in your context and culture,
            using the resources God has given you.. It’s using what you have to see
            more people become growing healthy disciples of Christ and fully
            engaged members of the local church. Keep praying for God to shake us
            that may be exactly what He needs to do. And I pray God’s blessing and
            growth in
            your rel with Jesus and your church as well!

  121. Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:27 am

    sad story about failing Churches. One of the main reasons that Churches
    do not grow is because statistically a Church will only grow to 85% of
    their total space. It might float up and down but it stays right around
    the 85% mark. Also, these are the last of the last days. The last days
    began at Pentecost. The Bible specifically speaks of the falling away.
    It’s a shame so many Pastors are influenced by how some critic will say
    they failed when in fact, they did everything God told them to do.
    Again, our job is to spread the Gospel not to save or to acquire Church
    members. God said, I will build my church” and when people start
    thinking that the Church is built by them, you get a Joel Osteen type of
    Church. I have never counted the amount of people in our Church. I have
    counted children because we were limited to the amount for an event but
    just to count heads as they do in many Churches, to me is a sin. David
    counted heads and it got him in trouble.

    Pastor who teaches and disciples and has a ongoing outreach program
    does not need to know how to sing, dance or “Bring them In”. It is not
    his job. the Bible says not to judge another man’s servant and so any
    enthusiastic, loving Pastor who is obeying God is doing His will.

    in the States we should teach what we have. Let them learn about loving
    their neighbor and about missions giving and supporting the Saints.
    This is never spoken about but it is a much needed topic. Too many
    missionaries do not mention how low their finances on because they think
    it is a failure on their part. Even Paul realized it was a failure of
    the Church.

    need to become PART of the Church. They need to be involved with every
    part of it and then you will have a successful Church no matter how
    small or large someone may think, it is the perfect size that Christ

  122. Doug on February 25, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    You are right on target! Thank you.

  123. David on February 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Every church should desire to grow. The 125 and 200 barriers are the hardest of all in my opinion. There are enough lost and un-churched people out there that we could all be mega churches. Small thinking equals small churches.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Small thinking is a huge problem for many of us. Thanks David.

      • Barb on March 3, 2014 at 9:52 am

        Carey,you have a lot of good thoughts. We can probably all learn some things from it. If we are wise we will take what we can use and leave the rest for others. Thank you!

        • Carey Nieuwhof on March 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm

          Thanks for the encouragement Barb! I’m learning too.

  124. […] great points on church growth. #churchplanter #churchplanting #churchgrowth #leadership #church careynieuwhof.com/2013/09/8-reas…— Kenneth J Robinson (@PastorKJROB) January 26, […]

  125. […] to delegate is one of the key reasons most churches never break the 200 attendance barrier (See this for more on that issue—including 7 other reasons churches fail to […]

  126. Nat Marin on January 28, 2014 at 4:30 am

    This post contradicts itself, you don’t have to grow YOUR own church just to reach more people. “Please understand, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church. I just know that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to grow.” – But is that right? Of course they *want* that, it makes them look good and creates more revenue. But is that what the early church was like, all about “growing” a big centralized group of people in one giant building? Nope, they were about dinners and small groups and meeting together and traveling to reach others. And there’s another reason churches should stay at 150-200 max – it’s called Dunbar’s Number – look it up!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      That makes sense until you realize the early church would often reach thousands on a single days, and hundreds of thousands over the course of a life time. And Dunbar’s number assumes everyone needs to know everyone. I don’t agree. Everyone needs to know someone, but not everyone.

      • Michelle on November 3, 2014 at 12:18 pm

        It occurs to me that when Peter was preaching it was during a feast in Jerusalem. Many people were saved that weren’t from that area, so how exactly was that organized?

        • Carey Nieuwhof on November 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm

          When you reach 3000 people on a single day, that’s amazing. But they did organize it after. Read Acts 6 for more. 🙂

  127. Rochelle Dorsey on January 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Great post Carey! I agree, Churches can thrive, they just need the proper tools and resources to do it.

  128. Ann on January 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

    How do Catholic churches have hundreds, if not thousands, of weekly Mass-goers? My parish has 5 Masses a weekend with a total of about 2,000 attendees, in a town of about 10,000 people.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:30 am

      That is because the world appears more delicious than the Church that belongs to Christ.

  129. Michael Odum on January 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    This is awesome the strategies given will not only grow you as a leader but also the flock/ministry. God has given you an assignment with this short plan and I pray God sees it through. Bless you my friend.

  130. sam on January 7, 2014 at 12:18 am

    I guess I see the truth in it all but just frustrated after trying all of this, working on our structure/systems, training leaders, relaunching our church with state of the art technology, and practically trying to overcome the pitfalls mentioned above. We’ve been at this for about 13 years. Relaunched the last 2 years to try and shift the culture for growth. A shift of culture happened but not real growth after having a 276 launch day with about 60 that have stuck basically the number that we had before. At this point, I’m not sure how all of the above actually happens when you’ve been coached, been to conferences, had consultants come in, spent $75,000 to relaunch. We put everything into this and some. I’ve just had to become content and stop looking for those to come from outside and raise and disciple the one’s that are there. And build on the systems that we have to become better and trust God and see what happens and be content and trust that the vision will be fully realized line by line, precept by precept as we continue to make ourselves known in the community. At this point, I’m not sure what shall happen but just obeying God and loving and serving those that we are pastoring in hopes that growth will happen as we continue to grow as leaders.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      Sam…wow. That’s a really tough story. I’m sorry to hear that. I think the attitude you describe at the end of the comment will get your far. Thanks Sam.

    • Nat Marin on January 28, 2014 at 4:32 am

      You can’t “shift the culture for growth”, that’s the absolutely backwards goal and mission of a church that will actually thrive. Look outward.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:32 am

      As Pastors, we all want Church growth. However, after all your money and time thrown at it you realized that it is God who builds the Church . Just keep loving them and God will add as HE sees fit.

    • Fred Lane on February 26, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Been there, done that. My guess is there is some problem in the heart of the church, most likely leadership or general passion for God. As Craig Groschel says, churches that have “It” grow. I’d make sure that the leaders of the church are really on-board AND love God and people. If there are internal conflicts, fix them. Get as healthy at the core as you can.

    • Astrapto on January 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Here we clearly see the fruit of the church-growth industry.
      These authors peddling supposedly sure-fire fixes say what’s necessary to keep the customers happy: they both affirm the value of small churches (and their pastors that fund the church-growth industry) and deny it by constantly planting seeds of discontentment.

