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Church Growth: 5 Strategies for Thriving in 2017

When you dream about your church’s future, you’re not thinking about having a church that’s simply existing—you imagine a flourishing church. You want to see church growth. You want to see people discovering Jesus, maturing, and touching the lives of others.

You might wonder exactly how your church can flourish, so we’ve put together a list of five things that can really help you thrive this year.

1. Become a force for good in your community

It’s easy to think of your church as a destination. A lot of money and energy is spent thinking of ways to make sanctuaries, sermons, and programs more welcoming to people who might visit. But many growing churches will tell you that the key to church growth lies in serving and touching lives in their communities.

This is more than a trick to increase your attendance. It’s a way to infuse your church with a sense of mission while treating people in your community the way that God would like to see them treated. When you’re able to do those two things, you’ll find that growth becomes a natural byproduct.

Meet with your city council, police department, fire department, or local schools and find out what kinds of needs are out there. Then brainstorm with your leadership team about ways you can help meet those needs. You’re not looking for one-off projects: You want to find ways to serve regularly and build relationships in your community.

2. Have the giving conversation (and have it often)

As it stands, only about five percent of churchgoers give ten percent or more of their income to the church. That’s not good news, but it is entirely possible to raise that percentage in your church—and you need to if you really want to thrive this year.

True generosity is difficult to instill in people, so one of the most important things you can do is find ways to have the giving conversation as often as possible. This might include thinking about ways to include it in more sermon series, membership classes, and small groups. People might balk at first, but in the long run, you will shape your church’s DNA by finding ways to come back to this conversation.

(Pro-tip: If you’re using our tools, we are able to help your congregation embrace giving via mobile app—and giving regularly. We champion a set-it-and-forget-it approach to giving. Simple, yes, but it can change everything.)

3. Grow and use an email list

Church growth begins with making connections. Committed church members aren’t made after one or two interactions. You need to be able to build a relationship with them, and you can’t leave the burden on them to foster this relationship. This means that you need to communicate with them.

Email is a powerful way to do this.

With an email list, you build a non-invasive tool for interacting with people regularly. And provided you don’t burn that bridge by emailing too often or sending them content they don’t want, you have an opportunity to draw them back into your church and set them up to become active and committed members.

With very little effort and know-how, you can even set up a series of emails that you send to people when they’re added to the list. These emails could include:

  • Your goals and mission
  • Ministry and volunteer opportunities
  • Information about various church ministries
  • Facts about staff members

4. Prioritize getting people’s information

For church growth, it’s of the utmost importance that you collect people’s contact information. This can’t be a passive discipline—it needs to be your number-one goal. Without securing people’s contact information, you’re simply hoping that you’re giving a good enough first impression to make people return. Once you have a way to contact them again, you have the ability to begin building that important connection.

As we said earlier, you want to grow an email list, so make email capture the number one priority when gathering contact info. People are fairly comfortable giving out an email address, even when they might be hesitant to give out their home address. Once you’ve zeroed in emails as your most coveted contact information, you can tailor your contact cards to make them easier to fill out. The fewer fields people have to fill out, the more completed forms you’ll receive.

Consider ways to incentivize filling them out. Some churches have gone so far as to promise a $5 donation to local charities for every contact card they get. You can also consider a gift basket or coffee cup for visitors who turn their cards in.

5. Create a clear path that turns visitors into members

What’s your plan for turning a visitor into a member? Do you have one? I don’t mean a general, meandering idea of how someone goes from visiting your church to becoming a member. I’m asking what your church’s steps are to make someone a member, and how you plan to get people through the steps.

Too many churches are more reactive than proactive when it comes to getting people involved. They’re waiting for visitors to initiate every step of the relationship. It’s a huge mistake. You need to have a firm grasp on how to move people through the process, and you need to have team members in place to help get people to the next step.

While this process needs to be unique to your church, here’s a sample workflow to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Get their contact information.
  • Meet with them to find out what their interests are.
  • Suggest volunteer opportunities and introduce them to others with similar interests in the church.
  • Send the first in your series of introductory emails.
  • Send an email on Friday giving a teaser for the following Sunday sermon and invite them back.
  • On their second visit, offer to take them to lunch where you can get to know them, share your vision for the church, and help them imagine how they might be part of that vision.

Whatever your process for assimilation, it needs to be reproducible and the staff needs to understand how it works. Once you have something concrete in place, you can retool until it works seamlessly.

Intentionality Is the Key to Church Growth

As you can see, the key to becoming a thriving church is to make specific plans and follow them through. There shouldn’t be a lot of stuff happening regularly that lacks an intentional process. Once you begin creating some adaptive procedures around these things, you’ll be surprised by how naturally growth begins to occur.

Most churches don’t mean to make certain mistakes that can affect their growth, but many churches do. In fact, ministries tend to be very intentional about spurring growth through various efforts but still fall into the trap of 5 common, growth-killing errors. To discover the errors you should avoid, download the free ebook, 5 Bad Habits That Kill Church Growth (And How To Break Them), today!