Facing one or more hindrances to church growth? Does growing your church seem like an insurmountable challenge, no matter what you do? You're not alone. Churches across the globe grapple with the same issue, but you can turn things around.
Just imagine seeing your congregation grow, week after week. Picture the joyful faces, hear the soulful hymns echoing in a packed hall, feel the vibrant energy of a thriving community. Sound too good to be true? It doesn't have to be.
Welcome to our deep dive into the top 10 factors that hinder church growth and, more importantly, what you can do about them. Continue reading to learn how you can inspire, engage and grow your congregation like never before!
1. Your church lacks vision and purpose
Depending on the church, there are many different answers to the question, “What are the barriers to church growth?”. The first answer may be a lack of vision. Clear vision and purpose are a key part of what makes up your church, defining its direction and attracting new members. Think of your mission statement and vision as branding — it lets people know what you’re about and what to expect when they visit.
If your vision isn’t clear or perhaps hasn’t been revisited in a while, you may find that your church is struggling to reach its goals and attract and retain members. This can quickly lead to further issues and stagnation, which is why it’s important to regularly revisit your vision and ensure it aligns with your current path.
If your church continues to experience this issue, there are several steps you can take to remedy this. Conduct regular staff meetings to check in with the rest of your leadership and allow time to bring up current issues and concerns.
Another step you should take is to gather feedback from your current congregation. Ask them what suggestions and concerns they have and then make sincere attempts to implement their feedback.
You should also ensure you have a strong digital presence. Create or update your social media, create a Google Business listing, and ensure search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
If you need a guide to help you grow your church online, use this free church marketing strategies article to get you started. With these top 20 strategies, you’ll be sure to find one that works for you.
2. Your church has an ineffective leadership team
Another one of the most common hindrances to church growth is ineffective or poor leadership. As a leader, it’s critical to remember that you must be a good steward of your spiritual community. Your leadership team must be both spiritually competent and administratively capable.
A good leadership team begins with strong ethical values and clear communication. Your leadership team needs to be empathetic and adept at listening while also knowing how to set boundaries when appropriate and remain professional. Begin by carefully vetting who you hire, ensuring each leadership member is qualified and possesses the strong people skills necessary for the job.
It is also important to conduct weekly staff meetings, checking in regularly to address issues and hear new ideas. Regular meetings help ensure everyone remains on the same page and helps to bring up any potential problems right away so they can be resolved.
Finally, don’t forget to provide engaging and informative training for your staff. Key elements of your training should include:
- Ministry and leadership skills
- Safety and emergency procedures
- Technology and social media
- Worship and music
- Administrative skills
- Youth and children’s ministry
- Conflict resolution
- Boundaries and self-care
- Legal and ethical issues
3. Your church is suffering from doctrinal divisions
Doctrinal divisions and internal conflicts can quickly divide your church, driving away your current members and preventing new ones from joining! When your church is unified in its doctrine, this helps to reduce potential quarrels and issues. Instead, everyone can focus on the community and vision.
In many cases, doctrinal divisions require careful tracking. It’s important to understand and deal with them to preserve the health of your faith community. When these problems occur, it is absolutely critical to remember that divisions can seriously harm the work your church is doing.
Encourage members to embrace their differences and remind them that these qualities are part of what makes the church strong. However, it’s also important to ensure that these differences ultimately remain respectful and don’t divide the church. After all, churches are communities.
4. Your church isn’t meeting members’ needs
Sometimes, people leave a church because it no longer meets their current needs. For example, if your church has a lot of new or growing families but doesn’t offer many children’s programs or resources, these families are likely to look for new communities that are better suited to their needs.
To address these potential hindrances to church growth, consider the demographics of your church membership and examine whether their current needs are being met. If you have a lot of older people in your congregation, you may want to host more senior outreach events. Conduct surveys to see what your current members are looking for in a church and find practical ways to meet their needs by a certain deadline.
Don’t forget to also look at the community and town where your church is located. What needs do they have, and how can you seek to meet them?
5. Your church doesn’t conduct much outreach
It can be hard to draw in new members to your faith community if your larger surrounding community is unaware your church exists. One factor that hinders church growth is that churches remain inward-focused and don’t engage in evangelism and community service. These churches tend to struggle to draw in new members. Staying or becoming involved in your local community (such as your town or neighborhood) can help get the word out about your church.
If your church doesn’t already do a lot of community outreach, it may be tough to know exactly where to get started. One easy way to get involved with the community is around the holidays or school breaks, when many people are looking for activities to join with their children and other family members. Some ideas for outreach events include:
- Advertising your Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday services
- Having an Easter egg hunt
- Hosting a trunk-or-treat or fall festival event
- Holding a vacation Bible school (VBS)
- Volunteering at a local soup kitchen or food pantry
- Partnering with local businesses
- Holding a prayer walk
- Hosting a backpack or school supply drive
- Serving free community meals
- Holding a senior outreach event
6. Your church has inadequate facilities
Many factors that hinder church growth can actually relate to your facilities themselves. If your church building is too small for services or poorly maintained, potential new members may not want to visit. Accessibility should be a top priority for any church facility, ensuring that anyone who wants to visit can do so easily and feel at home. Some great ways to add more accessibility to your facilities include:
- Adding handicapped parking spaces
- Installing ramps, automatic doors and elevators
- Providing handicapped seating during worship services and events
- Having a designated handicapped bathroom available
- Including worship lyrics on a projector screen
- Having a sign-language interpreter for services
- Finding ways to improve sensory accessibility
Besides accessibility, it’s also vital that your current facilities have enough space to accommodate all your events and services. Overcrowded or small buildings can be a significant hindrance to church growth and can be overwhelming for many people, especially new visitors. Crowded facilities can ultimately discourage people from returning to your church.