      Their central claim, that organizational size is the ultimate measure of effectiveness, is imported from business, not the New Testament. They say numbers are always good, above all else! Above actual health, and faithfulness to the biblical identity and mission of the church. So we import business practices and values, discard historic standards of the congregation’s spiritual health, and we’re surprised when our churches bloat up with cannibalized transfer growth and shallow consumers in the pews?
      Check out 9Marks.

  131. Pastor Scott on January 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    What strategy did you use to go from 50 members to 75,100,125, 150,200 ect. If you take over a church of 50 and work full time outside the church and have a family, and volunteers have full scheduled lives and problems as well. What suggestions do you give for Pastors with limited time and resources? Thanks for the article.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Just do what God called you to do and enjoy. BTW, you don’t have limited resources, you have God and that is not a cliche’. You need to think in terms of letting Him build His Church and you just doing what He will tell you.

  132. ty on January 4, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    The growth of a church is no guarantee that God is involved. . . it could be that that is just the way the “business” is set up. Furthermore, the church is NOT a business or organization. The church is a body of believers who operate Through the Spirit of God and by the Faith of the Lord Jesus. . . This website means well, but yea, it won’t do. It’s not the answer.

    • Maurice on January 5, 2014 at 8:53 am

      You sound silly. Carey just gave SOUND ADVICE!! Wisdom that Solomon said most of us need. Stop being religious and critical. Receive the simplicity of his wisdom.

      • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:38 am

        I don’t think people are being critical. I think they have discernment.You need to ask yourself, Do you listen to everything that “sounds” good?

    • matt on February 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Actually a church is an organization. A non profit more specifically. The goal of a church is to be involved in its community as well as be a place of worship. The church is a business but our product is free.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:36 am

      Amen Ty, although you missed on one point. It is a business. It’s the “Father’s business” too many people think they are running it! 🙂

  133. Mike on January 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    I agree with what is said here mostly. I think it’s a little sad that this has to be said. I think it a bit obvious, but then obviously not. But I do want to add a bit of math to this whole thing. E.g., in my city there are 4-6 churches on every block and corner in large portions of the city. Even if everyone became a member of a church, we couldn’t fill all those buildings. I understand that this article is about churches that want to grow. But I think the splintering of churches is an issue. Most churches here are formed by disgruntled leaders and members of other churches. In short, I guess my point is even if you follow these eight steps, when you run out of bodies, you run out of bodies.

  134. Tommy Brown on January 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Many churches just recycle Christians. They only get new members who were disgruntled at their previous churches. All corporate gatherings and even small groups should have a evangelism element to them, otherwise evening services just become another service where we (the body of Christ) come together and pat each other on the back for being another “good Christian” …not great. Be intentional about inviting lost people, co-workers, neighbors, and even go to the homeless shelter with one of the church vans and fill it up with people who would genuinely appreciate and evening in a non-hostile, non threatening very peaceful environment with prayer and worship. Go to the inner city or a battered women’s shelter, adopt a High school football or basketball team they are actually quasi leaders in their little circles of influence and homes. Invite them and when they come love on them as much as you can.

  135. Pastor Willie on January 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Pastor WC the problem is the Men do not want to men. The problems is we have done this before, the problem is I do not have the energy to work for God, the problem one member has a large family and the rest of them appears to be afraid of him.


  136. Ed Beck on January 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Days of Commercial Fishing are Over With

    Some years back the Holy Spirit whispered to me
    that “The days of commercial fishing are over with.” I was reading this excerpt of Scripture when
    God spoke that to me:

    “It will come about that every living creature
    which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be
    very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. AND IT WILL COME ABOUT THAT FISHERMEN WILL STAND BESIDE IT; FROM ENGEDI TO ENEGLAIM THERE WILL BE A PLACE FOR THE SPREADING OF NETS. Their fish will be according to their
    kinds, like the fish of the Great
    Sea, very many” (Ezekiel 47:9-10, emphasis mine,

    I believe the water which flows out from beneath the
    threshold of the entrance to the temple which faced east represents the Holy
    Spirit in varied depths of coverage upon this earth culminating in these end
    times of ours when, as Habakkuk said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the
    waters cover the sea” (2:14). And here
    at the end of the end of time, salt marshes are being made as the Holy Spirit
    moves on, and also the days of big tent meeting and theatre hall are beginning
    to dry up. To flow between Engedi and
    Eneglaim, is to flow between one well and two wells; there the lone or twain
    fisherman spreads his nets and fishes for his kind (gathers in his family. TODAY IS ABOUT GATHERING IN THE REMAING ONES
    nearly the end of the harvest even as we speak; this poem I wrote not long back
    is apropos:


    We, desiring an uninhibited flow

    of form both liquid and solid

    in matter and matters beyond

    our capabilities seeking and probing

    unexplored topics and topography

    everywhere our heads dictating our feet

    where we move unabashed and bashing

    every party and funeral visiting

    those gone and going inside

    scurrying about like insects

    squashing and treading wrath

    grapes of our wine and whines

    fueling the hollows of our thought patterns

    breaking and static waving riding

    to the shores and store windows

    shopping and peeping through glasses

    beyond mannequins into a sea

    where the living swelling and cresting

    souls’ content is near finishing

    populating the earth.

    also wrote this about 2-4 years ago:

    I believe, that like a sunspot
    eruption, a sudden flash of brilliance has just shown forth as a clarion call
    to our generation; this brilliant explosion of light is the emanation of the
    golden crown upon our Lord’s head and is a sure sign that He is about to
    execute His authority and punish any subject that is not really a subject, e. g., those that feign subjection but are not
    genuinely subject to Him from the heart.
    He has arisen from off His throne and is about to either hold the
    scepter up or down in favor or disfavor, mercy or judgment, concerning this

    I also believe that that brilliant
    flash of God’s Glory has just reflected off His shiny and sharp sickle blade,
    that end time sickle that the Angel of the Lord will, with one fell swoop, harvest
    the entire earth.

    THE END IS IMMINENT; are you ready?

  137. chris fields on January 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I’m looking to plant a church soon. I’m a Assemblies of God minister and my state presbyter posted this on our facebook page. Love this! Great ideas! Thank u

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement Chris and best wishes on the plant. Way to go.

