So often in conversations with church leaders, the topic of growth barriers comes up. Everyone feels like they’re stuck just below the 100/500/1,000/5,000/___0 barrier.
Truthfully, there is nothing special about numbers that end in a zero.
Yet these “barriers” get treated like some mysterious force that cannot be understood. In those moments, it’s easy to move from feeling stuck to feeling desperate. I’ve watched leaders grapple for anything new to get them over the hump. That’s not strategic leadership. It’s panic and fear.
I’m convinced that every growth barrier can be addressed by developing two areas. They look different at each level and require a new level of intentionality. But behind every barrier lies a need to develop both leaders and systems.
As John Maxwell has quipped for years, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” When you find that you’ve stopped growing, you’ve probably exhausted the capacity of leaders in your organization. Is your staff ready to lead at a higher level? Are your volunteer leaders ready to duplicate their teams with a second leader? Are your small group leaders capable of creating sticky community?
Look for the areas of your church that have stalled and begin developing leaders to eliminate lids.
Every system has a capacity. A church of 100 can use spreadsheets to manage its membership, budget, volunteer teams, and small groups. With increased attendance, those systems are outgrown and new approaches to information and communication are required.
At first, this can seem inconsequential. However, your ability to keep track of people determines your ability to connect with people. Similarly, your ability to track finances will determine your ability to use every dollar effectively. Where do you have the most communication breakdowns? In what ways do you fear people aren’t being followed up with? When you find yourself facing a growth barrier, it’s time to reevaluate your systems.
When church growth stalls, it’s natural to try anything that feels new. You can spend your time and money on marketing campaigns and flashy events. But those will only provide an unsustainable spike. If you want to truly shatter a growth barrier and continue reaching more people, you’ll need to focus on developing leaders and developing systems.