3 Steps To Breaking The Growth Barriers In Your Church

IMG_2578Every pastor that I have ever spoke with wants to grow their church. If they didn’t, they probably shouldn’t be the pastor at the church.

Growth is something that everyone wants, but not everyone experiences.

Now, growth in church is always a touchy subject. Here is what I am not saying in this post:

  • I am not criticizing small churches – I am not at all suggesting this. I have been a part of smaller churches, and have loved it and seen God do incredible things. I also think that some pastors are built and created to pastor smaller churches. I also believe that the city in which the church resides is a factor so I am not criticizing small churches.
  • I am not saying the favor of God is not at play – When you talk about growth, you always have to remember that God’s hand of favor is in play. I believe this and above anything else you read, you should want this. Sometimes He grows our churches in spite of our behaviors.
  • I am not saying that numbers are everything – This is the never-ending debate, and I do not plan to solve it, but in my experience, smaller churches are usually the ones saying “numbers aren’t everything.” Sure, they are not, but numbers can indicate health and we should track people because every person has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.

Growth barriers are common and change as you face new barriers. For example, what got your church to 200 won’t get your church to 400.

As you grow, things change and the way that we do ministry changes.

The message never changes, but the methods have to if we intend to continue reaching people with the message.

1. As You Grow, Systems Must Become The Norm 

Think back to when you were small, like 100 or less in your church. Do you remember, you could text every guest every week. You could manage things without hardly any systems.

As you grow, systems must improve. Weekly reports must become regular. The path to connecting people must become crystal clear and easy to navigate. The way that you do hospitality and first impressions must be manageable. The way that you check in kids and follow-up with kids must be clear. Security must be done well. Everything that you do at your church must have a system.

Many struggle in this phase, because the larger your church gets, the more business minded it must become. This is uncomfortable for many, because for years, the church did not want to function like a business.

Businesses have systems and a way of doing business. Churches must have clear systems if they want to grow.

Some churches do not grow because they are afraid of implementing systems in fear of losing the personal connection that small churches have.

2. As You Grow, You Must Evaluate Everyone And Everything

As I research and speak with growing churches, there is a common theme found in them and it is regular evaluations among their leaders.

For example, if the kids ministry is not being managed with organization, professionalism, and growth, an evaluation should occur.

If a church is not capturing guests, evaluation needs to happen.

What you want to duplicate, you must evaluate.

Small churches tend to keep leaders in positions longer than they probably should, because we are afraid of having the difficult conversation that could hurt a family but potentially help your church cross a growth barrier.

If you want to stay at 300 or less, don’t evaluate much. If you want to grow further than 300, you must evaluate everything and everyone. Call out what needs to be changed and if it doesn’t get better, you may have to let go of an employee or move the employee to a different department in order to move past the growth barrier.

3. As You Grow, You Must Engage As Many People As Possible

Carey Nieuwhof has been known for saying that attractional is not the new driver of attendance, engagement is. I totally agree with him.

If you want to grow, spend a lot of time, resources, and money on your connections process.

You need to be creative and try to engage as many people as you can to continue to push through the growth barrier that your church is focusing.

If you don’t want to get beyond 200 in weekly attendance, keep the launch team the way it is and don’t add anyone. If you want to continue to grow, you must be constantly adding people to groups, teams, and owners of your ministry. Engage them and make them a part of the community at your church or they likely will fall out of the community.

What are you doing to push through the growth barriers at your church? 


4 Tips For Making Multi-Site Work

blog pic - multisiteIn 2014, our church launched its second location. Our church has been in the city of Jacksonville for over 100 years, and we have always had a vision of reaching the entire city.

We felt that in order to continue with the vision of reaching our city in the modern church context, we must embrace multi site church.

So, we set out on this journey and launched a campus about 15 miles away in a growing part of our city. The campus would start in a portable facility, an elementary school.

We are four years in and preparing to launch another campus. I wanted to share a few tips on making multi-site church work from our experience:

1. Identify The Model Your Church Wants

Multi-site is awesome, but there are many different ways to do multi-site.

Are you going to have live preaching from your campus pastors or are you going to be a video venue.

Are all campuses going to be identical?

Are you doing multi-site with the eventual goal of making the church autonomous.

How aligned will your teams be?

Will you have a central support model or will your campus leaders have freedom to do what they want?

How big do you intend to launch in terms of gear? Are you going to launch big or small?

These are just a few of the different ways that churches are doing multi-site. Lifechurch with Groeschel does it differently than the Summit Church with J.D. Greear. Elevation Church with Furtick does it differently than Andy Stanley at North Point.

