What Makes a Church Grow?

May 1, 2007 by

Wanting your church to grow isn’t enough. You have to take intentional action to make it happen. (Disclaimer: Yes, God makes it grow, not us. But God uses us to make it grow–by inviting our neighbors, living out our faith, etc. OK? Put the stones down.) And now we have stats to back that up. The Facts on Growth report from Hartford Seminary explores key factors in making a church grow. And it comes down to planning for growth. Among the common factors for churches that have grown:

  • Multiple services.
  • Launching or maintaining a web site in the past year.
  • Racial diversity.
  • Involving children in worship.
  • Avoiding major conflict.

It’s important to note that none of these are clear paths to bringing more people into your church to hear about Jesus. They’re all indicators that these are mission-minded churches doing what it takes to draw people in. And as we all know, the number of butts in pews means nothing if you’re not also seeing Christ in hearts. (link via Turtle Interactive, which also shares some best practices for church web sites)

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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24 Responses to “What Makes a Church Grow?”

  • Mean Dean
    May 1, 2007

    This is a trick question, right?


    Yeah, I suppose I could spend paragraphs justifying that simple answer, but I’m pretty sure the audience here is familiar with which Scriptural concepts I infer with this singe word answer.

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  • Paul Loeffler
    May 1, 2007

    What does it mean to “avoid major conflict?” What are some suggestions for encouraging racial diversity in a community that is about 90% caucasian? Discipleship is definitely a factor in this, but that is by no means the only factor in bringing in new people to hear the Gospel.

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  • Paul
    May 1, 2007

    Interesting that growth is always assumed to be about the number of people and not personal spiritual growth.

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    • Tim
      September 7, 2010

      Growth in the number of people can be evidence of personal spiritual growth. The character of God is inherently attractive to people. If we as a community reflect God’s character, people who visit will be inherently attracted to our community.

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  • Gloria
    May 1, 2007

    I’m interested in the website bit there.
    What is it *about* the website that’s important.
    We’ve had a website for years now but it’s not properly maintained.

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  • brandon
    May 1, 2007

    I hate the idea of, “we should strive for racial diversity”. I think you should be a reflection of your community. period.
    Why is it that we feel that we need to be a 50/50 blend of black/white or whatever to be doing what’s right? If the makeup of the church, looks like the makeup of the community, then I think you are doing fine.

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  • mike hosey
    May 1, 2007

    We should be careful with how we interpret or operationalize “avoiding major conflict.” Too often, I think this idea is practiced as, “don’t teach doctrine of any kind unless its warm and fuzzy and paints God as a big Santa Clause or teddy bear.” The historic truths of Christianity can be quite severe at times, and they certainly can be offensive and divisive.”

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  • Mean Dean
    May 1, 2007

    Again – I would think if we have discipleship squared away, these other issues would fall into place.
    Let’s take avoiding major conflict for instance. With a more family-like structure of a discipleship approach – people should be able voice and vent emotions and feelings to the benefit of the whole.
    Then again, seeing as how discipleship has been co-opted by cultish and cult-like thinking … perhaps it’s not so simple?

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  • Ryan
    May 1, 2007

    Let’s not forget that the number of people through the door means more people getting to here the gospel of hope…let’s not condescend by throwing in an either/or with growth in spiritual terms or in people terms.
    I read Acts and see numbers everywhere…church done right attracts people.

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  • Darren
    May 1, 2007

    The cry about spiritual growth is often from pastors who can’t grow their church numerically. Trust me, I’ve been there. This thread is specifically about numerical growth. Jesus said he’d build his church. Let’s have a bit of balance about us and go for both kinds of growth. We’re ripping ourselves off and our churches if we don’t.

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  • RC of strangeculture
    May 1, 2007

    I love the avoid conflict bullet.
    :-) this is certainly not one that normally get’s thrown into the mix…but yes, folks…conflict over how the potluck assignments are divided doesn’t tend to grow a church.

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    May 2, 2007

    Gloria, if you check out the article they make the claim that it’s not simply having a web site, it’s actively launching one or maintaining one–which will often show that you’re thinking about how to reach people and introduce them to your church. And if you think about those things, you’re more likely to do them right.
    Lots of churches have web sites, but having one just to have one doesn’t cut it. You need the proper motivation.

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  • Cynthia
    May 2, 2007

    Gloria, I’d like to add to what Kevin says above. Having a website is totally expected by people these days. Not having one would be like being “unlisted”. Today, and even more so in the future, the sequence of seeking out information about almost anything is: click, call then come.
    Furthermore, Web 2.0 (since you’re a blogger) applications will empower sites with blogs, photo archives, podcasts, etc. This will mean they are much more than the traditional front pages of the past presenting addresses and service times. Websites are able to provide complete interactivity and that will certainly increase their value because isn’t the goal of churches to interact, both with believers and seekers.
    The website of my own church is in a sorry state of static dormancy but behind the scenes we’re working with the great folks at Monk Development adding a new content management system (Ekklesia 360) because even in it’s neglected state….every week someone comes to one of our church services off the web.
    I think what it is “about” the site that’s important will ultimately be it’s interactivity.