      • sam on January 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Carey Niewwhof, do you think personality styles also contributes to growth. Pastor is passive aggressive and not always interactive with the team in providing forward vision, keeping people accountable, as well as meeting with team weekly to keep momentum. Additionally, how do you let go when you micromanage when you use volunteers instead of paid staff? I know that a mouthful but would love to hear your response. Also, I am sam the one who posted earlier about our relaunch.

        • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:43 am

          I would like to chime in. Just hearing the words “micro manage” “paid staff” meeting with the team” and it seems as if you are throwing in that your Pastor doesn’t know what he is doing. Do you know a good Pastor is led by the Lord and certainly not by the body? Perhaaps you need to go give him a pat on the back and say –here I am use me.

          • Barry1234 on March 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm

            A good Pastor is led by the Lord. But a good Pastor led by the Lord may not be the best equipped at some tasks within a church – – and yes I agree – part of the problem is there aren’t enough church members willing to say “use me as you will”

          • Jack Wilson on March 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

            I agree Barry, I don’t know how to fix the Pa but one of my guys does. My wife has a great handle on the kids. A good Pastor led by the Lord will put those to work at the gifts they were given.

  138. essie johnson on January 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    The Church can’t not grow if the pastor have the meism! he has to let the members be a part of the church, and work in the church with out his interference, because the church belong to them and not him.” When a pastor think that he owns the church then the church will not progress. and people will leave the church because of that.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 4, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      My understanding Essie is that the church doesn’t belong to the people. It belongs to Christ. When a pastor and people are yielded to that reality, things become much healthier.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:45 am

      I don’t want to sound belligerent but I am so glad you are not in my Church.Just looking at how nice and polished you both are suggests an entire Church of busy bodies trying to tell the man who God called to the church, what to do. I have seen that too many times. VERY SAD!

  139. Aaron Heilman on January 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I would rather see another church plant with new leaders than try to grow the same church bigger and bigger. Church is a gathering, a community. Once a community becomes too large it operates more on a superficial level by necessity. The solution is not bigger churches but more churches!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Thanks for your comment Aaron. I hear that argument a lot and I’m not sure I agree. Large does not equal superficial and small does not equal deep or effective.

      • Flavien on February 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm

        I am so glad that you provide tools to help Pastors to increase their membership capacity, and their effectiveness. Many of Pastors are desiring to break those barriers but they don’t know what to do. May God continue to empower you with his grace and wisdom as you are impacting knowledge to the body of christ . At the end of the day, one of symptomatic signs that God is on something is growth, this growth can be numerical, spiritual, physical or intellectual but it’s growth

      • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:46 am

        You are right Brother. It should be the Church that God built and just the right size.

  140. Markjmccord on January 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

    So, 80% of the Church is wrong?

    • Tom Salagaj on January 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Not wrong, just DEAD! Anything that is not growing and producing fruit is dead. Just ask Jesus about that fig tree he cursed one day.

      • Jon on January 14, 2014 at 9:41 pm

        Growth is not always measured by number of bodies in teh pews.

        • Tom Salagaj on January 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm

          Ha! A typical answer when growth has stopped or is reversing. Perhaps the fig tree farmer should have pointed out to Jesus that figs missing meant nothing. Just look, Lord, at the nice green leaves! Notice how healthy the bark is! And what nice shade is provided! Jesus would have smiled at the gardner while He continued to curse the fig tree. Growth means more of course than just additional bodies in the pew. But bodies in the pew is the first and most important EVIDENCE of growth.

          • Jon on January 14, 2014 at 10:50 pm

            “Ha!”? Let’s play nice.

            There will be times when those in the pews and in leadership have to be growing before God will allow more people. I am all for more numbers but if that is the only measure you use then you run the risk of being nothing but fluff. My church is struggling with some of the 8 points he mentions. This is probably not the best time for 25 new people to show up. Let our growth be from within right now. We will be strong again and then we will be ready for those Christ wants to bring in our doors.

            I have also been at a church where the numbers mattered most. I even got in trouble for fixing a spread sheet with formula errors because the result was a decrease in recorded numbers. Mind you, the count was more accurate but it looked bad so I had to track the correct number and submit another number. Don’t tell me numbers is the “most important EVIDENCE of growth.”

          • Carey Nieuwhof on January 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

            Hey Jon…thanks for this. I’ve seen cases where church leaders rig the numbers to make themselves feel better. That’s not what this is about at all. Healthy things grow. And you’re right to an extent: attracting healthy new people to a dysfunctional group is not a wise strategy. Health attracts health, and over time healthy things do grow. I wish you well in your leadership challenges.

          • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:57 am

            Yes, healthy things grow. Remember the 60’s song hair. “It stops by itself” Everything on this planet has growth limits. People, animals…

          • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:54 am

            Hey Tom,
            If Christ said He will build the Church, what part of that don’t you get? There are plenty of Pastors who do all that God tells them. Who are you to tell them how big their Church should be. BTW, How big is the Church You Pastor?

      • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:49 am

        The fig tree was a disappointment to Jesus. He saw all the leaves (people) but no fruit. It’s not a matter of a growing Church. It’s a matter of a fruitful Church.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2014 at 7:13 am

      It’s not about right or wrong. I wrote the article to address churches that want to grow but can’t figure out why it’s not happening.

      • Maurice on January 5, 2014 at 8:57 am

        Great article Carey! Clear and concise insight for church growth.

  141. omimexico on December 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Well I think this books covers the strategy issue: http://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Success-Evangelism-Workbook-Growing/dp/1492791245 There is another book that will come out in the spring of 2014 that weill deal with the leadership issue.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:58 am

      Books will only give you someone Else’s thoughts. I found the KJV to be the best book for this.

  142. Macklin on December 22, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I attend a small deaf church and even though some of these points is a reality in our church it certainly makes it harder when the deaf population is a minority among society.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 12:59 am

      Don’t worry, if God wants you bigger He can make the entire town deaf.

  143. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg on December 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    […] Nieuwhof wrote this post in September, about reasons churches don’t break the 200 attendance mark.  I recently found it. It’s not earth shattering by any means, and […]

  144. michelle thomas on November 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I just truly believe that the pastor was not meant to stand alone. Jesus left the model of Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, etc. and the Western Church isn’t following that model for the most part, maybe because we don’t understand those other functions. But we must strive to learn about them or the church will die standing. People are not satisfied with the ‘tried and true’ evangelical model of doing things.

