With growth, we need to remember a few things. Everything should be based in prayer. Soak the idea in prayer. Why? Because you’re there for Christ. We want to grow in honor of Christ. Thus, we should consult God. I have to admit, after some prayer, you might still face stress. Let me lay down a few things to help you relax. Things which should be your goal, and will help your church grow as an effect. Yup, we will talk about some promotional things, but it starts with a genuine community. Because that’s the real goal, and the most effective way to have long-term health and small church growth.
Genuine Community (Not Manipulation)
Megachurches throughout the United States (and some elsewhere in the world) manipulate thousands while preaching a false gospel. The prosperity gospel they preach has herded too many into a trap. They’re often, unknowingly, to help wolves in sheep’s clothing hoard wealth. This is NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not what the community believers ought to have should look like.
But we should be known by our love for one another. Yes, we will give, but not for flashy, self-centered reasons. A church is a hospital for the broken. A place for the eternal family to gather and celebrate the life we’re called to in Christ. This is the first and most important type of growth. Paul often focused on ministering to the body first, then preaching to unbelievers.
So growth in a small church should start with maturity in Christ. Here’s how.
Any church needs to understand and love their vision. Growing together in hunger to walk in that vision is a foundation for small church growth. If vision is weak, it won’t matter how many new people come through the door. They won’t stay. Pure, bible-based purpose to love Christ and pursue holiness is the vision. You’ll see the fruit of that in loving one another.
Love for One Another
If maturity is being cultivated by your church, you’ll see it in a few ways. We know the love passage in Corinthians. You’ll see that patience with trouble and in tribulation. You’ll see affection for one another growing. True and lasting friendships will form. And care for the community around will arise. That all means you’re heading in the right direction. Love for one another is a primary marker of a healthy church, and a healthy church will grow.
Basement Church Growth
A church in Virginia started just a few years ago in a basement. It was an idea from one, which infected a close circle of friends. They met together, talked about doctrine while fasting, and planted a community church. From the five who met, then came a consistent forty that first year. They met in a basement.
At first, PC Church in Lynchburg just had some friends come every week. But the preaching was good. And the friendships grew. They all wanted to be there. It felt like home, not like they had to escape at the end of service.
Soon people started hearing about it. They saw their love for one another, their service to those around, and some others joined. Brokenness was healed there. It started with a genuine community. Genuine community meant love for one another. That grew into service. Service grew opportunities. And a small basement church had unbelievable growth in maturity and stability. Even enough to raise money for surgery for someone who couldn’t afford it.
The natural outpour of care for someone is to serve them. It just happens. Sometimes people need help. The most likely people to help are the ones filled with love for that person. If your mom gets sick, and your dad can’t help, who is the most likely to take care of them? You and their neighbors. So if a local community breaks in tragedy,who will serve to help? Probably the small, community-based church who cares.
Service, and the desire to serve, is a mark of compassion. As the church grows in compassion, let them serve. That service does two things. For one, it helps live out the love of Christ we’re supposed to. For two, it opens up the opportunity to connect.
Opportunity and Connection
The most obvious opportunity opening up from service is a chance to preach the gospel. You'll get to speak with an unbeliever, and invite them to church. Then your numbers grow by one, and that will be the cycle. Serve, and invite, and find those who will believe.
But there is another opportunity which opens up. An opportunity to collaborate, which will amplify everything you’re church is doing. Through that, even your service grows. Here’s what that means.
Sometimes a small church only has so much manpower to serve. Sometimes outside help is necessary. But the more people you serve, the more opportunity for partnerships you can take hold of. Between schools, local ministries, and even some commercial or partnerships will come about. Here are some examples.
Yeah, construction is one service. But so are block parties and concerts. You can find artists and DJs who will rally to help you and engage the community. A relationship is formed, and your church can serve more with more impact and in other ways. Prayer walks for the city, either for a national tragedy or for personal growth, is a great event you can host. People will see your church marching through your city and praying. They’ll be curious, and you’ll be ready to explain and invite them out for more. But sometimes collaboration isn’t just for a single day.
Sometimes collaboration might become more severe than that. Sometimes a small church grows because they merge with another ministry. It happens all the time. A church body and pastoral staff doubles. They find their visions align and feel they can better serve each other and the city if they merge. It’s a good thing. It's a hard thing, true. Some may even leave because of it. But in the long run, your church could become more stable and grow both in numbers and passion. A merger helps your city-wide network grow too.
Partnerships with Local Services
That basement church mentioned above, they only had so much manpower. Until they merged with another church. Not only did the leadership team and congregation double, but they also had a few new ministries they could serve through. A local ministry called Lighthouse partnered with this merged church. They offered resources in exchange for service. The church served in a few ways. They helped cook for those who had no food. They helped educate those who dropped out of school. And they helped find jobs for those who couldn’t. Their body grew.
But when a storm ravaged their city, something else happened. Because of the resources, Lighthouse had, the church was able to help clean and rebuild the city. Respect, gratitude, and curiosity for the church grew. They were prepared for that growth because of their local partners.
To be clear, partnerships alone won’t cut it. People want to see a name, or logo. So couple these partnerships with some t-shirts. Slap your church name on the shirts, and let the world know which church is caring for them.
Along with the shirts, let’s run through some more traditional strategies. They're all ones you can and should be implementing for growth.
Any kid willing to serve can post updates on Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter. Or really, anyone with a smartphone. Through social media, you'll post pictures of service projects and thank those involved. It spreads the reach of your church. And with social media, group chats can form for more immediate help and prayer. Plus, it’s another avenue for outreach.
Live streams aren’t exactly the traditional sense of outreach, but it’s helpful. Posting service after you stream it live is helpful too. People can check out the vibe of the church and decide to visit for one. For two, it lets those traveling keep up-to-date on the series.
As your church grows, see who works what jobs and where. If someone owns a coffee shop, for example, ask if you can run a small group there and hang a banner in the shop. The same with any other businesses.
Invitations and Evangelism
The final tactic is the same as it has been for a couple of thousand years. Go to the ends of the Earth preaching. Spread the gospel. Be joyful to be a child of God and talk about Him. Invite people out. Remember you’re there to walk with Him and celebrate Him with each other. Simply invite more people to do just that.
Go and Grow
Remember your roots. Why do you want growth? It ought to be for more community, more maturity, and not only more money. But with more genuine community, people will give more (both time and money). More opportunities will arise. The church will grow healthy, not big and broken. But to offer up an easy way to give when the new members are ready, you might want to check out NewFire Giving software.