A lack of space in your facility can also present a safety hazard. Legal regulations dictate the maximum occupancy load for buildings according to their size. If your church is violating these regulations, you could be subject to fines or other legal action. Overcrowding also presents a tremendous safety risk in the event of a fire or other emergency, if people can’t safely exit the building.
Some easy ways to tell whether your church has grown too large for its current space include:
- You frequently meet or exceed your church’s seating capacity
- Parking space is extremely limited
- There are long wait times for bathrooms and other amenities
- There is limited room for people to visit to connect with each other between services
- People have a hard time hearing or seeing worship services or sermon
If your church needs a bigger home, you may need to start fundraising. There are many strategies you can use to get started, but this church building fund strategy guide is a good place to start.
7. Your church has limited technology adoption
Using technology can sometimes be controversial in church settings, but it's important to remember that technology adaptation is a key part of reaching a wider audience.
There are many practical ways to use technology at your church, such as:
- E-newsletters and prayer chains
- Online small group meetings (such as over Zoom)
- Digital giving and tithing apps
- Online worship services or recordings
- Social media
Technology can also help simplify a lot of your day-to-day administrative tasks, by saving your staff time and energy and allowing them to focus on other parts of leadership.
Implementing new technology can sometimes come with a hiccup or two. Give your church adequate time to implement and learn new digital technology and remain transparent with members during the transition progress. Explain the benefits of new technology and how it can support your church mission. Find ways to help people who may need extra assistance learning new technology. Don’t let technology become a factor that hinders church growth — explore how it can help.
8. Your church culture is unwelcoming
An unfriendly environment is a key hindrance to church growth. Having an environment at your church that is welcoming and inclusive is a key part of drawing in new members (and even keeping current ones). Your church should strive to foster an environment where people of all backgrounds feel valued and accepted. Some good ways to accomplish this include:
- Hosting church social events where members can get to know each other better
- Ensuring accessibility for those who with disabilities
- Gathering feedback from church members and the community
- Training your leadership team on inclusivity and sensitivity
- Having a clear statement on your website promoting inclusivity
- Holding diverse worship services that have both newer and more traditional music
- Having greeters or ushers who can meet people as they walk into your church.
9. Your church is dealing with financial constraints
Financial issues and constraints can put a huge damper on your church’s ability to grow and carry out its mission. Financial struggles can seriously limit your outreach efforts and crucial infrastructure development. They also present a huge amount of stress for your leadership team to deal with.
Funding and budget constraints are some of the most common issues churches face. If your church is experiencing financial challenges, it can often feel overwhelming. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are steps you can take to gain better control of your church’s financial situation.
Begin by taking a general assessment of your finances and going over your records and other key documents. If you don’t have a budget or if it’s been a while since you’ve adjusted it, this is where you should begin. Ensure that you understand all basic financial concepts and how to budget, which makes tackling financial problems significantly easier.
Once you have a snapshot of your financial situation, it’s time to actually take steps toward improving it. Accurately track of all your income (including tithes and donations) and your outgoing expenses. Once you have a clear understanding of where your money is going, it becomes much easier to manage it.
If you haven’t already, your church should also enable automatic or online giving options for congregants. Many people simply do not carry cash anymore, which can make giving tricky when the offering plate comes around. Help encourage your congregation to give back to the church by creating easy ways for them to do so, such as with recurring donations or even a tithing app.
10. Your congregation is aging
If your church congregation is mostly made up of senior members, you can face a decline in membership as congregants pass away or become unable to attend services regularly. To address this hindrance to church growth, it’s important to both support your current senior members in the congregation and find ways to attract new and younger members. Support for your senior members should consist of:
- Ensuring accessibility like ramps and handicapped parking spots
- Providing online service options for people who may be housebound
- Hosting social events and activities for senior members to keep them plugged into your community
Some good ways to attract younger people to your faith community might include:
- Hosting a youth or young adult event
- Embracing new technology, such as online services or digital offerings
- Playing more modern or diverse worship music
Unlocking Growth Potential: A Future of Flourishing Faith
While church membership may be waning, faith and spiritual curiosity remain alive and well. Many external factors can contribute to a decline in church growth, but understanding and addressing internal hindrances to church growth is the key to reviving and sustaining the vibrancy of your congregation.
Remember: With 89 percent of the U.S. population still believing in God or a universal spirit, the potential for growth is undeniably vast. The challenge is to harness this potential and turn it into tangible, lasting growth.
If you're ready to move past the challenges and step into a new era of flourishing faith and expanding community, our free church growth guide is the resource you've been waiting for. Dive deep into actionable strategies, learn from tested methodologies and craft a plan to give your church the reinvigoration it truly deserves.