    • Jack Wilson on February 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

      Do we have Apostles today? No. The rule was they needed to see God. Paul was the last. The Bible clearly puts the Pastor in Charge. There is no question. It is when people who wanna be, try to force the Pastor to do their will when all will fail. Remember Korah?

  145. David Ripley on November 25, 2013 at 3:27 am

    How do we get permission to reprint this article? Would like to share it with pastors in my training seminars.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Just email me through cnieuwhof at gmail.com and my assistant Sarah will see if we can work it out.

  146. joshuamtaylor on November 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Would you say that most of these same principals would apply to a youth setting?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Joshua…great question. I think yes (I haven’t led student ministry in a while). Especially #1. The biggest problem in student world is when a leader wants to pastor all the kids. Group leaders need to be engaged and involved.

  147. Marilyn Luinstra on November 17, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Thanx for this. It’s one of those posts I need to read again. How big is my church? Yep, 200.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Love what you and your team are doing in Kincardine Marilyn! Keep going. 🙂

  148. Doug Halcomb on November 6, 2013 at 11:04 am

    The growth barrier we are facing is 500. We desire to grow larger and are making sure we are addressing facility growth-limiting factors, and making sure that we are doing all we can to reach the lost and unconnected. What are some of the issues to address to break the 500 barrier? I would love to see a post on this, or even better, have a conversation about this.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Doug I’m sorry I missed this comment. If you buy the book I recommend on breaking church growth barriers, it will detail it. But I think it’s governance, leadership and delegation. Smaller, leaner government with more oversight than control. A leader who delegates and focuses on their areas of strength and getting leaders to lead, not do.

      • Doug Halcomb on November 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Thanks Carey. Which book are you referring to? I appreciate the insights and I very much appreciate how your insights have helped transform our church with regards to families and the next generation.

    • Tom Salagaj on January 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      I would also say that God is looking for churches to send some of His most needy people. But, they must be churches that will take good care of those people. In this scenario, God can be the most enthusiastic church builder your church will ever have. He will send them if you will take care of them. Will you do it His way? If not, He’ll send them elsewhere. So would we if we were looking for someone or some church to care for OUR children.

  149. Why Most Churches Stay Small | Jason Micheli on November 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

    […] Carey Nieuwhof shares this reflection on why most churches never break the 200 mark: […]

  150. Insert Sexy Title Here | irrevspeckay on October 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    […] a Christian minister who blogs.  Quite successfully.  He recently put together a post entitled, “8 Reasons Most Churches Never Pass the 200 Attendance Mark.”  I read it, found it interesting, and even shared it with the deacons at church I […]

  151. Deo Mpiima Mwanje on October 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    You have blessed my heart and challenged me

  152. Deo Mpiima Mwanje on October 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm


  153. Dean Neal on October 18, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Carey, I appreciate your intro by saying that often churches don’t NOT grow for lack of prayer, etc. I have known too many fine clergy who were burdened with guilt over their lack of spirituality as a block to their churches desired growth. I have also know a goodly number of clergy who thought that revving up the spiritual fervor of a congregation would lead to growth. Meanwhile their church system was built to keep the church small in the ways you have described.

    One of the hallmarks of small church thinking is: small church pastors (and their leadership teams) try things, large church pastors build success into their programs. That is, they plan not just for the event but for the second and third phases after that.

    One example from my ministry was when we introduced the Alpha program. We first led the congregation to hold small group gatherings of meals and low level conversations (not “sharing”). We allowed friends to gather with friends. We did this for three months, allowed each group to take of a week of each month. Then, when introduced the Alpha Course, we said, “Oh,it’s just like our Wednesday Dinner Fellowships, except there’s a video, and we all meet at the church.”

    The other bit of planning was that we agreed to put on five Alpha Courses. As long as we had one table of non-churched folks, we would continue with a next one. We know that most churches did Alpha as a Christian education program and would host only one or two, by which time everyone in the church who would go to things like that would have done so. We knew we needed to get outside the network of our church. We saw our average Sunday attendance increase from 202 to over 275 in the course of three years.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Dean…this is great advice and an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it. Great strategy and wonderful results.

  154. […] Recently, there was a blog from one of these “church consultants” entitled 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark. At the start of the article, the author states that there’s nothing wrong with small […]

  155. Tim Walker on October 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Excellent article. As a pioneering pastor, planting my second church, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. After reading the comments though, I may add…small churches often don’t grow because many pastors and leaders fail to properly value the significance of growth. If it is true that every healthy organism grows, then healthy congregations will increase regardless of the size of the community they are in. Some people get hung-up when milestones such as “200, 400, 700, etc.” are used; but they are just simple markers to measure progress. Obviously, if one is in a small community, or an unreached region, the milestones are different. While it’s not about numbers in the sense that attendance measures significance, numbers represent people…people who should be becoming fully engaged followers of Jesus, sharing their faith and living out the life of God in the community. When that occurs, the local church will grow automatically unless we are doing things that sabotage it! What I found in your article is a potent list of things churches often do to sabotage growth! Thanks again and I truly enjoy your insight!

  156. Dusty DeSoto on October 14, 2013 at 5:31 am

    You fellows are wearing me out! But must admit, I’ve learned more from the comments than I did from the article. And this, by the way, is coming from a former ministry coordinator of church with over 25,000 members.

  157. diak0n0s on October 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    “8. The pastor suffers from a desire to please everybody. ”

    Strangely, this has always been one of the main signs of mega-churches, preaching a one sided people pleasing message.

    There’s an old saying. . “you can’t fill the big tent with a message of conviction and repentance”.

    Hence the Osteen’s and the Willow Creeks, etc.

    • Astrapto on January 24, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Is that really an old saying? I can’t find any other mention of it.

    • Drake De Long-Farmer on January 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      So, every mega church has a people pleasing message? There are no examples of mega churches that wouldn’t fit that category?

