What Will It Take To Double Our Attendance?
This is a question I’ve been asked several times—typically by Executive or Senior Pastors who want to know how they can prepare for significant growth. Sometimes it is in context of moving to permanent space—or opening a new building. “We really think it’s possible that we will double in the next couple of years—how can we prepare for the growth?”
During the first 15 years of my role as an Executive Pastor, we doubled (on average) every 3 years. So we were constantly thinking about how to prepare for the next surge of growth.
Here is some of what I told my staff during these seasons of growth:
1. Some of you won’t have as much access to the senior pastor. That has to be okay with you.
When the church first starts, the lead pastor is involved in everything. He or she is meeting with every new guest, has all the volunteers over to their house, and has one-on-one relationships with everyone on staff. But as the church grows, this has to change.
With every new phase of growth, the core leaders will need to make sacrifices.
When you grow from one service to two services—you give up the gift of being able to see all your friends every week. When your staff grows from three or four people to 20 or more—you give up access to the senior pastor.
Ask: Are you more committed to maintaining the tight-knit staff size and your proximity to the senior pastor? Or are you more committed to the church growing?
2. Some of you are doing okay as a leader in a church of 500—but that’s not going to cut it at 1000. You’ll need to be willing to admit it and let others lead.
Maybe you are already feeling the strains of growth. You wake up each day feeling like you are drowning, like you are over your head. This is sometimes natural. All of us have a lid.
You may have been great leading the small group ministry when there were 12 groups and you could connect with every leader. But it’s a whole different ballgame when there are 200 groups and it requires an organizational genius and systems giant to manage. That may not be you.
Don’t wait for your leaders to come to you to initiate the change.
Go ahead and initiate the conversation. Help transition yourself out so the next leader can come in and take your ministry area to the next level.
Ask: Are you more committed to keeping your position/title? Or are you more committed to the church growing?
3. You will have to be as willing to stop stuff as you are to start stuff.
We did less as a church of 5,000 than we did at 2,500. Many times we are convinced that larger churches should do more. But most churches that are growing have great clarity of vision. And with vision clarity comes focus. You know what you should be doing, and you don’t let peripheral things divert your focus. The most effective churches (and the fastest growing) are consistently asking if there is anything they should stop doing.
At my church, we once ended a midweek service that consistently had 900 people attending. Why? Because it was taking a ton of resources, and we could find no evidence that it was helping us make disciples.
Ask: What are we doing that takes time and energy and diverts our focus from what we should be doing?
4. You have to drive up the level of excellence.
When people walk up to a food trailer at the fair—they have one expectation of the level of excellence. When they walk into a McDonalds, it is different. When they walk into a Morton’s Steakhouse, it goes up to whole new level. The environment and level of service they will put up with and even enjoy at the fair, they wouldn’t tolerate at Morton’s.
In the same way, people have one expectation of a church of 200 that is different at 500 and different at 1,000. For example, when you walk into a church with 120 people, you don’t mind that the niece of the organist is singing a solo. She is cute, and you like the organist, and it makes it feel very familiar. But if that happened in a church of 2,000, you might be rightly alarmed.
Ask: What areas of our ministry are marginally excellent now but will be an embarrassment when we are twice our size?
I truly believe that churches, organizations, or businesses that begin to plan for growth and act twice their size will realize the growth they seek more quickly than those who don’t prepare. Take some time in your next staff meeting and consider, “What would need to change for us to be twice our size?” And then begin to make those changes.
How can your church or organization begin to prepare for growth?