6 Ingredients to Create Continuous Growth in Your Church

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!

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6 Strategies to Succeed in Portable Church (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 3)


Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment looking for ways to help ensure success.

This post in one sentence…
Six specific ways we have learned to succeed in a portable church environment.


As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. In the previous two posts, we discussed portable church challenges and opportunities. Let’s close this conversation by looking at the best ways to succeed in a portable context.


Any opportunity, regardless of size or potential, is worthless when not leveraged. In the world of portable church, this is certainly true. So many church leaders (and attendees) allow the challenges of portable church to overwhelm the possibilities. In some cases, I’ve even seen pastors lose their passion for the church in the face of portable challenges.

But being a portable church does not have to be a necessary evil while waiting for your own building. There are ways to make the portable church succeed, and in doing so, possibly influence more people toward Jesus than you could if you owned a building.

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6 Opportunities a Portable Church Provides (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 2)


Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment.

This post in one sentence…
If we can see through the challenges of portable church, we can discover the many opportunities portable provides.

As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. In the previous post, we talked about portable church challenges. But there are also opportunities, and ways to succeed.

Let’s look at some portable church opportunities now, and then we can evaluate how to succeed as a portable church in the next post.


When you are in the midst of set up and tear down every week, it’s easy to forget there are advantages and opportunities that come with the territory. They are not readily evident at 5:30 a.m. when trailers are being delivered or at 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon as the tear down process concludes, but they are there. And when we look close enough, they become evident.

Like most difficulties in life, though, the frustrations and challenges of portable church can mentally and physically outweigh the opportunities portable provides. So before you get too frustrated with your portable challenges, consider these opportunities:

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6 Challenges in Portable Church (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 1)


Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment.

This post in one sentence…
Finding a sense of permanence in a portable church can be challenging, but not impossible.

As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. Over the next few posts, we will talk about portable church – the challenges, opportunities, and ways to succeed.

Let’s start with your challenges…


Do you LOVE leading a church in a temporary facility?

Actually, I’m sure there are some pastors who do, but even they would readily admit portable church provides many unique challenges.


I’ve been a Lead Pastor for six years and prior served as a Family Ministry and Student Director for nearly four. That’s nearly a decade of professional Christianity, and most of these years have been spent in temporary facilities. Today, I lead a North Point Ministries campus location for Andy Stanley (Watermarke Church). We average roughly 5,000 people each week meeting in a school. We set up and tear down 40 classrooms, a gym, and a cafeteria every week.

All that to say, like many of you, I’m intimately familiar with portable church.

Before we consider the opportunities and paths to portable success, let’s identify some of the issues. Because leading in a portable facility presents many challenges.

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Why People Choose (Fill In The Blank) Over Attending Your Church

You’ve invited them to church over and over and they still refuse to come.

You’ve offered to buy them lunch after the service, but they still don’t show.

You know they need help with … marriage, parenting, purpose, grace, salvation, et. al. AND your church could be the answer, but they still have excuses to miss every Sunday.

You have tried everything. And so has the rest of your church – to no avail!

Why won’t your unchurched friends just come with you to church ONE TIME? Why won’t they accept your invitation just ONCE?

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, there are certainly some solutions for the most common reasons unchurched people resist church invitations.

First, why people resist church invitations:

I recently experienced one of the most prominent reasons to miss church. The last Sunday of the year, our church is closed. We take the day off to give our staff and volunteer base a day to relax, recharge, and spend with their family and friends. So as I woke up on 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I caught a glimpse of what most of the world experiences on a Sunday – rest. No alarm. No rushing to get ready. No yelling at the kids. I eased into the day, and it was great. Life is so busy. We are all over-committed. We are all tired. Most families are just as busy on Saturday as during the week. So Sunday becomes the ONE day to actually rest. To sleep in.

But that’s just one reason. Here are a few more you know to be true:

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The 17 Best Books I Read in 2014

I love to know what friends and peers are reading. I’m always on the lookout for great books to stretch my theology, skills, and leadership ability.