  158. Ken Crawford on October 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Carey – I’ve seen and committed these 8 behaviors more than I care to admit. I agree the issue is not whether small or large are better, but whether our habits fit our goals and God’s calling. I’ve written a brief riff on your post:


  159. Ken G Crawford on October 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Carey – Thank you for this article. I have seen and committed these 8 behaviors more times than I care to admit. It is so difficult to shift our personal and organizational momentum and change the habits that keep us in place. I’ve done a riff on this post that you might find interesting. http://kengcrawford.com/2013/10/11/breaking-bad-habits-that-keep-your-organization-from-growing/

  160. […] article by Carey Nieuwhof outlines 8 reasons that churches fail to break the 200 barrier. All of them are rooted around […]

  161. […] Full article:  8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark. […]

  162. Church Talk | DioDocs on October 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    […] church in America is 89 adults. So why will most churches never break 200 attendance mark? Here are some thoughts on the subject from Carey Nieuwhof, lead pastor of Connexus Community […]

  163. Should Every Church Grow? « Religious Curmudgeon on October 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    […] was edified but also annoyed by this list of 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark. All of the reasons the author gives are correct, and any church that discerns a call to grow […]

  164. This Week’s Links | Timothy Siburg on October 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    […] that you lose sight of the church’s important work and mission?  Well, Carey Nieuwhof offers some reasons as to why congregations don’t pass the 200 person […]

  165. Brad on October 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    There are several spelling mistakes in this article, which prevented me from forwarding it on to others. But certainly some great thoughts. I can see many of these instances in my own church

  166. Edwin Dearborn on October 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Having run a church for many years, these 8 are on point. The other factor is that they do not know how to develop a program and a series of services that would attract a broader audience than the “clique” they are used to.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Thanks Edwin. Agreed. Doing the same thing over and over again produces the same results.

      • Tom Salagaj on January 2, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        I would like to add that IF the senior pastor is dedicated to building the specific church God’s way; and if he will do everything God says to do, the church will grow and not be able to contain the growth. But how many pastors have the courage to listen to God and not men? Get rid of the board of deacons and do things the Kingdom way and not the corporate way. Our church is continually growing and bursting out walls. We do not answer to mortal men, we answer to God’s vision and call that must be obtained on a daily basis. 35 years ago we had 16 senior citizens and a 17 yr old pastor. Now we have more than 4,000, are continually adding more space and buildings to contain the people GOD is sending. This has been a proven method of church growth for us. And we’re debt free! Oh, and we still have the same pastor! 64 volunteer ordained pastors, scads of elders and packed overflow rooms! I might also add that we are on the border of inner city neighborhoods in Chicago. God’s way never fails.

  167. Rod Block on October 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    There really is no such thing as a church under 200. There is only one church and it numbers in the multi millions. We must be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Anything else is just boasting in man. Let’s boast in The Lord who is building His Church and adding to its number daily. Someone saved/added in your home/building/field is someone saved in my building, because it’s all His building. Amen

  168. Rev. Lloyd McDougall on October 5, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Church Growth is the Life of the Church, “he that wins souls is wise”, and all the points raised could be said to be good or even great, but, nowhere in the life of Jesus or Elijah do we see groups of people greater than 200 in size except twice in 3.5 years (the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000,) and in Elijah’s case, the challenge of the false prophets at Mt. Carmel. Could it be that we are seeking imitate the World and the Prosperity Gospel Churches when we seek bigger local churches. Could it be we are like small children desiring to show that we can ADD, when a mature church, like an older child, should have a vision and a strategy to MULTIPLY. I have lived to see a small church in Toronto, Canada, MULTIPLY into seven small churches in the Greater Toronto Area. Jesus only shared a limited amount of His wisdom on Organizational Skills, which was to tell His disciples to gather the 4,000 and the 5,000 into groups of 50 (men, not including women and children). So the wisdom of the Lord seems to be that 50 men, plus women and children, (ie) 200 or so is the proper size at which to be growing by multiples of the same. Now, after four years in the Mission Field of Africa (Malawi) I have seen the local Prison Ministry grow from two Open Fellowship Groups (of 30 to 40 each) in the two largest Prisons to six such “Congregations or Churches” in three Prison Farms and three other urban Prisons (including the original two) with a vision for growing in yet other parts of the nation and beyond. I guess what I’m saying is the “Missions” is the necessary component for growth, yet Missions, by its nature is MULTIPLICATION, not simple ADDITION

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Lloyd, thank you for your comments. With all due respect, I think Jesus often had crowds. Often they were so large people couldn’t get near him. Similarly, the early church was a rapidly growing movement where often hundreds or even thousands gathered or gave their lives to Christ. I do think multiplication is wonderful. But I think the church is stronger when we have both multiplication and addition, which seems to parallel scripture.

      • StevieB on October 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

        Jesus preached to crowds, but he discipled few of those people. We’re to make disciples of the nations not necessarily (or only) large congregations.

        • Tom Salagaj on January 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

          Correctly discipled people grow churches. They must…! They will!

  169. itsnotaboutme on October 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    “There’s nothing wrong with being a small church”…IF the church is young (or in a low-population area). But healthy churches tend to grow. If a church neglects the Great Commission, it’s not a healthy church. So witnessing & making disciples ought to have been addressed in the article.

    • Tom Salagaj on January 2, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Yes but these issues are all handled properly when pastors will do exactly what God tells them to do for each particular church body. God cannot fail and He will always help men to do right things right. Jesus said, “I will BUILD MY CHURCH and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”. So, pastors, find out the specific vision and plan for your church body and DO IT without fail. God will guarantee your success and provide a crown worthy of your effort.

  170. Duncan Ojwang on October 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Mr Catright, your excuse for not supporting the article are tired arguments, following the usual mistake of generalizing. so what should churches do if they are not persecuted like biblical times here in the U.S. Put themselves in the arms way? Persecution was not a biblical strategy for evangelism, it catalyzed it as a necessary evil and God using everything. Mr Catwright, I am tempted to conclude your generalization and strategy for church growths bashing is a personal problem, otherwise you could not have said they do not exist in scripture while sinners come and churches grow.

  171. LCMer on October 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Here’s the problem with empowerment that my church faced/faces. What advice? Staff is actually really good at “getting out of the way” when members initiate. However, when there’s no staff in sight, church members don’t participate. My theory is that when a member starts a ministry and the pastors don’t participate or promote, members don’t see it as empowerment but as abandonment (at best) or silent disapproval (at worst). How do you change the culture so that members recognize member-led ministries as “legit.”?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      I wonder if the challenge you’re facing is one of alignment. When you have different people within the same organization pursuing different purposes or strategies, you get what you describe. I think if the leadership sets a clear course and follows through, alignment becomes easier. We only do a few things as a church (do a few things and do them well), and many of our members follow their other passions and ideas outside the framework of the church. I think that makes everyone stronger. Connexus just does a few things (Sundays, groups and next generation) and we try to do them well.

