Christ-Centered Ways To Grow Church Attendance

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that data from Gallup shows that church growth has declined significantly in recent decades, from 70% of Americans claiming church membership in 1999, to a mere 47% in 2022.

Empty pews have pastors and church administration looking for more and more strategies to grow church attendance, encourage ministry participation, and spread the good news of Christ’s saving grace.

ChMeetings helps churches of all sizes become more effective at growing and engaging their flock. In this post, we want to help you understand the scriptural basis behind growing a church and offer 9 church growth strategies that are centered in Christ.

What is church growth?

The meaning of church growth is simply the process of both (1) attaining new members and (2) keeping existing members. Starting a church is one thing, but growing it into a thriving community of fervent believers is another.

  • Attaining new members is critical to growing the body of Christ. Every new parishioner is another soul won for God. If your church isn’t growing, fewer people are hearing the good news of the Gospel.
  • Keeping existing members is equally important because membership loss stagnates church growth. If your church is losing parishioners, it could be a sign that you aren’t engaging them with the authentic message of Christ.

Signs of a growing church

Understanding the principles of church growth will be easier with a strong grasp of the signs of a growing church. As you begin to strategize and make plans with your church administration team, keep the following goal posts in mind.

Full pews

Perhaps the most visceral sign of a growing church is better attendance. When the service is standing room only, you know you are doing something right. However, keep in mind that your gut feelings about attendance can be deceiving.

If you’ve got multiple services on a given day, it could just be that some community event pushed people from one time to another. Or maybe your desire to grow church membership is so strong that some unintentional bias is skewing your estimates.

A good way to avoid these types of errors is to assign a volunteer to count heads as people enter the church. Alternatively, you can use a Church administration app to track attendance.

Increased registration

Not every attendee is going to become a registered member of your church. However, a gradual increase in registration is a valid way to gauge the growth of your church over time. After all, registered individuals and families are likely to be the parishioners that stick around for a while.

If you are still using an outdated manual registration system or tracking everything in a spreadsheet, consider trying out a more modern solution. Church management apps like ChMeetings allow members to register themselves online and make it much easier for pastors to track their church growth milestones.

Members can register and login to their profile

More participation in ministries

As your church grows, you should see more active engagement from its members outside of regular services. Youth groups, Sunday school, food pantries, prayer groups, and whatever other ministries you offer will gather more participants like a snowball.

Don’t be surprised, also, if new members bring their own ideas for new ministries as well. As Saint Paul said in the First Letter to the Corinthians…

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

Bigger collections

Obviously, the goal of growing your church is to bring more people into the body of Christ and save souls. So money is never the end goal.

However, Saint Paul also said, “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

In other words, God will give the Church what it needs to grow. Churches need money to support their ministries. And as your participation increases, members will give what they can to support the good work that God is doing through you.

Related: How Technology Can Help You Manage Your Church

Scriptures on church growth

There is no end to the passages from scriptures on church growth. Examining just a few of them will help you gain a deeper appreciation for the work you are setting out to do and encourage you when the cross of church leadership seems too heavy to bear.

Acts 2:44-47

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

The Acts of the Apostles is perhaps the best glimpse into what the earliest days of the Church looked like. In this passage, we see that Christ rewarded the charitable love of the disciples by bringing more sheep into the flock daily.

Acts 9:31

“The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”

To give this passage some context, the “peace” being spoken of is because Saul had been converted (now named Paul) and was no longer persecuting Christ, but instead preaching Him. We can take consolation from this verse in knowing that all are called to join the church—especially the most hardened of sinners.

Acts 5:12, 14

“Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles… Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them.”

The signs and wonders being spoken of were mostly healing of the sick. But this scripture on church growth gives hope that by serving the bodily and temporal needs of our community, we can bring them into the fold.

John 13:34-35

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

These words from Jesus Himself teach that the simplest and best way to grow the Church is to imitate the love He showed us.

9 church growth strategies for better attendance, participation, and engagement

More people in the door is never enough. The growth of your church can’t just be measured by headcount. Getting them in the door may be the first step. But the true measure of a growing church is spiritual in nature.