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  • Gloria
    May 3, 2007

    Good call.
    I know our website stinks, I’m just wondering what about it needs to be changed first. I’ll try to read the article later, I’ve been so busy lately. >.Good call.
    I know our website stinks, I’m just wondering what about it needs to be changed first. I’ll try to read the article later, I’ve been so busy lately. >.< As to the numbers through the door comments, I think that you are gravitating toward an extreme when you say that. My church's Youth Ministry has had probably thousands of youth pass through the doors but only a tiny handful of them has stayed and been really discipled. A greater portion of them has gone on to live even more for the world than when they came to us. What good is it, and what kind of success can we call it if we have more than a 50% turn-around? That doesn't seem like success to me, that seems like shoddy workmanship taking solace in a small victory. If I were to try at work to pass off something like that, I'd be at the very least reprimanded, if not fired. Getting a whole lot of people to have a "free sample" of your product doesn't spell success.

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  • Tim Bednar
    May 31, 2007

    If you are looking for some good advice about building church web sites, visit

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  • Rob
    June 14, 2007

    My thoughts on this stuff…
    Multiple services
    We are having this discussion right now in our church. Mosaic, a five year old intentionally multi-ethnic church, will transition this August to 2 services on Sunday mornings. We are doing it due to steady growth and limited space for our nursery and children’s ministry classrooms (among other reasons). I’m told that statistics show that churches grow numerically after adding services. I agree with some of the comments above that numeric growth and church health are not synonymous. Numbers say something, but not everything.
    Launching or maintaining a web site in the past year
    We’ve had a website up for most of our existence. The current site was launched April 2006 and is updated regularly. Being the webmaster, I receive comments regularly from people who say they attended the church after checking us out on the web.
    Racial diversity
    The church was planted in 2002 with an ethnically/economically diverse mindset. In just over 5 years, Mosaic has grown to over 700 members. We believe that is largely due to Christ’s prayer in John 17 about believers being on so that the world will know God’s love and believe. Click HERE to read why we believe that there is a Biblical mandate for the church to be diverse.
    Involving Children in worship
    We have the occasional children’s choir spotlight or a little children’s church message.
    Avoiding Major Conflict
    I think a better goal is to handle conflicts, major and minor, well. Conflict is unavoidable, especially in a diverse setting, so we have to deal with conflict with great humility seeking to listen, understand and validate the other person’s feelings, opinions, convictions, etc. Christ did not avoid conflict so neither should the church, but we must walk through those difficult situations with grace and humility displaying the fruits of the Spirit.

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    July 15, 2009

    Am happy to find you and let us do the work of God together.
    Ireally wait to receive more message from you
    Be blessed
    Yours in christ,
    Apostle Benard

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  • church website templates
    August 17, 2009

    It’s called teamwork. Churches that grow work together and know how to take care of conflict.
    This is what they don’t do:
    Place one person over 20 ministries.
    Fire every pastor when times are tough.
    And things like that.
    I have seen it way too much. This church polotics that go on really harm a church.

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  • church websites
    November 25, 2009

    This message is for Gloria. I noticed you said your website was not maintained. Maybe you should go with a service like smallchurchadvertising.com who has content already developed for a website. That way you get your site up and don’t have to worry about who will fill in the pages.

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  • Richard
    January 11, 2010

    I find it fascinating that in this dialogue no one has discussed the teaching or preaching of true doctrine. Christ grew the church merely by preaching truth. He didn’t organize a building committee. He didn’t hire a research specialist to gauge public opinion. He simply taught the truth and people flocked to Him. Too many churches preach story sermons of feel-good encouragement without teaching gospel doctrine or eternal truths. People are attracted to a church that offers an unchanging anchor support in an ocean of turbulence. I have listened to too many preachers on Sunday morning miss the target completely and then pass around a collection plate. No wonder they can’t keep parishioners in the pews! Somehow the Mormons are doing something right. Last year they built over 400 churches world wide and are one of the fastest growing Christian denomination in the World.

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  • David Paskal
    December 30, 2011

    Richard the Mormoins are not Christians they are a cult, that is not a christian denomination. Secondly, Christ preached to the multitudes and when he ascended he told his disciples that they would be his witnesess. I think the problem is not machanical I belive it is Spiritual. The Holy Spirit is the power of God in us to do the work of God that has been given to us. Romans 10:17 says FAITH COMES BY HEARING AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD, The Scriptures shared impart life giving change that leads to numerical and spiritual growth, The Scriptures also say in the latter days their would be a hardining of hearts and a falling away. We need to continue to go untill he comes with the message of Salvation to the Jew first and also to the rest of the population. Be Blessed stay busy till Jesus comes. David

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  • Mike
    April 21, 2015

    Thanks. I feel real concern about church growth. We are so concerned about building churches and bringing people to worship God every Sunday. This is a good idea but the only way we can succeed is through discipline the people. To disciple people is different from making members. Jesus Christ commissioned us to make disciples of every nation and teach them. Building churches here and there is not the issue, the issue is making disciples and training them to also make other disciples. It’s a chain, a network of discipleship and personal marketing of Jesus Christ. This is how Apostle Paul in two years made the whole Asia to hear about Jesus Christ. Discipline the people is the only way. Thanks and God bless.

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  • pastor peter igwe
    January 30, 2016

    this is good i will love to get more of these it applications has and will continue to help our new growing church

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