At some point – after having worked through everything you need to work through – the only way to break through your next attendance barrier is to commit yourself to what I call “a series of bold moves.”
The good news is the “bold moves” I’m talking about are almost always the same for each attendance barrier. Meaning, if you can’t break the 200 barrier or the 2,000 barrier, chances are your comrades in the trenches trying to break through those same exact attendance barriers will need to commit themselves to making the same bold moves to move the congregations they serve forward.
The bad news is these bold moves can be frightening to attempt, which is why most Senior Pastors never actually try to implement them.
Recently I had Joshua 1:9 emblazoned on the wall of my office in large decals. You know the verse, right?
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
I wanted to be reminded of this verse every single time I walk into my study.
Lack of know-how is usually not the thing that holds me back. Fear holds me back. Fear of how people will react. Fear of what my ministry would look like if I didn’t self-sabotage it. Fear of being successful. Fear of hard work.
As crazy as it sounds – it’s easier to walk up to a growth barrier and then high-tail it back to Egypt. There’s food in Egypt. And familiarity. And comfort. People complain back in Egypt, but not as much as in the desert. Most importantly, I don’t really need to rely on God back in Egypt. To make it through the desert I must trust that manna will fall from the sky.
Friends, after everything has been tweaked and moved and recalibrated, it comes down to choosing action over fear.
Here are four of the most common “bold moves” that need to be made, and the unique manifestation of them to be found at each size.
Staffing “Bold Moves”
At the 100 barrier, the bold move to be made with regard to staffing is simply to step out on faith and put the Senior Pastor on the payroll full-time.
At 200 the bold move is to bring on a second staff member. Lay leader boards almost always think this person should be someone who covers both youth and children. This is a mistake. It needs to be a worship pastor, then children’s (see my article on The 3 Buckets).
At 400 the bold move is to stop hiring anyone that has a pulse that can simply keep plates spinning, and to hire what I call a single “blue chip” staff member – this is the person who is simply GREAT at what they do. This person is almost always someone you can’t really afford at the time, and could get a job at a church four times your size. Their presence immediately changes your staff culture.
At 600 you should have four full-time staff members (other than yourself) who cover four keys areas: worship, children, youth, and adults. The bold move at this stage will always be to CUT other things to get these four bases covered.
This attendance barrier is almost always broken by hiring an Executive Pastor. Not before this, and certainly not much after this attendance range. My bold move at this stage was to raise funding for my Executive Pastor through a capital Campaign, otherwise, I never would have been able to afford him.
This barrier is twice the size of the 600 barrier, and not coincidentally is broken by having four people covering the same four key departments of worship, children, youth, and adults. The only difference between breaking 1,200 instead of 600 is that to break the 1,200 barrier these four people must be OUTSTANDING and capable of leading their own staff teams of 3-4 full-time/part-time people themselves. At this stage, the bold move is to get the wrong people off the bus, the right people on the bus, the right butts in the right seats, and everyone working together and headed in the same direction.
To break this barrier, the bold move is always related to staff re-organization. Up till say 1,400 or 1,600, a church staffing structure has remained largely intact since the 600 days. To break this barrier, the bold move is to further stratify your staff and have your directors who lead each department to meet as a “Senior Staff” separate from the rest of the staff team.
Facility “Bold Moves”
Getting A Facility
The first bold move with regards to a facility will always be to move from meeting in a home, like when we had 26 people meeting each week in my house, to a rented facility. Taking on additional rent that you can’t really “afford” can be frightening, but necessary. That’s why it’s called a “bold move.” I remember those days. Geez, that was scary.
The next bold move after that is to buy land and construct a permanent church home. If you think committing to rent was terrifying, just wait for this bold move.
Thankfully the days of the missional fad have almost waned, and the critical ways church planters have talked about permanent facilities has almost come to an end. Having a building is an essential key to your growth and impact strategy. The key is to avoid the three pitfalls of church construction: too small, too ugly, and too expensive.
Jettisoning A Facility
Some of you ARE in a facility that is too small, too ugly, or too expensive. Your bold move is to jettison that thing so you can emerge from under its weight.
Going back to a temporary set-up for 5-7 years may just be what the doctor ordered. Or it may be the stupidest decision you could possibly make.
Expanding A Facility
Most Senior Pastors aren’t going to pitch their facility. Most simply need to rebrand and expand it. I always send leaders facing this challenge to my friends at Plain Joe Studios and have them skim through their portfolio of rebranding work.
Can you imagine what would happen to your church culture if you made a series of bold moves and completely rebranded the overall look and feel of your ministry facility from the website to the front door to the worship area?
Rebranding a facility can be done rather inexpensively compared to the long-term payout. Every five years a facility needs to be re-branded, or within seven years it will quickly look dated. Consider it the cost of owning a facility.
Lay Leader “Bold Moves”
To move past the 400 barrier, you must move to a policy-governance government system (see my article 3 By-Law Changes Needed To Break 100, 200, 400 and 600). The problem is this shift almost always has to be voted on by the congregation (per the by-laws) and comes via losing some or all of your governing board in the process.
I believe this transition doesn’t have to be a fight, and doesn’t have to involve the shedding of metaphorical blood to make it happen, but the only reason this transition is capable of happening is because the Senior Pastor is willing to commit to both.
Only when the Senior Pastor is willing to die on this hill, but doesn’t, will the governing board that holds the Powers Strings take their leader seriously.
Annual Lay Leader Development Process
I have a friend whose church grew from 1,200 to 8,000 over ten years in the suburbs of Chicago. When I asked him what the tipping point was to make that happen, he said, “I found the ten best leaders I could find every year and started pouring my life into them.”
At every stage of growth, the bold move that always serves as the “lead domino” in a growth strategy is finding, pouring into, and deploying your best leaders and givers.
For many Senior Pastors, their boldest move is saying no to the clamoring of their C leaders and strategically replicating themselves with the top 5% who can move the ball down the field.
Fundraising “Bold Moves”
Developing A Donor Development Strategy
The first and most important bold move any Senior Pastor can make regarding developing a funding strategy is to actually think through and document a strategy for developing donors.
“Passing the plate” isn’t a strategy. Neither is simply praying that God meets your church’s needs. God has already answered your prayers. It’s called leadership, and leaders know that hope is not a strategy. It’s abdication of responsibility.
There is a very clear reason why people give, just as there are proven strategies that help them connect the dots between their generosity and changed lives. Senior Pastors who make the bold move and say “I own this” and seek coaching and pull together their best minds to formulate (and execute) a strategy always end up having the funding they need for the vision God has given them.
When I’m talking about a “donor development strategy” I’m talking about what happens the first time a new person gives $10, to your preaching calendar, to your approach for getting 75% of your church to give via online avenues, to campaigns, etc.
Relational Donor Strategy
The biggest move, by far, comes when a Senior Pastor views it as their job to know who the top 5% of the givers are in the church and to develop them to their highest capacity.
Romans 12:8 tells us that high-capacity giving is a spiritual gift. Why would you take the time to develop someone who has a teaching gift, but not take the time and develop someone who has the gift of giving?
After a donor development strategy is in place, one of the boldest moves Senior Pastors I coach are most reluctant to make is to shift their thinking from “not knowing” to viewing relationship building with their highest donors as one of their top priorities.
Show me a Senior Pastor who makes this shift, and I’ll show you a leader who serves a congregation that has the resources needed to break barrier after barrier after barrier.
Like I said, after everything has been tweaked and moved and recalibrated, the only way to break through your next growth barrier is to choose action over fear and commit to a “series of bold moves.”
Be fearless friends.