What (Some) Church Members Really Mean When They Say They Want Their Church to Grow


I heard it again just a week ago.

And I bet I’ve heard it nearly a thousand times.

“The search committee,” the pastor began, “said they really wanted the church to grow. Now I am leading them to do some things to reach people, and those same people are out to get me.”

You will rarely find a church member who says he or she is not for growth in the church. But many church members have unspoken, perhaps unknown, conditions attached to the statement. In other words, I am all for growth in the church unless it impacts me in some way.

Let’s look at seven of those “unless” conditions:

I really want to see growth in our church . . .

  1. Unless we have to change the worship style.
  2. Unless we have to add more worship services.
  3. Unless I lose my parking spot and my seat in the worship center.
  4. Unless the new people who come to our church look differently than we do; dress differently than we do; or speak differently than we do.
  5. Unless we have to spend a lot of money on “those” people.
  6. Unless the new people mess up my current fellowship circles and groups.
  7. Unless we have to change the facilities in any way to accommodate the growth.

For certain, not all church members have such attitudes. Similarly, don’t assume those church members who act enthusiastically about potential growth have really considered the consequences. Stated simply, reaching people with the gospel always has a cost.

Unfortunately, many church members do not want to pay that cost.

Let me hear about your perspectives and experiences regarding this issue.

Posted on November 18, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Here is a concern and question I have: Is the church for believers? It seems to me there has been a shift, especially in “seeker sensitive” churches, to focus on attracting lost people to the church. Isn’t the command to “go?” After moving from a small town and small church to large city, large church, this constant “evangelism” in the church makes it nearly impossible to connect with actual christians within the church. Going through membership classes and filling out a piece of paper, without connecting with the pastor or any staff?? It seems that if you expect the church is made up of genuine believers, you wouldn’t need paid staff to create new programs, worship styles and attraction methods for the church. Am I wrong?

  • Let us remember to be full of grace as we both discuss the idea of growth/change and as we seek to lead people in change. Sometimes we are so sure that we have the answer that we are really closed off to listening to those whom God has called us to minister to. We come to this new church with our ideas and begin to rip up everything that has been a part of this church for years before we came. Is there need for change, probably there is. But let us remember that we are called to minister not just to those we want to see coming but to those who are currently part of the ministry. Give the people time to learn who you are as a Pastor and that you do value them and the church that they have loved for all those years. Be willing to listen, choose the really important battles to fight for. In our quest for change let us not become so hard of heart that we lose the opportunity to minister to all of God’s people.

  • David George says on

    When contacted by the search committee, they told me they did inreach very well, but they were looking for someone to show them how to do outreach. The first year I was there Sunday School went from 200 to 300. Two changes I made: changed stock bulletin to customized one, and preached reaching out to our neighbors and friends. The church was alive! Then came the naysayers, “we’re letting the world in our church.” The chairman of deacons stated, “we aren’t to go reach anybody. We are to teach those GOD brings into the church.” The battle with the older members began. One family before leaving said, youve changed everything! You act like we didn’t know how to do church before you came.” This came after we baptized over 55 people in those first two years. The deacon chairman’s response, “The devil uses good things for his work.”

  • Another one: Unless they expect me to get up off my lazy behind and invite people to church.

  • Two “happenings” (out of many over the years in pastoring):
    1. Husband was going before a church in Idaho, in view of call. Before going, he sent a questionnaire to the people dealing with what they wanted to see their church doing. As you said…all wanted growth, yada, yada, yada. We were called and found out, fairly fast, that they had already forgotten what they had told him they wanted to do as a church.

    2. While doing an interim pastorate at a small church in Colorado, their new, younger music man was having choir practice and was introducing some of the newer praise songs, mostly ones that were scripture put to music. One of the older ladies got upset because they were having trouble singing it…it wasn’t familiar and she wanted to sing the old ones (only). The choir director’s wife said, “But Mrs. —–, these are Scripture songs.” Lady replied, “Well, we don’t need no Scripture songs here!” Funny but sad.

  • JW Pearson says on

    My 45 years of dealing with churches and asking them if they want to grow boils down to a very simply look:
    YES, the church wants to grow with people who look like them, dress like them, quack like them, act like them, are them.
    PROBLEM: there are no more of them out there. They have either died off or already been run off.

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