Growing Church: How To Grow Church Attendance Significantly [2023] 

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As a ministry leader who is trying to get a growing church through church events, you may have experienced this disappointment before: 

You hold a big church event, such as an annual church Easter egg hunt, to get the community engaged. The event is wildly successful, and people show up with their families and friends to enjoy the church party you set up. Seeing all of these people gives you hope that this event is just what you needed to grow church attendance…

…only for things to go back to how they were after the church event is over. 

Many pastors facing the same problem as you will come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with their church events. They may increase the budget, or add on more fun things for people to do at their church events. But fixing the church events won’t necessarily grow church attendance, because the church events were never the problem.

So what’s really stopping you from getting the growing church you’ve always wanted? 

In this article, we will discuss the two reasons why many people don’t stay after church events, and what you can do to get a growing church. Let’s dive right in!

Why You’re Struggling To Grow Church Attendance

To better understand the problem, let’s look at it in a different light. 

Let’s say that I have ten kids, and I want them to come downstairs to the living room every evening for family time. However, as anyone with children may already know, this is a difficult goal to achieve. Realistically, only one or two of the kids will actually show up. 

However, on Christmas, when there is a big, colorful Christmas tree set up in the living room, which smells like cookies and sweets because of the bowls of snacks, all the kids suddenly want to be downstairs. 

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Does this mean that the kids will start hanging out in the living room from that point onward? Of course not. 

They may stick around in the living room a few days after Christmas to enjoy the festive atmosphere, but once the holidays are over, they will go back to their rooms. The solution is not to try to celebrate Christmas more often, but to find out why the kids would rather be in their rooms. 

These are the two reasons why the kids don’t want to spend family time in the living room (and why people don’t want to go to regular service outside of church events):

Church Growth Hindrances: Reason 1

Their needs aren’t being met. 

The kids might think family time is boring, because all we do is watch movies, but never the ones they want to watch. Instead of sitting downstairs watching something they don’t want to watch, they would much rather be in their rooms, doing something they actually enjoy. 

In the same way, people might not want to stay at your church because they feel that their needs aren’t being met there, and they could get their needs elsewhere. They are willing to go to church events because those are fun, but if the regular service isn’t meaningful to them, then they have no reason to stay. 

The only way to fix this problem is to find the needs of your community and your audience. It’s not enough to have an idea of what you think they need, you must learn from them what they actually need. 

growing church

A Biblical Example Of A Growing Ministry

We see this in the Bible, when Jesus healed the sick and attracted crowds of people. Because He’d met their needs, those people were willing to follow Jesus and tell others about Him. 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” –Matthew 4:23-25

Another thing we can observe from Jesus’ ministry is that He met physical needs first, in order to connect people to their spiritual needs. He helped the disciples catch fish before He called them to be fishers of men. 

“When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” 

Luke 5:4-6 NIV

“Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

Luke 5:10

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This is especially important nowadays, because many people are unaware of their spiritual needs. If you try to meet a need they don’t know that they have, they will perceive it as not meeting a need at all. Addressing their physical needs will show them in a tangible way that you care about them, so that they will be more open to receiving spiritual guidance from you in the future.

To learn more about how to meet needs and grow church attendance, check out our article here: Church Outreach Ministry: #1 Guide To Build An Effective Strategy

Church Growth Hindrances: Reason 2

The other reason is that people don’t want to go to places that make them feel bad. 

Going back to the example with the 10 kids, let’s say that people are always arguing in the living room. Whenever the kids come down, I silently judge them or even verbally criticize them. Suddenly, it becomes perfectly understandable why they’d rather stay in their rooms than come into the living room for some “family time”.

While they may not do it to such an extreme degree, churches may drive away their audience without realizing it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions were if your words and actions are perceived negatively by the person you’re trying to reach. 

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It’s all about communication. When ministry leaders accidentally communicate with their churchgoers in a toxic way, they damage the relationship without even realizing it. Good relationships are the backbone of a growing church, because people will be more inclined to go to the church they feel most connected to. 

To find out if you are communicating in an unhealthy way, and how to fix it, let’s look at a few types of toxic communication. 

