Is there a reason why 90% of churches have less than 200 people attending? Most of us are painfully aware of this figure. The question is, “what can we do about it?” According to Bill Easum and Bil Cornelius, authors of the above titled book, there is much that we can do.
Here are ten action steps that I distilled from my reading of the book:
1. Examine my leadership: “Lead pastor, if your church is not growing, you are the stopping point. If your church is growing, you are the catalyst. It’s that simple” (9).
2. Seek to evaluate church’s leadership structure: “The rule of thumb we see in the thriving churches today is the less democracy in the church, the more authentic and effective church can be in advancing the kingdom of God…the Bible is void of any reference to Representative Democracy or Congregational rule and the pastors of these thriving churches are hamstrung by boards or committees that micromanage the day-to-day ministries of the church” (21).
3. Seek to clearly define role of staff vs. members: “In most dying or plateauing congregations the laity make most of the decisions, both missional and tactical” (29).
4. Prepare for the people God wants to send: “It is not good to ask God to double your attendance without preparing for the inflow of people. You have to expect it and prepare for it…If you’re not prepared for God to respond, why are you asking God to provide?” (43).
5. Do “Big Days”: Churches talk a lot about evangelism and reaching people but seldom make any big, outlandish push. What you need to do is focus all your efforts on one big, single day—you’ll see your church make jumps of 20-80 percent on Sunday because you focused everything you were doing on one day” (51).
6. Understand the relationship between the weekend worship service and small groups: “Most people think that small groups will help their church grow. That’s not usually the case. Small groups help to retain the people who are already coming to your church. For that reason you should never focus primarily on small groups and forget on reaching out to the community” (51).
7. Do “Big Days” on special days: “The best special days are secular holidays, like September 11, Fourth of July, or Super Bowl Sunday, Christmas, and Easter” (55).
8. Staff wisely: “In studying many thriving churches we’ve noticed there is a logical progression in adding staff. The first paid staff person to hire is a worship leader. Failure at this point usually results in a small congregation” (61).
9. Use your time where it will yield greatest results: “Sometimes pastors are so busy writing messages that they have no energy or time left to focus on strategic pursuits like adding a service or staff member or advertising or getting out among the public. Instead of spending so much time in the office, we recommend buying another pastor’s sermon series, whoever’s teaching you happen to like, and teach his or her series for a month” (70).
10. Emphasize the importance of service within the “service”: “Great service allows guests to feel at home and comfortable in their surroundings, and that enables them to pay attention to your message. We don’t need to change our content. God’s word doesn’t need improving. The problem is the people who are supposed to hear the good news aren’t there because the week before no one said “hi” to them when they visited, the child care stunk or wasn’t even provided, the music was terrible, and the place looked like a wreck” (94).