That’s why these 9 church growth strategies are rooted in the Great Commission from Christ to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

#1. Preach Christ, not the world

Many guides on how to grow a small church are focused first on worldly concerns. They advise you to integrate modern technology, try different music, or find ways to make church more fun.

But keep in mind that the message of Christ is timeless. God is unchanging, and so is His message of salvation.

Therefore, the first step of growing a church is to ensure that you are preaching the true message of the Gospel. Otherwise, even if attendance is growing, the body of Christ may not be.

Avoid temptations to water down the truth or sugar-coat the harder teachings to swallow. Of course, you should find ways to make the message of salvation relevant to modern audiences. But keep in mind that “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build” (Psalms 127:1).

#2. Root all of your efforts in prayer

Remember that Christ promised “ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). Obviously, if God doesn’t want your church to grow, it won’t happen. All things happen according to His will, after all.

However, the reverse is also true. If God wants your church to succeed, He will help it grow. But nothing good is done by human efforts alone. That’s why every effort you make to grow your church must be rooted deeply in prayer and supplication to the master of all things.

Whether you are opening a food pantry or integrating a branded church app, launching a mission overseas, or serving the local homeless population—entrust all of your endeavors first to God in prayer.

Customize branded APP with the church name and it's logo

#3. Serve your local population

Christ drew people to Him spiritually by first attending to their temporal needs. He fed the hungry, made the blind see, and healed the sick. You don’t have to perform miracles, though, to bring people to know Christ in your church.

All you have to do is find ways to serve the people in your local area—the people who make up your future congregation. In fact, one survey found that most churchgoing Americans (68%) travel less than 15 minutes to their church.

The more outreach you do to your community, the more you will understand how exactly they most need to feel Christ’s love. But here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Feed the hungry. As the saying goes, “if you feed them, they will come”. Whether you are bringing bagged lunches to the homeless, volunteering at a soup kitchen, organizing a food pantry, or even just hosting a spaghetti dinner for your existing parishioners—you are sharing the love of God with others.
  • Provide childcare. Families with young children often feel like they don’t have time to make it to church. By hosting parents’ night-out events or providing regular after-school care, you can make a huge impact on the actual lives of actual people.
  • Run teen programs. The teen years are a precarious time for a youth’s relationship with Christ. With the wrong influences, they can form habits or get into trouble that can take a lifetime to reverse. Youth groups and similar programs provide teenagers in your area with positive ways to spend their time.
  • Visit the elderly. The older members of our community are often the most forgotten. But sometimes they need the love of Christ more than anyone else to help fight off loneliness and despair. You can organize visits from your parishioners to elder care facilities or even the homes of individuals who have no one else to visit.
  • Clean up the community. This is a perfect way to both engage your existing members and make a large presence in the community. Make it a congregational event. Gather as many volunteers as you can to spend the day cleaning up trash at a park, along the highway, or at some other high-traffic location.

#4. Create a loving first impression

When was the last time you put yourself in the shoes of an outsider coming into your church for the first time?

Sometimes, even though going to church is a very positive experience for the regulars, it is actually quite intimidating to others. They don’t know anyone. They don’t know where to go. They don’t know what to expect.

If they don’t feel welcome and loved on the first visit, they may never make a second one. Here are some simple ways to create a loving first impression so that all of your outreach efforts don’t go to waste:

  • Assign a greeter to welcome everyone, new and old.
  • Similarly, assign someone to say goodbye as people are leaving (and invite them back next week).
  • Create programs, print-outs, or information cards that explain what to expect.
  • Hold a social hour after services in order to encourage the congregation to mingle and get to know each other.

#5. Stay in touch with your parishioners

Too many people only hear from their pastors during the sermon on Sundays. But modern technology makes it very easy to bring the message of Christ to your congregation all week long.

For starters, social media outreach isn’t just for businesses. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are the most popular platforms (in that order), and you can use them all to engage your parishioners outside of the church with…

  • Inspirational and educational videos
  • Updates about events and services
  • Pictures of parish outreach efforts
  • Religious and spiritual memes
  • And more

Beyond social media, you can also use ChMeetings to keep in touch with all of your registered members through text, email, or push notifications. This direct, personal communication does more than help your congregation stay informed. It makes them feel loved.