Everyone seems to do multi-site church differently.

If you want to be successful, find out your multi-site model early and go for it.

2. Be Flexible 

Piggybacking on point number #1, I want you to understand that the multi-site model that you intend to embrace may not work for you.

So you start with the plan of being a video venue, and after the first three or four months, it is not working.

How are you going to handle that? Are you going to stick with it and power through it, or are you willing to be flexible.

For us, we have had to be flexible in our model shift.

Some of the original model that we launched with looks a tad different four years later and that is okay.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible.

3. Identify Your Volunteer Structure Early

As you add services, changing structure becomes more and more difficult.

For example, if you set a structure of attending one service a week and serving in that same service, it is very difficult to change gears and ask people to serve one and attend one.

That is the dilemma that we are currently in.

It is much easier to launch a certain way than to change something four years in.

Your people are used to a structure and changing it becomes difficult.

Make decisions when you launch that are steps to where you want to be in five years.

4. Allow Engagement To Drive Your Attendance

In the past, attractional church drove attendance. So if you add flashy lights, super contemporary music, and a casual environment, they will come.

Well, everyone is doing all of those things in churches everywhere today. So doing those things does not guarantee that they will come.

Instead, engagement is the current driver of attendance. If you want people to come to your church, engage them.

This means that you must have a killer connections team that can engage people quickly after their first visit.

This means that you have to consistently connect people to volunteer teams.

This means that you have to consistently call people out of rows and into circles (small groups).

I am not suggesting that you do not invest in production, but I am saying that production isn’t driving attendance. Engagement is.

Let me put it to you this way, your production can be great and your attendance not be growing. It is impossible to be engaging your new people and not be growing.

Engagement drives attendance.

Recognize it, and engage as many people as you possibly can. Grow your launch team and add more people to the team.

Are you in a multi-site model? If so, I would love to know what you have learned in your experience. Comment below and join the conversation.

Leaders: Stop Comparing Yourself With Others!

blog pic - stop comparing yourself to othersIf I could give one piece of advice for all leaders, it is this: BE YOURSELF!

Be you.

Stop trying to be someone else. Stop comparing yourself with everyone else. Just be you. Be the very best version of you that you possibly can be.

I love technology, but one negative result of the rise of technology is that it is so easy to see the success of others and compare yourself with them. You begin to wonder what is different about them that made them so successful.

You then start to try to be them in how you dress, how you act, how you talk, how you speak, and in how you lead.

You see Levi Lusko, and you wish that you could speak in tweetable quotes like he can.

You see Steven Furtick, and you wish that you could dress like him and have a worship team that is on point as his team is.

You see Craig Groeschel, and you wish you could pastor a church as large as his.

You see Andy Stanley, and you wish that you were as smooth as he is when he communicates.

You see Tim Keller, and you wish that you could expound on a passage of Scripture like he can.

You see organizations, and you wish you had as many employees that they do.

Then, what happens? You begin to compare yourself with others. You begin to use them as the measure for success. You begin to wonder what is wrong with you and what is right with them.

Listen, when you compare yourself with others, you lose every time!

You either compare yourself with others and fill up with pride because you came out on top or you compare yourself with others and begin to look down on yourself, because you are not near as successful as the person you are comparing yourself to.

You see, when you compare, you lose either way.

So, how do we navigate through this digital age without getting caught in the comparison trap?

1. Have a Healthy View Of Yourself 

God made you in the image of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in. Whether you are a pastor of a small congregation or a large congregation, you are made in the image of Jesus Christ.

He has loved you.

He has forgiven you.

He thinks the world of you.

He has created you perfectly just the way you are.

When I have a healthy view of myself, it means that I do not belittle myself but I also don’t think of myself too highly, either.

There is a balance between thinking of yourself too high or to low.

Don’t be cocky, but don’t cut yourself short either. You are pretty awesome 🙂

Find that balance and stay there.

2. Be Content Where You Are

I am not suggesting you refuse to grow or just stay comfortable with where you are.

Contentment doesn’t mean you settle. It just means that you are happy where you are.

We should be content with wherever life takes us.

If your organization only has two employees, be content.

If your church only has 200 people, be content.

If you only have two musicians at your church, be content.

We tend to think that the grass is greener at every other place than our own.

Listen, the grass is not always greener in the other church or organization. The grass is greener where it is getting watered the most so water your own grass.

Make where you are the very best that it possibly can be until you get moved somewhere else.