  172. Trying to please everyone | Scott Knowlton's Blog on October 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

    […] was reading to me from one of the many lists going around like “8 reasons churches never break the 200 attendance mark” or “5 Essentials every church constitution needs in the future” or one like […]

  173. Deborah Hall on October 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Sorry pastors, it is about numbers! More congregants can equate into more giving allowing members to grow in the faith and create amazing programs that further the mission of the church. Anything else and you are just kidding yourselves. I’m one of those congregants that want you to ask me to do something meaningful!

    • laketree on October 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Deborah: Speaking just for myself, I prefer not to attend a church with over 200 members. They lack interaction, freethinking, and innovation. Leaders start well intentioned but soon they unintentionally become dictators. In our church the pastor does not do everything. In fact she is only employed half time, but we are growing. and hope for full time in the future. 2 of the services are given by lay people. One of these by the director of children development (a paid part time position). We have coffee and snacks after church (different volunteers provide); a discussion group every Sunday before church on non religious topics; Direct help assisting immigrants with legal, social problems in cooperation with other area churches; Several social circle groups; choir practice; Music concerts by local and featured musicians (admission charge and targeted to the local community; Special speakers on topics like environment, final life planning or battle of Gettysburg – suggested admission not required geared local community welcome; garden on church grounds; sessions for potential members and more. One Sunday this summer, the choir was down to 4. people. They song was so great I could hear each voice and each voice sang a different vocal part. One person responsible for his/her share of the final song. We are informal, kids attend the first 15 minutes with everyone else, including a 5 minute interactive lesson from the minister or teacher. The children’s’ comments during this lessons, are their contribution to that Sunday’s spiritual message. I get to know the children as people contributing to the diversity of our church community. This would probably not happen in a large church.

  174. Deborah Hall on October 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Wow! I thought your article was right on! As a life-long Christian of the Presbyterian kind, I have seen many of the churches you are profiling. As a lay member of the Committee on Ministry of the San Francisco Presbytery, I saw this over and over again. Small churches where the pastor does everything including run the Sunday bulletin and create the agenda for the Session. Some of the small churches I worked with are further declining in membership and either closing or joining with other Presbyterian churches nearby because of these 8 mistakes. Also in the Bay Area, many churches allow politics to interfere. Another destroyer of small churches is when a member leaves a bucket load of money–the members stop giving. This money should never be used to buy light bulbs, as it were, but instead placed into a foundation whereby the church can use the interest to fund special projects or new ministries. It should never be part of the general funding of the church.
    I also feel that the protestant seminaries are preparing pastors for churches that no longer exist! Keep up the good work, Carey. PS-The church where I now attend is a growing church that has stopped doing the 8 mistakes. We have a terrific pastor who gets it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Deborah…I think you encouraged a lot of leaders. Thank you!

  175. Ruthie on October 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Right now I attend a megachurch (first time doing so). I usually like a mid-sized church, but I think a very small church would not be attractive to me mainly because I am single and 40 and I think I would have a hard time finding community. I wonder if other people wander into a small church on a Sunday, feel out of place and don’t come back and so the church does not grow. Also, to add to Father Steve’s comment, some people are leaving those “seeker” churches with the rock music and the arena feel for a more traditional approach. For them, it feels as fresh as a megachurch would feel to someone raised in a traditional church.

  176. Kelly Keith Dunn on October 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    My challenge is this: Big numbers does not equal good if the vast majority are nominal “Christians” . What my goal would be healthy, self reprodicing Disciples!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      And small numbers do not equal good. The argument cuts both ways. I completely agree that healthy, self-reproducing disciples would be the goal. Thanks.

      • Kelly Keith Dunn on October 4, 2013 at 11:21 am

        It appears you missed my point. I did not say large numbers are not good. I said large numbers are not good IF they were in numbers only. The same is said of small churches. I have served in small churches where the congregants were nominal and not Christ following Disciples. Though not serving as a pastor now (I serve in a Rescue Mission now) I have been tasked by my pastor to establish a Doscipleship Ministry within our congregation – which, God’s grace I am doing.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on October 4, 2013 at 8:09 pm

          Thanks for the clarification Kelly. You are so right. It’s by God’s grace we can do this.

  177. Michael J Landreth on October 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I agree with some of the other post growth is not numbers it is out reach and prayer and being a committed part of the body of Christ. Numbers mean nothing people must be reached and given the true word of God that is growth and if the come to my church that is great but any bible believing church is all that matters.

  178. TerryReed on October 3, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Carey: Your points are great and by reading the comments it is clear you have given a lot of thought to what you said. I would like to point out as a rural small church pastor most of my life, that the solutions to these problems are not always as clear cut as you suggest. For example, sometimes the best leaders in your church are not on the same page and it takes a lot of work to get them there. You also overlook the fact that many many many small churches have been through pastor after pastor and if they bought into every new vision–as good as they might be–the church would be changing directions so often that it would keep things in chaos. That is one of the main reasons these congregations get stuck.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Hey Terry. I can empathize with your situation. When I began ministry it was in a rural setting. One of the three churches I served had an average attendance of 6. All three combined had an attendance of 50. We saw incredible growth (more than 10 fold) despite being in a very rural area. I think what made a big difference is that people wanted to grow and reach their neighbours.

      • TerryReed on October 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

        I too have been blessed to see growth in most of the rural churches I have served. But not before waiting a considerable amount of time which let the folks know I was going to be around for awhile. Check out the first chapter of my book about small church ministry which deals with the need for patience as a leader.
        Terry Reed
        Small Church Tools

        • Carey Nieuwhof on October 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

          Glad to hear that Terry. And congrats on getting your book out there.

  179. Dane Gressett on October 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Carey, I agree that every church should be growing…and in more than just nickels and noses!

    The church in jerusalem exploded with growth initially. The first church was a mega-church. But there developed some real inner hindrances to reaching the masses. They had to restructure their management so as to better pastor the crowds. Yet there was this growing ethno-centrism and legalism that both infiltrated the church and stood on the outside opposing the church. Soon afterward the church-gathered became the church- scattered… like seeds…through persecution. Antioch was born and here we are…

    The setting and demographics of each church largely definitely affect the approach: Village congregations need village pastors who know the village people and ways.

    City congregations, where larger numbers of people exist, definitely may need a different gift set in their leaders. At least a willingness to embrace organizational methods more conducive to continued growth.

    And the DNA make-up of the leader affects this too. Pure pastors will have a different paradigm and burden than evangelists and apostles.