#6. Teach them how to be holy

It may seem obvious that one of the duties of a pastor is to teach the congregation to be more Christ-like. However, did you ever consider that this will actually help your church grow as well?

We are all called to be holy: “as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I [am] holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

And as God lives in us more and makes us holier, His presence will naturally draw others to us. Our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family will notice something different about us. And this will open up conversations that may lead them to the faith as well.

So take time in your sermons to teach your parishioners the narrow way. Teach them to pray, to carry their crosses, to listen to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and to invite God into every aspect of their lives.

#7. Challenge your congregation to invite others

It’s quite rare for someone to simply decide to walk into a new church one Sunday. Though the Holy Spirit certainly provides such inspiration at times, most people start going to church because they are invited by a friend or family member.

Just like other organizations have membership drives, there is no reason your church can’t run something similar. An easy way to do it is to simply ask your congregation to invite other people.

Let’s say you are a modest parish of about 100 adult members. If only half of these manage to draw in a new member within the next six months, your church has grown by 50%. If you repeat the process for the second half of the year, you’ll have gone from 100 members to 225.

#8. Streamline church management

It might seem funny to think that something as mundane as church management will help grow your church. But really, whenever you streamline one process, you free up time and energy for something else.

A lot goes into managing a church. You have to track membership, coordinate with staff, manage donations, organize events, and more. Most pastors rely on a jerry-rigged system of spreadsheets, wall calendars, old-fashioned binders, and hastily scrawled post-it notes scattered about the office.

A church management app like ChMeetings lets you manage all these administrative tasks and more in one easy place. By making administration more efficient, you’ll have more time to focus on all of the church growth strategies you are implementing.

Chmeetings dashboard has detailed administrative information

#9. Do your part, and let Christ do the rest

Remember the wedding feast at Cana, in which Jesus performed His first public miracle: turning water into wine.

The jugs were empty, and Christ could have just filled them miraculously with wine. But He told the servants to fill them with water first. He invited mankind to participate in their own small way with His divine works.

And so it goes with your efforts to grow your church. If God wanted, He could fill your pews miraculously tomorrow. Instead, He wants you to do your part.

He wants you to grow your faith in Him, grow your hope in His saving plan, and grow your love for Him and your neighbors. So do your part diligently at all of these methods to grow church membership, and God will bless you in due time.

How to grow a small church

These strategies work for growing small churches too. Whether you just opened up or have just had a significant decline in membership, you can use these tips to grow your congregation. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind if you are growing a very small church:

Prepare for initial growth to be slow

Because you have less resources, less volunteers, and less momentum, don’t be surprised if the early days of recruitment are slower than you expect. Just like an apple tree takes several years before it will regularly bear fruit, a church will often go through slow initial growth before membership really takes off.

However, as more new members join, church growth should begin to snowball. Each new member is another opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising to help spread the good work you are doing.

Get organized from the beginning

One of the benefits of having a small congregation is the ease of organizing church management. Imagine how much easier it is to convince 50 members to register themselves to your branded church app than to convince 500.

Now is also the time to organize how you communicate with parishioners, schedule events, and organize groups. Streamlining these processes now will save you a lot of headaches down the line.

Start with a culture of evangelization

If you only have a small group of members right now, odds are good that most of them are very loyal. Use that devotion to your advantage by inviting them very early on to bring in members of the community.

As this initial evangelization bears fruit, don’t let the culture of recruitment die down. Try to instill in every new member of the church that they share the responsibility of winning more souls for Christ.

Try ChMeetings to grow church participation

We’ve looked at 9 Christ-centered strategies for church growth and examined the scriptural basis for bringing new sheep into the fold.

Keep in mind that growing your church is about both gathering new members and engaging with the ones you already have. However, most important of all is that you trust in God to make your efforts bear fruit. With Him all things are possible.

ChMeetings is here to help you grow your church every step of the way with secure church management features that give you more time to focus on what matters most.

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