I’ve already made my reading list for 2015.

Here are the books I loved the most from 2014. Note these are my favorites… I’ll spare you the full list!

1. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

This is a must read for any organizational leader. In fact, just read anything Patrick Lencioni writes.

2. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

I LOVED this book. Loved, loved, LOVED it!

3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The conversation around habit loops and understand keystone habits is worth the read.

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25’ish Books I Hope to Read in 2015

What books are you planning to read in 2015?

It seems like a daunting task to create a list of books, conferences, and other learning opportunities, but as we begin the year together, it seems having a plan is the best (and only way) to ensure we take growth steps.

One thing: Before you look at my list, I’d love to know what YOU are planning to read. Even better, what have you read that is a MUST READ that I’m missing on my list?

Also, in case you’re wondering, here were my favorite books from 2014!

Here are the books I’m planning to read in 2015.

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Putting The Mess Back in the Manger

I love the Christmas story. It’s so beautifully poetic. We always read the Christmas story from Luke 2 to our kids on Christmas Eve. It’s part of our Christmas tradition. We eat homemade pizzas while we read. We love to drive around after dinner and see all the Christmas lights in our neighborhood, too. There’s a place nearby that somehow creates a light show set to music that you can hear on the FM dial in the car. No idea how that technology happens! We open presents from each other, then head to bed awaiting Santa (AKA, I’m up most of the night). It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

But while it’s full of wonder, twinkling lights, presents, and homemade pizza (at least in our house!), the story has lost a lot of its inherent messiness and dirt today. When we think of the sites, sounds, and smells of Christmas, twinkling lights, holiday tunes, and pine tree scents come to mind. But the sites, sounds, and smells we associate to Christmas today couldn’t be further from the first century Christmas experience.

Think about how the first Christmas came to be:

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How to Reach the Unchurched Right Now.

How can your church reach unchurched people right now?

That question is mission-critical as a church.

It stands to reason investigating churches already finding success with unchurched people would be a great start. After all, if they have cracked the code, we can just borrow the combination. So most church leaders set off to investigate and learn from the best. We attend services at other churches. We go to conferences. We go to more conferences. We read books. We read more books. We network our way into mentoring relationships with leaders we respect.

An in our investigations, we inevitably see massive production in church services. We experience the GREAT preaching. We take copious notes at each conference. Then we return to our church, under our leadership, with our resources, with our staff… and reality sets in. We think: “If I can’t do what they do, I’ll never reach who they reach.

And therein lies the issue with our investigation and learning exercises. Of course, learning from other successful churches is helpful and we should all prioritize learning from others, but relatively speaking, the only successful churches reaching the unchurched community we know about are mega-churches. We can study mega-churches all we want, but without the resources, leadership, and staff of a mega-church, replicating their execution is impossible.

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The Secret Sauce of Volunteer Recruitment and Retention.

How do you recruit and keep great volunteers?

If you have a growing church, no doubt this is a growing concern. At Watermarke, we have grown from around 500 to 5,000 in 5 years. And while that is certainly exciting, it comes with several challenges. Volunteer recruitment and retention is toward the top of the list. During our fastest growing years, keeping up with volunteer needs was an overwhelming task. If you were to look around our church today, however, you would see:

  1. Children’s ministries full of women AND men, most serving weekly, leading small groups and connecting with kids and their parents in meaningful relationships.
  2. Student ministry environments with men and women serving weekly who also attend multiple weekend retreats and summer camps with their students. Many use a portion of their vacation time to be there.
  3. Nearly as many MEN as women serving with children and students.
  4. Both churched and unchurched people helping park cars, seat guests, execute our services, and answer questions.
  5. In some areas, more volunteers than is required. In other areas, a wait-list to serve.
  6. An annual volunteer retention rate well over 90%.

As church leaders (or leaders of any volunteer-dependent organization), we know volunteer recruitment and retention is a top priority. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to capture the hearts of the disengaged while keeping the hearts of those already participating. It’s a challenge. But there is a solution.

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