    And depending on the gift of the primary leaders, the congregation will usually take on that flavor. We all look at the world and the mission through the lens of our own gifting and calling. A pure pastor will never agree to a lot of what the apostle is doing. Barnabas is not willing to leave John Mark behind. Paul had to. Neither was wrong. But their callings were NOT identical. And it affected not only their paradigm but their methods…and because they couldn’t recognize their God-ordained differences they apparently had unresolved conflict.

    Without Barnabas we may have never know Paul. The no-named elder who preached in the small chapel on the snowy night that Spurgeon was saved is pretty important to church history…I think we’d all agree. But his little church stayed small. Just sayin’… Noah reached seven people in 125 years. But that was significant in his setting and time.

    So this debate will never go away! And regardless of our assignments or gifting, whether 1, 2, or 5 talents, let each of us just to get to business and grow within our spheres!. Even if the growth is not fairly comparable. Let us NOT be like the person who hid his one talent…and made excuses for no growth, lest God will take our few sheep and give them to the 5 talent guy who is faithful in his sphere. Just sayin’….

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

      I hear what you’re saying, but the purpose of being given even one talent was to produce two. Or at least not bury it in the ground.

  180. Richard P Celley on October 2, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    In my decades of pastoral experience I have seen very few churches of over 200 that were in reality over 200. Most churches of more than 300 seem very quickly to become several distinct subgroups, the “traditional worship service”, the “seekers”, the “mission folks”, or what have you. Outside their own factions the members have little sense of belonging to the congregation as a whole. Perhaps this is “big business” organizing, and it certainly enables the financial means to hire a pastor full-time but it really seems that it might just be a “mall” filled with small stores rather than a “big business”. Having offered that observation, I agree with every point you made here as entirely valid for churches of any size. I just don’t particularly agree that the goal of efficient organization is numerical growth. I’d be quite happy with growth in the number of members engaged in doing ministry, and growth in their spiritual maturity (yes, I mean giving money for the right reasons). After all, as has been pointed out in many discussions of church growth, more small churches rather than merely larger churches is still growth, offer more points of entry for more people, and can be kept at a size in which every member can know most others and be known by them. That never happens in a church of a 1000.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      Richard. I wonder if even small churches have subgroups. That’s why we organize for groups and align them with the mission. You can have 1000 (or 10,000) aligned people who also meet in small groups and who still act like a group on a common mission. So I think if you organize for it, things can turn out very positively.

      • Dan_Cartwright on October 4, 2013 at 6:22 am

        Carey, what s the ‘mission’ of which you speak? If it’s bringing lost souls into the Kingdom, why are the numbers ‘inside’ our doors even an issue?

        • Carey Nieuwhof on October 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

          Dan. I suspect we are simply on different pages. Maybe not fundamentally (we are both Christians), but I’m not sure how we are all going to be better off for continuing this particular thread of the discussion much further. Thanks for your contribution but I think there’s no point in continuing this ongoing dialogue. Sorry.

  181. Father Thomas Allen on October 2, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    What about size of your church building? How does that impact growth?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

      Thanks for the question! I think growth can happen anywhere any time with the right leadership. Buildings can get changed later. I get a lot of questions about whether a facility move will spur growth. It almost never does. It can help a growing congregation grow more. But buildings can’t help flat or dying churches grow. Leadership makes all the difference.

  182. Rick DeBruyne on October 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Good points for the church that is bumping up against the 200 barrier and find themselves falling back when they would like to get past it. Organically small churches should operate with familial organization. BTW, Lyle Schaller wrote about this in the
    The Small Church Is Different! by Lyle E. Schaller (Oct 1982)
    Looking in the Mirror: Self-Appraisal in the Local Church by Lyle E. Schaller and Edward Lee Tucker (Feb 1, 1984)

  183. Scott Kivimaki on October 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing Carey. I’ve read many of the reply comments and pretty much agree with everyone’s thoughts and church challenges.
    Thought I would shout out a saying or prayer, if you will that I’ve held near and dear throughout my 50 years of life:
    Life is full of adversity trials and tribulation…
    The quality of life is determined by ones own re-actions and emotions, during those trying times…
    1) Stay positive…
    2) Focus on what really matters…
    3) & Most of all…”Keep The Faith”…
    God’s Peace & Calm Out To All!
    Scott Kivimaki
    2013 Evangelism Council Chair
    Martin Luther Church – ELCA Milwaukee, WI

  184. Linda Luke-Hutchison on October 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    You forgot another important reason. A LOT of preachers want to run everything. They just can’t let go of the authority and the idea that “this is my church”. They even refer to it as “their church”. That is sad. I haven’t seen any of them dying for it. I don’t mean to sound negative or harsh but I’ve been a Christian my entire life, seen many preachers, and even been married to one, (now deceased) and so many preachers are terrified of letting go and letting others do. And they do fear the congregations if they don’t visit everybody that’s sick…. and the church members do get mad at them when they don’t. When I’m sick, I always tell the preacher not to come see me. Go see someone who is going to get mad because you don’t. haha…..Just my thoughts. We must remember “there is noting new under the sun”. Ecclesiastes. I am assuming this means these problems will always exist and have always existed. Can’t wait to get to heaven where the perfect church will exist. 🙂

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      I agree. That could easily be added to the list. The growth of a leader and a congregation is often related to a willingness to release control. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how I’m a recovering control freak so you’re speaking my language. Thanks!

      • Linda Luke-Hutchison on October 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm

        That’s ok…You will be fine in your recovery. You will have a support group meeting at least every Sunday where you can practice on letting go. haha

  185. Old Timer on October 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Yes, by all means, let’s make sure everybody has a megachurch with TV screens and loud rock bands on stage. Get rid of those stupid hymnals and replace it with karaoke on the TV. There’s a lot more money in entertainment than a humble and intimate religious experience based on tradition.

