Creating Continuous Church Growth Through Steps, Not Programs

This is Part 5 of a blog series on Creating 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.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: 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 barrier 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.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fourth ingredient:


The concept of “thinking steps, not programs” is ingrained in our ministry model. By nature we try to define where people are, where we want them to be, and how we can get them there. Programs and events don’t effectively achieve this goal. Easy, obvious, and logical steps, however, do.

As a church location of North Point Ministries, this serves as one of our Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. A simple Google search will provide you with more than enough information on this ministry model practice. In this post, I want to instead discuss why this approach is critical to barrier-proofing the church.

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Sunday School vs. Small Groups: Why You Must Choose

Do you love small groups?

Not necessarily YOUR small group, but the idea of small groups? If you’re a pastor, you might be required to answer “yes.” So here are a few, better questions:

Do you love your small group strategy?
Is your church excited about small groups?
Are people joining your small groups?

As a pastor, I recognize community is a vital element of spiritual growth, yet it can be difficult to convince the crowd at our church of this truth, and even more difficult to convert the disengaged into active group participants.

Here’s the reality every pastor understands all too well: Engaging people in small groups can be a battle. Unfortunately, many churches are their own worst enemy. While there might not be one secret sauce to moving people out of rows and into circles (that’s our church’s terminology), there are some definite ways to thwart and undermine your attempts.

Here’s a small group enemy short list:

1. Competing programs.

If you want to run Sunday School, that’s fine, but don’t expect Sunday School and small groups to thrive in tandem. I have a definite (and experienced-based opinion) on Sunday School. I’ll save that for later. But for now, let’s acknowledge and important, strategic fact: Sunday School creates competition for small groups. I know some churches attempt to create small group systems within their Sunday School context, but that’s not ultimately realistic – especially if authentic community matters.

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