Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.
If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.
I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.
Part 1: The 6 Ingredients to Barrier-Proof Your Church:
Have you ever been stalled by a growth barrier?
There are few things church leaders face more frustrating than being stuck at a number—any number!
Whether the attendance lid is 10, 100, or 1,000, lack of growth can drive any leader crazy! As we unsuccessfully attempt to bust through the barrier, our frustration can grow exponentially. We quickly find ourselves questioning our approach, our church, and even our calling.
Unfortunately, barriers in church seem indiscriminate. Every church is susceptible, regardless of denomination, location, community demographic, or even budget. Worse, past growth or success doesn’t protect you from a barrier rearing its ugly head. To me, that’s the most frustrating part of barriers; they seem to always catch us unprepared.
When we bump into a growth barrier, we are often caught off guard. Often we’ve been leading well for a season and experiencing growth, but for some reason, our momentum has stopped and everything feels stagnate. We try what we’ve always done to move forward, but nothing we know to do is working. We eventually realize a harsh truth of barrier-busting:
“What got us here often won’t get us there.”
What we did in the past to get us where we are today most likely isn’t what’s needed to move us forward for tomorrow. What we did to reach 100 isn’t pushing us past 100. What we did to reach 1,000 isn’t working to get us past 1,000. And now we feel stuck. The barrier feels bigger than our ability or ideas. Without a clear indication of the problem, we resort to trial and error, which inevitably leads to more frustration, more people leaving, and more personal calling questions.
Maybe you’ve tried something like:
1. Begining a new service: You started a Saturday night service. You started a Sunday night service. You changed service times.
2. Changing style: In your worship service, you added something contemporary. Or blended. Or maybe you went the other way and tried something more traditional. You tried to personally change your style. You took off your tie and put on jeans, or maybe made the move from tucked to untucked. You changed your preaching. Your previous 5-points became 1-point with a bottom line that rhymed. But the barrier didn’t move.
3. Implementing outreach events: Like “Friend Day.” Or dinner on the grounds. You created more community events than weeks in the month, but to no avail. You feel like you simply entertained your own members at the expense of your budget and time.
4. Adding programs: There was softball registration. Then basketball. You added small groups and AWANA and several need-based offerings. There was something for seemingly everyone in your community—yet nobody new in the community seemed to notice or attend.
Now, your still stuck, not to mention completely exhausted from the unsuccessful new services, style changes, events, and programs. The only thing stretched more thinly than your leadership is your budget. And possibly your family.
Time for some good news: There is a secret-sauce to move your church forward again, and each ingredient plays a critical part in barrier-proofing your church. Today, I am going to tell you the 6 ingredients, and in the next few posts, we’ll analyze each one individually and make them intensely practical.
Start mixing your barrier-proofing sauce by:
From where you sit, this might sound too simplistic, but that’s more cause for relief than dismay. I’ll take a simplistic and successful solution over complicated steps any day. I know you feel the same. Sometimes the most obvious opportunities are the one’s we miss the most. But don’t forget, this is a sauce of six ingredients. If you leave something out, it won’t work to its full measure. And while it’s not complicated, the results of full-embracement will prove significant.
Let me close with this wish: I wish every church were full every Sunday. I wish the only reason a church slowed it’s growth curve was due to over-crowded auditoriums. And if that were the only real barrier, the funding and resources would be available to blow past this wall, as well.
Do you believe it’s possible for every church to grow and become barrier-proof? I do, and I dare you to give this sauce a try with everything you’ve got. If you’re willing to try, I’m absolutely willing to help.