    • Father Steve on October 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

      As a recently retired Episcopal pastor, I’ve been able to get around to different churches on Sunday morning since now I only help out with preaching and doing Masses as needed in different venues. I’ve been to a variety of megachurches. I will not ‘fulminate’ against them and while I enjoyed most of the messages from the preachers, the amphitheater/huge screens style devoid of religious symbol (not even a cross) more or less didn’t leave me cold so much as wondering how/why this genre would be attractive? I felt the same as when I go to a concert at our symphony hall: comfortable seats, performance, listen, watch, applaud. Everything was professional and not ‘cheesy’ right down to parking lot attendants helping people and mini-vans to help transport the disabled/handicapped; that was impressive. Music from a ‘soft-rock’ band with synthesizers didn’t scream at me, but ‘praise choruses’ replaced hymns. Some were ‘ok’ but I couldn’t take a steady diet of them. I prefer hymns which speak theology in poetry and song.
      But here’s another dimesion: I went to a Roman Catholic Church (intentionally without a collar but in suit/tie) known for its Latin Mass restoration since the previous Pope permitted it. I was stunned: the huge Gothic sanctuary was packed and not with older white/gray hairs like myself: young families, children, cops, firefighters, teens.
      I stopped counting at about 700. A choir sang the Latin responses, the people sang some hymns which made me chuckle: the same hymns found in Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist & Presby. hymn books! Those were in English, of course. I spoke to the pastor afterwards: very affable man. They had four services on Sunday all the others totally the English Catholic Mass; however, the 16th century “Tridentine” so-called Mass had the biggest attendance. Why? I think it was the transcendent, mystical/contemplative beauty of the worship experience, hearing the Latin etherial Gregorian chants and the atmosphere of “worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” as Ps.96 says. I was awe-struck. So many of these younger folks were raised without tradition or ‘roots’ said the pastor. So the beauty of the ancient ritual, all God and Christ-focused/centered is making this inner city urban parish, which had been ‘on the skids’ 15 years ago, turn around dramatically. So you’ve got the megachurches on one hand very contemporary, and I think an equally significant recovery of “tradition” in some respects on the other as exampled by this Catholic parish. I pass no judgment; only my observations.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on October 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

        I think its wonderful that a variety of forms of worship are reaching people. If you can get past the method and get onto the mission…you really make progress fast.

  186. Carolina Krawarik-Graham on October 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I’d like to add: (apologies if this is a repost)

    #9: Leaders, particularly paid staff, are under the assumption that their position of authority is equivalent to actually “knowing more” than those who do NOT hold positions of authority… (aka “I’m right because I’m in charge”)

    #10: Leaders (mired in Paternalism) who are unwilling/unable to recognize and/or admit their faults and mistakes – mostly because of #9 – and sometimes just because of personal Ego (fueled by the delusion of Power)…

    #11: Insufficient interpersonal/inter-relational communication skills training for leadership and laity alike. (I could do a whole manifesto on this aspect alone!)

    #12: Inability/Unwillingness to listen and/or respond to those who are being “served”… often because of #9 and #11, usually leading to #10…

    #13: Avoidance of change, conflict, Truth, being uncomfortable, relinquishing control, reality in general…

    #14: Ignorance around issues of Privilege (this is primarily directed at White churches) – resulting in being more internally (personally/individually) focused – usually on personal comfort, enjoyment, and “feeling good”, than “externally focused” (collectivistic) on serving the wider community (this ties closely in with your #7).
    This also manifests as serving the wider community in ways that maintain personal comfort, but have little significant impact – and sometimes even doing more harm than “good”.

    (and this is my biggest BigFatPersonalGripe – and where I disagree with some of your language, although I get the point and agree that delegating authority is a good tactic for growth)
    #15: Treating ministry as if it were “business” to begin with.
    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a clue about money and accountability and roles and laws and taxes and all that – churches DO exist in the real world and the leadership should be well informed about things like properly accounting for things – and legal consequences of xyz…
    … but the “CEO model” of modern day (growth-oriented) churches is what, imho, is the #1 factor contributing to their (eventual) failure.

    And /honestly/, if you’re gonna go that route, then hire an /actual/ executive as the CEO, one that has some skills doing THAT – and ministers to do the ministry part… that is, if you haven’t forgotten that the “business” is MINISTRY…

    • Carolina Krawarik-Graham on October 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      it was a repost. Again, I apologize! – please feel free to delete.

  187. Carolina Krawarik-Graham on October 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I’d like to add:

    #9: Leaders, particularly paid staff, are under the assumption that their position of authority is equivalent to actually “knowing more” than those who do NOT hold positions of authority… (aka “I’m right because I’m in charge”)

    #10: Leaders (mired in Paternalism) who are unwilling/unable to recognize and/or admit their faults and mistakes – mostly because of #9 – and sometimes just because of personal Ego (fueled by the delusion of Power)…

    #11: Insufficient interpersonal/inter-relational communication skills training for leadership and laity alike. (I could do a whole manifesto on this aspect alone!)

    #12: Inability/Unwillingness to listen and/or respond to those who are being “served”… often because of #9 and #11, usually leading to #10…

    #13: Avoidance of change, conflict, Truth, being uncomfortable, relinquishing control, reality in general…

    #14: Ignorance around issues of Privilege (this is primarily directed at White churches) – resulting in being more internally (personally/individually) focused – usually on personal comfort, enjoyment, and “feeling good”, than “externally focused” (collectivistic) on serving the wider community (this ties closely in with your #7).
    This also manifests as serving the wider community in ways that maintain personal comfort, but have little significant impact – and sometimes even doing more harm than “good”.

    (and this is my biggest BigFatPersonalGripe – and where I disagree with some of your language, although I get the point and agree that delegating authority is a good tactic for growth)
    #15: Treating ministry as if it were “business” to begin with.
    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a clue about money and accountability and roles and laws and taxes and all that – churches DO exist in the real world and the leadership should be well informed about things like properly accounting for things – and legal consequences of xyz…
    … but the “CEO model” of modern day (growth-oriented) churches is what, imho, is the #1 factor contributing to their (eventual) failure.

    And /honestly/, if you’re gonna go that route, then hire an /actual/ executive as the CEO, one that has some skills doing THAT – and ministers to do the ministry part… that is, if you haven’t forgotten that the “business” is MINISTRY…

  188. Liz on October 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I attend a Church that is small (100-120 on average). my pastor says anyone can lead or be in a group. But what one has to do first is pray and determine if this is that person’s passion. When it is no longer your passion, then it is time to step away.

  189. Pastor Lin on October 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Carey! Thanks for the GREAT article! I just can’t believe many of the negative comments on here and some of the arguements they’re using for not growing! It baffles me and makes me think this is the reason so many churches aren’t growing! Even pastors aren’t seeing the vision that God wants to grow our churches!!! Every person matters greatly to God! Not for a moment did I think you were putting down small churches in anyway! Our heart is to beat as one with God’s heart – “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14 NLT)
    Keep on sharing the wisdom God has given you! It ruly is appreciated!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks. I appreciate your heart for reaching peop