Types of Communication That Harm A Growing Church

  1. Shaming Language


Shaming language identifies a person as the problem, and not their behavior.

Saying “there’s something wrong with you” instead of saying “you did something wrong” is an example of using shaming language. The problem with shaming statements such as this one is that they are often too general to identify any particular problem. They place more emphasis on making the person feel bad rather than teaching them how to improve. 

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The larger problem with shaming language and toxic communication in general is that it causes people to become defensive. When they feel personally attacked, people are more likely to fight back or run away than to make any positive changes. Instead of helping them resolve their issues, a toxic communicator only gives people more problems to worry about.

To avoid shaming language, address a specific behavior as the issue instead of targeting the person doing it. Remember, helpful input identifies the problem and offers a solution, without trying to shame the person into taking it.   

  1. Blaming Language


Blaming language is an objective statement that someone is at fault. 

The problem with this type of communication is that most of the time, multiple people are at fault, if not everyone involved. 

The situation is often more complicated than some people being right and others being wrong. A person can be right and do the wrong thing, or they can be partially correct and partially incorrect. Blame disregards this complexity to pin the whole problem on a few individuals, placing an unfair burden on them. A person who blames others doesn’t help resolve the issue, they only give an excuse to overlook their own faults. 

As for the person who gets blamed, the only thing they learn from the situation is to be afraid of condemnation. That’s because blame tells you you’re at fault, not how to fix it. 

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To avoid blaming language, focus on what went wrong and how to fix it instead of whose fault it is. Ultimately, what matters isn’t who is right and who is wrong, but rather, it matters that everyone involved builds each other up to reach a better solution. Uniting your congregation to face their problems together can make the difference between a growing church and a stagnant one. 

  1. Guilting

Guilting is language that makes people feel guilty for not doing what we want. 

Essentially, it is a control tactic that overrides people’s free will to result in a win-lose situation. 

One example of this is asking churchgoers to help out by telling them that serving is their duty, and they are failing it by not volunteering. If someone volunteers–despite not wanting to–because they feel guilty, that is a win for the church at the expense of that person. 

In most cases, a win-win situation could have been reached freely, so there is no need to use guilting. In the example, churchgoers could be convinced to want to volunteer with promises of training, experience, and growth opportunities. Even when a win-win is not possible, guilting should be avoided because it does more harm than good. 

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To avoid guilting, discard the notion of controlling others. Instead, look for what you can give others to convince them to give you what you want. You might even find that these two things are connected. The valuable training that makes people want to volunteer also happens to make them better at their job, resulting in a win-win situation for both you and your volunteers. When you’re always looking for win-win situations it will become easier to retain churchgoers, which is necessary if you want a growing church. 

(Psst–if you’d like to learn more ways to get volunteers engaged in your ministries, check out our other post here: Commitment To The Church: Top Church Engagement Strategy)

  1. Criticism

Unwanted advice is criticism. This can happen when someone shares about their problems, and you tell them what you think they should do without getting their permission. Being overly critical is one quick way to stunt a growing church. Kind people can come off as critical, because they don’t like seeing those around them struggle, so they are quick to give their input to try to solve the problem. 

However, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care about them. You can show them that and avoid being critical by listening to them. Your first priority should be to provide the support they need, whether that means just understanding what they are going through, or providing advice when they ask for it. 

How To Grow Church Attendance Effectively

As a church leader, sometimes you will have to breach the difficult subject of discussing someone’s faults with them. The truth is inherently offensive to our nature, so there is no guarantee that they will accept your words. However, trying to force people to change will only make a difficult situation impossibly difficult for them. 

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Here are a few books to help you communicate with your audience in a way that they are more likely to receive:

  • Love Busters by Willard Harley discusses forms of communication that will break your relationships. 
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud talks about how to maintain healthy relationships with individuals. 
  • Boundaries For Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud talks about how a leader can create an environment that fosters healthy relationships. 

When you maintain healthy relationships, communicate effectively, and meet your audience’s needs, you will be well on your way to attaining a growing church. That means that you can hold the same amount of church events, or even less, and still grow church attendance more than ever before! 

And that about wraps it up for this post on the 2 mistakes keeping you from having a growing ministry. Comment below which tip was most relevant to your own ministry. 

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