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CNLP 266: Carey Nieuwhof and Jeremy MacDonald on How to Jumpstart the Growth of Dying and Stagnant Churches, and How to Scale Church Growth Barriers from Just a Few People to Beyond 1000 Attenders

What do you do if your church is dead…stuck…stagnant, and simply not growing? And…once it starts growing, how do you get ready to scale the growth barriers most leaders never figure out how to scale?

Jeremy MacDonald interviews Carey Nieuwhof about the backstory of two decades plus in church leadership, from starting with three small dying mainline churches to the over 1500 people who attend today. Carey talks about how to jumpstart the mission of a dead church, how to recruit leaders, how to get people to stop expecting the pastor to do everything, and how to empower a team to lead the church past 1000 attenders.

Welcome to Episode 266 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.

Get Your Church Growing (Again…or for the First Time)

Did you know that 9 out of 10 churches don’t grow? Maybe you’re leading one of them.

You likely didn’t get into ministry to watch your church plateau or, worse yet, decline. You wanted God to use you to reach new people with the good news. You wanted to see your church grow. You wanted to make an impact on your community that would outlast you.

But the odds are, it’s not happening. And the thing is, you’re not alone. We live in an era where 94% of churches aren’t growing or aren’t growing as fast as their communities. Barely 1 out of 20 churches are effectively reaching their neighbors for Jesus. Despite how desperately our communities need to hear and engage with the good news about Jesus, many churches are lost when it comes to reaching a postmodern culture.

Introducing the Church Growth Masterclass. As discussed on today’s podcast, the Masterclass is designed to help you jump start a stuck church, or help your growing church reach even more people. 

It’s everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow. You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.  

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The five keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

But hurry, launch pricing is only available until May 23rd at midnight.

Hurry while you can still get the best pricing.

Episode Links

94% of churches today are either not growing or not growing at the same rate as their community. Head over to today and discover why. Whether your church isn’t growing or your seeing growth, but hitting barriers, Church Growth Masterclass can help. Introductory pricing ends tomorrow, so act now to get the best deal.

Want to reach more people online? Pro Media Fire has the media solution that’s right for your church at Podcast listeners receive 10% off for life.

Jeremy MacDonald

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CNLP 184: Brian Houston on How to Attract the Top Leaders, Battling Back from Burnout and the Personal Habits and Rhythms that Help Him Thrive

CNLP 206: Les McKeown on Visionaries, Operators and Processors and How Each is Necessary in Thriving Organizations

Nancy: Story of Life Change

3 Insights from Carey

1. If you want to break through growth barriers, you have to be able to let go

Most organization are currently hitting growth barriers. 94% of churches aren’t growing, 80% of Churches are 200 or smaller, and 96% of all for-profit businesses never break the million dollar sales mark. Often times, the cause of this is because the visionary leader can’t let go. If the visionary can’t delegate, you will hit growth barriers and get stuck.

Carey has had to learn to let go of different decisions to the leaders under him. This is a really hard thing for most visionary leaders to do. But, if you want your organization to grow past those growth barriers, you have to be willing to let go and delegate. People will not be able to do things as well as you can right away, but if you continue to invest, you will find that there are people who can do those things even better than you can.

2. If you want a healthy organization with healthy leaders, cultivate a healthy culture

If you don’t engage the toxic people in your organization, they will eventually leave. The same thing happens with trolls and haters online. If you ignore their toxic comments, they will eventually leave. By focusing on the helpful, positive people you are working to build a healthy community and culture within your organization. A healthy system will squeeze out toxic people. A toxic system will squeeze out healthy people.

One helpful way to know if someone is toxic or not is to look at their track record. Usually, if they are toxic at your church or organization, they have been toxic to 5 others also. Carey always filtered opposition through 2 questions:

1. Is there a biblical argument for what they are saying?

2. Is this the kind of person we can build the future of the church on?

If the opposition didn’t pass through these filters, it wasn’t worth listening to.

3. When it comes to next-gen ministries, to get great results you must make a great investment

Next-gen ministry is one of the most critical ministries in a church. When you need hundreds of volunteers to serve well, you need someone who can lead that many volunteers well. That’s a very high level of skill and leadership. You need to fund that leader and program really well if you want to see good results.

Another key to building a great student ministry is creating and executing a shared strategy with the leader of those ministries. To keep a shared strategy healthy, someone in Next-Gen ministries should be a direct report to the senior leader. When you keep that relationship strong and continue to invest in them, you will continue to see positive results.

Quotes from Episode 266

A healthy system will squeeze out toxic people. A toxic system will squeeze out healthy people. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

You can't build the future of the church on a critic. When you're facing criticism, ask yourself, Is this the kind of person we can build the future of the church on? @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

You build great leaders, you don't buy them. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Small churches are like cats because they have nine lives and you can't kill them. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Cynicism and age are frequent companions. But they don't have to be. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 266

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

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

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

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Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Margaret Feinberg 

When she was in eigth grade, Margaret Feinberg’s teachers asked the class to write a story. While most students turned in four pages, Margaret turned in a 127 page book. Today, Margaret has sold over a million books and in this episode, we unpack how not being one of the cool kids shaped Margaret for the future, dissect the daily disciplines she uses to create content, why she spends 95% of her time as a writer marketing, and why never mixing business and pleasure has been so energizing for her.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 267.


  1. Stewart on June 22, 2019 at 10:23 am

    The stuff about toxic people was very timely for me this morning. It’s easy to know what the best response is. It’s another thing to have the self-discipline to do it. Where do you find the strength to do what needs to be done? And even if you can exercise self-control, how do you not carry it around with you? (this is probably more my challenge)

  2. Arago on May 25, 2019 at 1:46 am

    Its a very sad truth that 94% of churches today are either not growing or not growing at the same rate as their community and it has multiple reasons. It seems we should encourage people come back to god and churches again and attract their attention that they could trust churches again. The point you mentioned about engaging the toxic people in organizations, is a vital one that must be considered.

  3. Ryan on May 24, 2019 at 11:40 am

    I really appreciated this episode Carey, as it put ‘feet’ on a lot of insights you blog and speak about in your podcast. It’s just inspiring to hear such a great story and reminder that we need to get past our excuses and be willing to live and die for the call God has for us. Thank you for great content once again!

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