In a post on “Church and Culture Blog”  ( titled, “20 Reasons Your Church May not be Growing,” James Emory White makes a point about church growth and health: growth is often about “removing barriers.”  He says, “…you don’t have to ask yourself how to grow your church. You have to ask yourself what is keeping your church from growing.” (emphasis his)


WELL, YES and NO. 

YES. Dealing with things that keep your church from growing matters.  For example, Dr. White says, “Your shoe is telling your foot how big it gets; meaning land, parking and seats.”  Limitations here do keep a church from growing and these limitations need to be removed.

NO.  So much of this is semantics.  It is simply a matter of how you state the issue.  For example,  White’s reason #1: “You aren’t praying for growth.”  This can be stated in the affirmative, ie, “Pray for growth.”  White begins his blog by asserting, “You don’t have to ask how to grow your church, but what is keeping it from growing.”  But as we see in reason #1, if a lack of prayer keeps you from growing, praying for growth will help you grow.  In other words, James Emory White’s blog could have been titled, “20 Ways to Grow Your Church.”

But not so fast.  I think he is on to something.  In fact, I know he is.

Churches and pastors feel a great deal of pressure to grow.  Often, they don’t know where to start.  Giving them a list of 20 things to do is overwhelming, and often feels condemning. Thinking about what is keeping their church from growing is a great way to start.  For instance, here are three items on  White’s list that I think most churches need to consider: 

  1. “Your mentality is oriented toward the already convinced and those “in-house,” not turned outward toward the skeptic and the unchurched.
  2.  You do not pay attention to, sufficiently fund or appropriately staff your children’s ministry.
  3. Your “front-door” services and events are designed in such a way that people intuitively do not invite their unchurched friends to attend.” 

Addressing these issues that keep a church from growing is a great place to start.  

Most churches can ask, “What is keeping our church from growing?” and come up with a very good list.  Asking what they should do is harder, and often more controversial.  They feel inadequate, and almost inevitably get into the “comparison game.”  ‘If only we were like…”  …you fill in the blank.  From answering “Andy Stanley and North Pointe,” to the church down the street, the comparison game is often a very unhealthy exercise.

You have to start where you are and discern God’s movement in your church and community, not what someone else is doing.

I believe God wants his church to grow.  As you begin asking, “What is keeping us from growing,” know that God wants you to discover why and he will help you in the remedy.  James Emory White’s list of 20 reasons is a good place to start.  Check them out.

Here are three reasons I would add to the list.

  1. You are not building relationships with people outside the church.
  2. You are not starting new groups that include new people.
  3.  You do not have a membership class that creates high expectations and a healthy church culture.

What reasons would you add to the list?  Working on a list of what is keeping your church from growing is a good palce to start.  Start now.