January 17, 2011 Tony Morgan

Breaking the 100 Barrier

I’ve had an intriguing email exchange today with a pastor of a small church here in the Southeast. He’s been in his position for less than two years, and he’s leading his church through a transition. They’re just beginning to break the 100 barrier. Here are a handful of take aways from his experiences:

  • It’s impossible to grow a church beyond 100 people if there’s one person who makes all the decisions and calls all the shots.
  • When one person controls the ministry, it denies God’s plan to equip God’s people to do his work. Healthy growth doesn’t happen outside of God’s design. See Ephesians 4:11-13.
  • Many times people have to leave before the church can become healthy and experience growth.
  • Many times the people who leave make little if any financial impact with their departure. In other words, your most vocal antagonists in many cases are giving very little to the church.
  • It’s difficult to build momentum with regular transitions in leadership.
  • Growth in churches is more about relationships than anything else. This church doesn’t even have a website at this point.

Those are some learnings from this pastor’s experiences. What are yours? As the pastor of a smaller church, what were some of the keys to breaking through those growth barriers?

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (15)

  1. I’m in a similar place in ministry (though in Minnesota) and would agree with all of these. Though we do have a web site and have had some success because of it. http://WasecaChurch.org – hosted on blogspot (free) with Sermon Video on Vimeo (free) and Audio on Sermon.net (free) and church calendar on Google Calendar (free). So other than our domain name that is like $10 a year, it is pretty cheap and simple to maintain a site. And if you put a bit of time in, you can make it pretty good looking without being a pro.

  2. Tony Morgan

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. I also mentioned to this pastor that http://sochurch.com/ is another great option for small churches to have a website for very little money with lots of functionality.

  3. Made it a goal to talk to 5-10 new people everyday until we launched. Used GoogleAds, direct mail, hand-out card for new teaching series and an effective website.

  4. Love this post. In a very similar situation as well and this pastor hit it right on the head. We pastor not only a small church but also in a small community in washigton state. Pop 2100. Relationships are the key for sure and getting people focused on making disciples. Grown from 60 last May ( when we stepped in as lead pastors ) to having out largest attendance of 171 in December. Seen that drop back again to last Sunday 137 we haven’t been below 100 since
    Sept. I also found that taking over and relaunching a church not to move the people to fast that have been there ( church is 16 years old ) but at the same time lovingly challenge them to join us in reaching our community. God has really Graced us. I mean.. Jesus is building the church, ya know. :) just a great great post. Wish I saw it 8 months ago haha on my iPhone so excuse the mistakes..

  5. Quick correction … Just checked my info. Last time we were below 100 was November and our lowest point was 60 in Sept. Just to clarify. :)

  6. We are 2.5 years into our plant. We run about 200 in attendance over two services. Without a question of a doubt, leadership must be shared, the issue is with who and what do you share with them. We are a plurality of eldership church, and I installed my 2nd pastor/elder 6 months ago after two years of training. I can’t urge planters enough to look for the leaders! You have to have them to mature as a church, have a meaningful impact as a church, and safeguard yourself as a fellow pastor/elder.
    My other elder/pastor sees things I don’t. I gave him 50% vote when he came on board. We are praying and working hard for the next elder/pastors to join us that we might give away our power, and serve our body together. It’s the only way to grow, and stay sane.

  7. Great points! What’s even better is that most of this is easily transferable to any ministry within a larger church.

    Working in student ministry, I’ve seen these points proven to be true in that context as well, especially:
    – “It’s difficult to build momentum with regular transitions in leadership.” I grew up in a church that saw NINE youth ministers come and go during my four years of high school…there was never significant growth in that program. (They now have a youth minister whose been there for a few years and they’ve seen tremendous growth.)
    – “Growth in churches is more about relationships than anything else.” Absolutely. Student ministry is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. Before teens (and people for that matter) will be interested or invested in what you have to say about Jesus, they want to know that you’re interested and invested in them.

  8. Mike

    Some great comments…were not in this alone. Jared, we are in a similar situation Small town small church, but great potential…sounds like God allowed you to “break” that 100 barrier in a short amount of time and grow beyond that. Can you elaberate more on what God did or what happened to get you there and beyond?

  9. I emailed you back as well Mike thanks for the contact.

    Our church has broken the 100 mark a few times prior to me taking over as the lead pastor in May 2010 in that transition from the founding pastor to me our numbers dropped to as low as 61 in Sept 2010. From Sept till now we have seen steady increase and I believe its by God’s grace and us staying as simple as we can in our approach to ministry. We hit record attendance in December of 171. We are bouncing from a low of 117 to 137 right now, which is a very good sign. We track all our attendance and compare the numbers over the last 3 years on graphs and charts to discover our trends.

    I think the reason we have in the past not sustained a 100 or really go beyond that was the lack and fear of the former pastor in training and releasing people to lead ( in no way is that to sound harsh towards him, its just true and something we all have to overcome at some point). WE must equip and release people to lead. If we do not do that we will not sustain and grow into the hundreds. Our personal goal in this one location is to try to grow to 800 then plant our next campus..we may have to do that at 300-400 do to our demographics. again our city is 2138 people but 10 minutes away we have city that is 50,000…

    So we have decided to take a simple approach.. thank you Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger who wrote Simple Church. Helped me tremendously as I was developing our strategy to plant in Miami ( thats where I was heading before I became the lead pastor here ) I think everyone should read this book. My personal opinion.. ;)

    We focus on 4 things as a church
    Encounter Jesus-Weekend Services focus on Worship, Preaching and Prayer
    Love People- Groups-small groups are starting in March. currently meeting in large age specific groups example our young adults meet together once a month 18-29.. senior 50+
    Serve Community- serving in the church and community
    Go to World-church and campus planting ( it is my passion to plant churches and help people plant churches who plant churches ) haven’t done it yet personally but we currently helping 3 plant in the last 8 months.

    When we became lead pastors the church basically met 2x a week for worship no real mission focus to reach our community, no leadership development, no children’s, no youth ministry. we all just came to church. Yet the small community dynamic created the perfect opportunity to develop and build the last 8 months a solid purpose focused team.

    As we have very carefully by God’s grace and really having a core group of people hungry to be disciples and reach people we have turned this ship so to speak to be focused on the mission of christ found in matt 28.

    Of course we have had our struggles that are unique to our situation being a church of 16 years in a small community..having a new lead pastor who is taking the church a whole different direction. But at the same time its really been the grace of God and again hungry people to do whatever it takes to bring glory to Christ in our city.

    Little embarrassed talking about myself so much..not really who I am but I hope the little I have shared answers some questions??? glad to post here again if it helps.

  10. I’ll second “Simple Church”. All stuff I’d thought of before, but put together in a way (with clarity & stats!) that is difficult to ignore. But don’t read it alone, you need others to have that same fire within them or it won’t go anywhere.

  11. Mike

    Jared…we do have a lot in common. I am a pastor of a church that is hovering right around 100. The “team” approach with the Great Commission mission and vision is exactly what I am leading our church to do. “There is no I in Team” is what I believe our people must see modeled. Everyone in the church is an important part of seeing that vision become a reality. Instead of folks being “co-dependent” they must see their role as being “co-laborers” with God and the present church leaders. That last post was great…and with God’s power just what will help us break that 100 barrier!

  12. Bryan Kelley

    Very good read, I am pastoring a church that is just over the 100 mark and anticipating continued growth. Relationship as well as equipping and giving out the authority goes a long way. There must be a vision bigger than ourselves. We are actually trusting god to let us do another church plant in October by sending out a group of our own.

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