As the director of Next Level Coaching, I’ve had the privilege to visit many churches for on-site consulting. Pastors ask me to come and visit their church to provide a fresh perspective and offer simple solutions to help their church break through to the next level. On-site visits are a great way to move your church forward due to fresh eyes taking a look at your systems, service, and staff to see if there is a problem that you are missing because of familiarity.
Andy Stanley says, “Time in, erodes awareness of.” The longer we are in a building, system, church, environment, etc. the less aware we are of the things that are obvious to guests. So they invite me to be those fresh eyes. While each church has their own set of unique challenges, there are also common characteristics of churches which are experiencing momentum and those who are stuck. Like clockwork, when I visit a church that is experiencing momentum and growth several things are evident quickly.
Let me give you 5 characteristics of growing churches I’m coaching.
1. Decision Makers
At growing churches, volunteers and staff members are empowered to make decisions. As a matter of fact, in most growing churches, a majority of the decisions are being made by someone other than the pastor. Of course, the biggest, most important, course-setting decisions are made by the senior leader, but in growing churches, the pastor has mastered the art of saying “you decide” to the people serving around him. In some cases, the lack of an “empowering culture” is because of insecurity within the senior leader. Other times, it’s a lack of leadership development, but growing leaders recognize decisions that don’t put the vision, mission or health of the church in jeopardy are better when team leaders and volunteers make them.
[clickToTweet tweet=”In growing churches, the majority of the decisions are made by someone other than the pastor @kylejackson1″ quote=”In growing churches, the majority of the decisions are made by someone other than the pastor”]
2. Scalable Pastoral Care
Almost every pastor I know got into ministry out of a desire to help, grow and care for people. So in the early days of the church, a majority of the pastoral care responsibilities are managed by the pastor out of desire and necessity. The challenge comes when the church grows beyond the pastor’s ability to provide pastoral care, which happens sooner than the pastor realizes. The most talented leader could possibly provide pastoral care for a church of 250-300, but in most cases, the needs of the congregation start slipping through the cracks at around 100 members. I don’t think it’s a coincidence a majority of churches in America average less than 100 attendees, because the church stops growing when the pastor is unable to care for the people. The scalable pastoral care necessary to grow is not always easy for the senior leader because their relational ability helped to establish the church, but in growing churches, the pastor cares for the caregivers, and the caregivers care for the congregation. Whether through visitation, leading groups, prayer ministry, or discipleship, for your church to go to the next level, the day-to-day pastoral care must be facilitated by a team of people other than the pastor. When you find a church where the pastor is not willing to delegate pastoral care, you will usually find a church that has stopped growing.
[clickToTweet tweet=”A pastor who is unwilling to delegate pastoral care usually pastors a church that has stopped growing. @kylejackson1″ quote=”A pastor who is unwilling to delegate pastoral care usually pastors a church that has stopped growing. “]
3. An Intentional Outward Focus
When you planted your church or first started your pastorate, I bet you had a passionate, outward focus to reach more people in your community who need a relationship with Jesus. Over time though, the maintenance of ministry pulls your focus from outsiders to insiders. As a matter of fact, the biggest challenge to keeping an outward focus can be experiencing growth, because the more people who walk through the doors of a church, the more pressure you feel to connect and assimilate them. If you’re not careful, your church can stop thinking about reaching more people and spend the majority of your time managing insiders. Reaching and leading new people to Jesus is the lifeblood of your church that will keep you moving forward and provide momentum. Fight for an outward focus in every season.
[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Reaching and leading new people to Jesus is the lifeblood of your church that will keep you moving forward and provide momentum. Fight for an outward focus in every season. @kylejackson1″ quote=”PASTOR: Reaching and leading new people to Jesus is the lifeblood of your church that will keep you moving forward and provide momentum. Fight for an outward focus in every season. “]
4. Optimistic People Around the Pastor
As I visit growing churches, I’m always paying attention to the people who have the pastor’s ear. In every organization within the staff or elders or counsel, certain voices have access to the ideas the leader is processing. In churches moving forward I’ve noticed the people who are in the pastor’s inner circle have an optimistic attitude. I don’t mean that they are “yes” people who blindly support every idea, but they don’t feel compelled to list all the reasons why an idea wouldn’t work. Every leader has experienced the frustration of excitedly bringing a new idea to the table only to have well-meaning people list all the reasons why it might now work. In growing churches, the voices who sit at the lead table believe and expect the best, and even when they are unsure about an idea, they know that supporting the vision of the pastor is more important than trying to prevent every mistake. I can’t think of any growing churches I’ve ever visited who had a pessimistic or cynical culture. Fight for optimism; it’s contagious.
[clickToTweet tweet=”I’ve noticed in growing churches, the people closest to the pastor have an optimistic attitude @kylejackson1″ quote=”I’ve noticed in growing churches, the people closest to the pastor have an optimistic attitude “]
5. A Pastor Set Free From His Past
This is probably the most overlooked characteristic of the growing churches I visit. Because of my role as a pastoral coach, I get to know the backstory of the pastors leading the church, and it’s not a coincidence that the pastor has grown and experienced freedom months before the church begins to grow and experience freedom. Every person and leader has some baggage. Maybe you are a “pastor’s kid” and experienced a congregation treating your parent poorly so now you expect the worst out of your congregation. Maybe you have an addiction to alcohol or pornography that has become a medication to the stress, pressure, or disappointment of ministry. Maybe a church member or leader left the church years ago, but you still haven’t been able to move on. Maybe your parents divorced as a child, or you didn’t grow up with a dad, and it’s still driving you to try to prove something to someone. Usually, a growing pastor leads a growing church. While yes, God sometimes allows a church to experience success while the pastor has secret sin or bondage from their past, it’s usually short-lived because attitude reflects leadership, and every church growth barrier is generally broken after the pastor breaks through a personal barrier.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Church growth barriers are generally broken after the pastor breaks through a personal barrier. @kylejackson1″ quote=”Church growth barriers are generally broken after the pastor breaks through a personal barrier.”]