The introduction of the Megachurch—large churches with congregations in the thousands—has sparked the question for many faith communities, “How do we grow and expand?” These megachurches tend to grow to their great size within a very short period of time, usually less than ten years.
In the past few years, many church leaders have shifted focus from church size to church health and, most recently to church effectiveness as the yardstick by which to measure. But whether explosive growth is your church’s goal or not, it’s always interesting to consider some of the key ways these large congregations have catapulted their ministry to supersize proportions. Perhaps one of two of these ideas could complement your church’s current growth, health and effectiveness:
According to Andy Stanley, senior pastor at Northpoint Community Church, it starts with the leader and a strong leadership team. Starting out Andy explains, “We made a strategic decision not to focus on growth but instead to focus on leadership development. As a result, when we moved to our own facility and began regular Sunday morning services, we had a core of leaders who knew exactly what we were trying to do and exactly where they fit in.”
Rick Warren echoed those thoughts in an article he posted on pastors.com, explaining that once a church decides it really wants to grow, the minister’s role must change into the role of leader. As membership increases, the senior pastor must have a strong staff in place to support the growing ministry. Ministers of growing congregations are willing and able to let go of some of the “shepherding” – the baptisms, prayer sessions, teaching, etc. – and delegate the work to a team he or she trusts.
In addition to a charismatic leader, an engaging service keeps new and old members coming back every Sunday. In an interview with Christianity.com, Ed Young, Jr. of Fellowship Church says you should change things up on Sundays so people don’t know what to expect. “I want people at Fellowship Church saying, ‘What is coming next? I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.’ I don’t want them saying, ‘Wow, I know what they’re going to do.”
Churches that grow also offer multiple services at multiple sites – both physical and virtual. Miles McPherson, senior pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in America, explains that offering eighteen different services brings nearly 15,000 people to The Rock Church in San Diego every Sunday. Another way to reach an even bigger audience is to modernize how people practice their faith by streaming services online for remote viewing.
Of the many approaches churches can take to grow their congregation, at the heart of it is reaching others through ministry. Many pastors of large churches have chimed in on the approach they feel successfully reaches people. Despite their different perspectives, all of them emphasize having an intentional strategy.
- Erwin McManus: Create environments where people who don’t know God can spend time with people who do.
- John C. Maxwell: The goal is not to hold people, it’s to reach them.
- Rick Warren: Forget Church growth, aim for Church health.
- TD Jakes: It’s not enough to have a vision; you need a strategy.
- Tim Keller: Size matters – Strategy changes with growth.
Technology has opened the door to new and creative ways to connect with people. Foundational or far out? You decide:
- Erwin McManus: Music videos and A/V
- Ed Young, Jr. and Creativity: Since becoming pastor of Fellowship Church in suburban Dallas in 1990, Ed Young, Jr. has led the church from its original 150 members to a weekly attendance of more than 18,000 people. Fellowship Church has been characterized by creativity in worship and preaching, and now the church is sharing its resources with others through Fellowship Creative and CreativePastors.com.
- Jud Wilhite is a great example of pastor personality on social media via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
- Lifechurch.tv: SecondLife Virtual Church
Ultimately, we know that God supplies growth, but He has always valued the leader who “knows the times.” (1 Chronicles 12:32).