3. Recognize That What Works Somewhere Else May Not Work For You

It is easy for me to hear a sermon from someone and just assume that the idea or message will work for me and the people who I speak to.

It is easy to hear an idea and just assume that if it worked for someone else, it will work for us as well.

That is not always the case. Sometimes, ideas and talks are universal, but not every time.

Not every good idea works everywhere.

Not every sermon is a home run in every congregation.

It is okay to learn from others, but don’t lose sight of the filter that you have. Filter everything through who you are as a leader and through what type of organization you are in recognizing that not everything is going to work where you are.

What worked for another leader may not fit who you were created to be.

Your organization needs the very best version of you that you can possibly be. Don’t waste their time by trying to be the very best version of someone else. 


5 Tips For Handling Discouragement In Leadership

blog pic - discouragementWhen you sign up to be a leader, you also sign up to experience some seasons of discouragement.

It comes with the territory.

Not everyone will like your decisions and will let you know it….sometimes in “not so nice ways.”

You will lose people. Some because they don’t care for you as their leader and some because you have to let them go.

You will be frustrated at times with an employee’s performance and cannot express your frustration to your closest friends, because they are on the team with you. There is oftentimes loneliness at the top.

You will feel more pressure to perform at the highest level than anyone else on the team at times.

You will get criticized.

You get the point. All of these things will happen to you in leadership and it can breed discouragement.

Discouragement is…




And it comes out of no where. Usually after you have success. That is why Craig Groeschel says, “The greatest threat to future success is current success.”

With discouragement being so real and likely, how can we combat and manage the ebbs and flows of discouragement? Glad you asked, here are four tips for battling the discouragement you will face in leadership…

1. Learn To Lead Yourself Well

The best way to battle discouragement is by leading yourself.

You cannot properly lead others until you have learned how to lead yourself.

I think oftentimes the reason that leaders are so discouraged is because they are trying to lead others to a place they have not even gone themselves.

That can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging.

Lead yourself spiritually. Be disciplined. Have a daily time in God’s Word. Spend time in prayer every day. Find ways to be generous. Serve your neighbor.

Lead yourself emotionally. Control your feelings. Have a mentor you can talk to. Seek counsel.

Lead yourself relationally. Be your family before your job. Know your priorities. Go on dates with your wife even when you are slammed at work. Get down on the floor and play with your kids even if you have a massive project at work to do.

Lead yourself physically. Exercise. Eat healthy. Go to the doctor. Take care of yourself. Wear a fit bit to hold you accountable each day.

Lead yourself well. It is the best way to combat the feelings of discouragement in your life.

2. Find An Experienced, But Neutral Mentor 

A mentor is more than a friend. A mentor is someone who is placed in your life to help you get better. A friend is placed in your life to be your friend.

A mentor is someone who you ask to sharpen you.

A mentor has your best interest in mind and is seeking to get you to the next level. Mentors are there to help you achieve the goals you have set in your life.

You need a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor.

You never outgrow the need to be mentored.

Sometimes when you are discouraged, a mentor (someone not tied to your organization in any way) can lift you up. They can give you perspective. They may tell you that you are wrong. They may tell you that you are 100% right, and give you advice on how to handle your frustration.

Bottom line, you need someone who you can go to when you are discouraged. Someone who can give you the right perspective.

3. Get Some Rest 

I think one of the best things that leaders can do is to take a nap every now and then.


Leaders need rest.

I have read so many blogs and books that make me feel guilty for not getting up at 4:00 am in the morning to work on my latest project.

Listen, I do not get up that early, and I don’t feel bad about it.

I am not suggesting that you become lazy, but leaders need rest. I feel great after a 30 minute power nap. I feel great after a solid night’s sleep.

Okay, since you are concerned with my bedtime habits. I usually go to bed around 11:00 pm and get up at 5:15 am.

But, I take a nap some days because I need rest. I need it to lead better. I need it to clear my head.

I need it when i am discouraged.

4. Schedule Time Away From Work 

I am unsure where the “leaders work harder and longer than anyone else” ideology came from. I am unsure who started it, but I wish I did so that I could correct them.

Listen, I am all for hard work. I am all for long work. Trust me, I hit deadlines. Sometimes, my work requires late nights or long days.

But, if I am going to battle discouragement that comes with being in leadership, I must schedule some time away from work. Time with friends. Time on a hobby. Time with myself. Time to reflect, and time to get my mind off of things.

