A recent post by Carey Nieuwhof from Barrie, Ontario, offered seven things that will drive future church growth. None of them are new, and I preached on some of these already, but I believe it is helpful to post an excerpt of the post. The whole post is accessible by clicking on the following link or I’ve reprinted it below.
7 factors that will drive almost all future church growth.
1. Personal Invitation
One of the things that fly under the radar of most growing churches is how much personal invitation fuels church growth (and discipleship).
At the heart of it all, in almost every growing church is this: people inviting their friends.
Personal invitation fuels much of future church growth. Conversely, if your church members don’t invite their friends, don’t expect to grow.
Christians, it’s hard to reach a world you don’t love…or know.
2. Refusing to Settle for Mediocre
3. An Open Door Online AND A Great In-House Experience
The online world is continuing to become more and more real. Your regular attendees and everyone you want to reach moves seamlessly between the digital and real worlds these days.
Future churches know this is true. One of the tensions most leaders have felt, though, is a fear that a great online experience will mean people stop coming to church. If you post your messages online, why would people attend? That can be a superficial fear (attendance alone is a poor motivator), but it points to something more deeply real.
The people you’ll reach? Well, there are 1,000 or 10,000 of them for every person you might lose.
Future churches will also realize, though, that following Jesus is about more than consuming content while you run, drive or cook dinner. Our digital age also leaves people hungering for greater community, greater experience, and greater transcendence. Which is why churches that are growing are focusing more and more on creating experiences that engage more than just the head on a Sunday…but also engage the heart and relationship. In short, people don’t just want to know what’s true, they want to know what’s real. And what’s real is deeper than just an idea—it’s an experience.
They come looking for something bigger than themselves, and something frankly, bigger than us. They come looking for God. It’s a shame is when people come to church looking for God and only find us.
I think the best future churches will have content that leans toward the immanent—practical, helpful and digestible. And they’ll also offer experiences that are transcendent…that you had to be there to experience. If everything your church does in the future feels downloadable, probably all you’ll get is a lot of downloads, not a lot of gathered people.
To put it simply, if people feel like they missed nothing when they missed church, they’ll keep missing church. If what your church does touches the soul, people will continue to gather.
The best churches will offer both because that reflects the character and nature of God and the character of the Christian church at its best.
4. Genuine Community
The paradox of our age is that we’ve never been more connected as a culture, and we’ve never felt more alone. Churches that grow in the future will prioritize community. Real community.
Real community isn’t just ‘fellowship,’ where the people who already know each other catch up over coffee while new people go unnoticed. Churches claim to be friendly, but that usually only means we’re friendly to each other.
But the truth is the real mission of the church is relationship. It defines the vertical nature of our faith (love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength) and the horizontal essences of Christianity (love your neighbor as yourself). If anyone can get relationship right, it should be the church. So ask yourself as a church leader: what are you doing to forge the deepest relationships you can forge between people in your church? Then do it.
5. Deep engagement
As I’ve written about before, in the future church, engagement will drive attendance. Why? Because in the future church only engaged people will attend because only the engaged will remain.
Engaged people are passionate people. They know what the mission is. They serve in it. And they live it out. They’re passionate enough about it to invite their friends.
Over the long-term in a church, you can accomplish more with 300 engaged Christians than with 3000 disengaged attendees. The disengaged group will dwindle. The 300 engaged Christians will advance the mission and never stay the same.
Yes, only God can bring growth. But he uses people who are engaged to do it.
This may seem like a strange one to add to the list, but it’s essential.
Growing churches are clear churches. They have clarity about the mission. Clarity about the vision. And they have clarity about the strategy. [Clarity takes courage, risking losing people who will stay happy if they do not know what you are exactly doing.]
Clarity means this is how we’re going to reach our community. It also means, no, we’re not going to do X Y and Z. We’re about THIS instead. It means a group of leaders has prayed and thought through the future, chosen what they believe is the best path to accomplish the mission, and then invited others along.
They focus on who they want to reach, not who they want to keep. And usually (if the clarity points them in the right direction), they reach them.
7. Risk and Experimentation
To accomplish a radically new future, you will have to do radically different things.
The people you’re trying to reach don’t care what you did yesterday. Actually, they don’t really care what you’re doing today. This scares the socks off of most of us. After all, risk is for risk-takers, and many of us are not crazy risk-takers.
Whether that’s pop-up church, micro campuses, new approaches to social, or even different ways to connect people, your church needs to rethink its current methods to accomplish its mission. You can start experimenting today. And keep doing it.
Will you need to do some big stuff? Sure. But you’ll also need to try some little things. Experimentation can happen in anything.