CNLP 223: How to Break the Growth Barriers That Will Move Your Church Past 200, 600 and 1000 Attenders with Carl George and Warren Bird

So many churches attract new people but still can’t seem to grow. Why? What does it take for churches to break through the 200, 400 and 600 attendance growth barriers?

Carl George and Warren Bird literally wrote the book on it and share some of the surprising obstacles church leaders face. They also outline how to overcome those obstacles to reach more people.

This interview is the most downloaded episode in the history of the podcast. So we’re making it our very first rebroadcast, because clearly it’s worth a second (or third or fourth) listen. And if you’re new to the podcast, we want to make sure don’t miss this one. I hope it helps you and that you’ll share it with other leaders you know who could benefit from the conversation.

Welcome to Episode 223 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Grow Beyond 200

Would you like to see your church grow to more than 200 in weekly attendance?

You’re certainly not alone. The vast majority of churches in North America never break this growth barrier. I’ve worked with hundreds of pastors during the last 20 years to better understand why churches hit plateaus—and how to break past them.

Just “working harder” won’t cut it either. In Breaking 200, I’ll share with you a few key changes your church can make to become the church God has called you to be.

In this eight-lesson video course, you’ll learn:

  • How to structure your church to grow
  • How to scale your pastoral care so you can help more people without burning out
  • How to find the right leaders to take your church to the next level
  • & much more!

Each session will include an interactive workbook with exercises to help you and your team apply what you’re learning to your ministry context right away.

You can learn more and gain instant access today.

Guest Links

@CarlGeorge_sc |

How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church by Carl George & Warren Bird

CNLP 028: How to Create High Performing Teams in any Size Organization – An Interview with Warren Bird

CCLP 018: Warren Bird Talks Canadian Research, Why Our Countries are Different, and Why Some Churches Grow When Others Don’t

Episode Links

Breaking 200 enrollment is open! Don’t miss out on the absolutely best pricing of the season and exclusive bonus material at

Books by Lyle E. Shaller 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Bringing Out the Best in Any Size Church by Gary McIntosh

Books by John C. Maxwell

3 Insights from Carl George & Warren Bird

1. Be a rancher, not a shepherd 

One of the biggest barriers for churches to break the 200 attendance mark is pastoral care. When you first started the church, you were everything to every one… but that doesn’t scale.

Pastors tend to always think of themselves as shepherds guiding the sheep. But Carl and Warren challenge you to think of it this way: be a rancher, not a shepherd. Shepherds guide the sheep, but ranchers guide the shepherds who guide the sheep. Pastors need to have vision for the sheep and to train, empower and inspire the shepherds to do their jobs well.

2. Embrace your people

When you’re experiencing seasons of growth, you’ll have members who resist the change. As George and Warren pointed out… most people perceive more growth to mean less care. When you come across these matriarchs and patriarchs of the church, don’t resent them. Empathize with them, be their ally, lead them differently and with sensitivity.

For the people in your church who are excited about growth and change, create opportunities for them to feel like they are part of the heartbeat of the church. Managing the coffee bar might seem minor to you, but to the first-time volunteer… it’s their sense of purpose in the church.

When you give people opportunities for service in a team setting, you also see leaders arise.

3. Look where you normally don’t

For example, take the nursery. When was the last time you spent time in the nursery and preschool areas? It’s probably been a long time, if ever. But think of it this way: Parents whose kids have great experiences in the nursery will be more likely to raise their kids in your church and be members for the next 20 years.

When Pastors think facility improvements they think first of the sanctuary. But what about the lobby? How easy (or not) is it to navigate? What about parking? All of these things matter.

If you find this topic interesting, listen to episode 132 where I spoke with a secret church shopper. 

Quotes from Episode 223

Success isn't in who you lead. It's who your leaders lead. @warrenbird Click To Tweet

We're no longer limited by technology, but by imagination. @warrenbird Click To Tweet

Until a pastor has some notion that all members are not equal and that each one of them has a unique history and contribution to make, he will not have the cooperation of the people to carry the agenda forward. @carlgeorge_sc Click To Tweet

The small group has to be a multiplier small group, one that will intimately care for its people with the awareness that if they're properly cared for, they will develop into group leading capable people. @carlgeorge_sc Click To Tweet

Scripture is very clear about shepherds, so I have no problem with a person wanting to love on people. But when you love being loved by the people to the point that you no longer attend to issues of scale, that is an issue. @carlgeorge_sc Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 223

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Solve the Problems Most Leaders Miss: Didn’t See It Coming Will Help

If you want practical help overcoming some of the biggest challenges leaders face, my new book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That Nobody Expects and Everyone Experiences tackles the seven core issues that take people out: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and the emptiness of success and provides strategies on how to combat each.

I wrote the book because no 18 year old sets out to be cynical, jaded and disconnected by age 35. Yet it happens all the time.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s what top leaders are saying about Didn’t See It Coming:

“Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.” Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor, Central Church

“Powerful, personal, and highly readable. ” Brian Houston, Global Senior Pastor, Hillsong

“Whatever challenge you’re facing, whatever obstacle you’re hoping to overcome, whatever future you dream or imagine, there is something powerful for you here.” Andy Stanley, Founder, North Point Ministries

“Uncommonly perceptive and generous…You have to read this book.” Ann Voskamp, NYT bestselling author

“Masterful.” Reggie Joiner, CEO Orange

“Deep biblical insight, straightforward truth, and practical wisdom to help you grow.” Craig Groeschel, Pastor and NYT bestselling author

“This book is sure to help you.” Daniel H. Pink, NYT bestselling author

Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey…It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

“Nieuwhof’s book provides expert guidance…with an accuracy that pierces the heart.” Nancy Duarte, CEO Duarte Inc.

“A refreshingly transparent guide for all leaders in a wide variety of industries.” Bryan Miles, Co-Founder and CEO, BELAY

You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.

Subscribed Yet? 

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Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Levi Lusko 

12 years ago, Levi Lusko left Southern California to plant a church in Montana. Today, Fresh Life Church has 12 locations, most of them in very small towns where few people would plant churches. Levi talks about why and how they did it, how he handled the cultural gap, and about how he’s met some of the personal challenges he’s faced as a leader along the way.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 224.

CNLP 223: How to Break the Growth Barriers That Will Move Your Church Past 200, 600 and 1000 Attenders with Carl George and Warren Bird

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