5. Regularly Spend Time De-Cluttering Your Life

I love this one. I spend a lot of time on this one. Not because I have mastered it, but because I was born O.C.D. I love order. I love organizing. I love cleaning and de-cluttering things.

If you want to battle discouragement, get rid of things every now and then. Clear the piles.

Clean out your house. Your closet. Your office. Clear your desk. Spend an afternoon cleaning out your inbox.

It feels so stinking good.

I do want to add one more thought. If you are feeling discouraged and possibly even depressed, get help! Call someone. Don’t let it boil inside of you. Don’t keep it to yourself. Get the help that you need so that you can be the best person that you can be.

4 Reminders For Church Leaders To Experience Longevity

blog pic - longevitySo you work in a church? Great, but you have probably experienced seasons of discouragement that make you want to quit.

Being a church leader is like many jobs in that they are stressful, but it is a different type of stress.

You cannot walk away from the stress. You take it home with you and see the people who give you stress on the weekends.

You are called to ministry so you have an emotional and spiritual connection that is deep.

Your life is centered around the church.

You are alone.

There is pressure to live up to a high standard.

Church leadership is stressful (You get the point)!

So, how do you make it long-term in church leadership. How do you become a lifer in church leadership? Here are four reminders that should serve as a foundation for you to pursue longevity in church leadership.

1. Remember That Ministry Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint. 

I am not a big runner. I wish I was. I run a few miles a week, and I am trying to grow that each week. I have run two 5K’s with my daughter this year, and hope I can run several more.

A 5K is one thing, but a marathon is on another level. That is 26.2 miles. That takes well over 3 hours to complete at an average pace.

Training for a marathon requires endurance. You will experience pain, frustration, exhaustion, and weariness.

You will experience all of those feelings when training for a marathon.

Ministry is not much different (wow, this is encouraging)!

You will experience pain, frustration, exhaustion, and weariness. It is a part of the territory of working directly with people day in and day out.

There is pain when someone leaves your church. It is hard to not take it personal.

There is frustration when you have vision, ideas, and strategy that the people who pay your pay check do not agree with.

There is exhaustion when you are asking to work 80-90 hours a week, because people need you at times that don’t fall under your 8 to 5 job.

There is weariness when you work and you feel like you are not making much progress.

But think back to the marathon analogy.

Marathon’s leave you with joy, accomplishment, excitement, and pride.

Ministry does the same if you stick with it. Power through the pain and one day you will experience joy.

Power through the frustration and one day you will experience accomplishment.

Power through the exhaustion and one day you will experience excitement.

Power through the weariness and one day you will be proud of your willingness to stick with it.

If you want to make it long-term, you cannot expect quick results. You have to remember that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.

2. The Grass Is Greener Where It Gets Watered 

We all know the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side.

This. Is. Not. True.

Church leaders tend to think that the church down the street always looks better than their’s.

The church that you saw on church staffing dot-com is better than the church God has called you for today.

We think that the church down the street that averages double the attendance that our church does must be better than ours.

The church with the larger facility is better than ours.

Listen, going to another church won’t fix the problems you face, it will create new problems for you to face.

Water your own grass.

Set vision where you are at now. Strengthen relationships where you are at now. Pray for contentment with where you are at now.

Remember that longevity can happen if you water your own grass and stop comparing your church to every other church around you.

When you compare, you lose.

3. You Never Outgrow Learning 

Nothing is more frustrating than someone who holds the office of a leader but has stopped learning.

When you stop learning, you stop leading.

It is that simple.

The best leaders never outgrow their desire to learn.

Read. Ask questions. Study what other churches are doing. Listen to the ideas of the leaders around you.

Some of the best ideas your church will act on may not be your ideas, and that is okay.

4. Church Leadership Is Servant Leadership 

Jesus did not teach us about a bully type leadership. He spoke and modeled servant leadership.

He says if you want to be first, be last.

Listen, I have never met a church leader who only does exactly what is on their job description.

There is always little things that will be asked of you that were not written on your job description.

If you only do exactly what is on your job description, you will get frustrated and leave. The people you lead will also get frustrated with you.

Hold the door for the secretary carrying boxes.

Help out on Friday with the worship guides if the team is running around.

Pick up chairs. Show up at set up from time to time.

Meet with someone who is begging for your time every now and then.

These random things that come up in church leadership may not be written on your job description, but they should be written on your heart.

The first will not be first in the kingdom of God. The first will be last, but the last will be first.

Be last. Be a servant. Serve your people and work hard.

I have been in full-time church leadership for 12 years. I hope that continues.

How long have you been in full-time church leadership?


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