Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to seek the advice of six gifted Senior Pastors who have led their churches from 1,000 to 5,000 in growth.
Since we are pushing the 2,000 barrier and believe God wants us to impact our region by growing to 5,000+, I sought out leaders who have done what we feel called to do.
I always encourage the Senior Pastors I coach to seek out pastors in churches twice their size and find out what they did to lead their churches in growth. Doing this has allowed me to forge some incredibly encouraging friendships. I’ve always found that pastors are always more than willing to share mistakes, hard-fought lessons, and an encouraging ear.
Since there are so few churches out there that have grown to 5,000, I’ve looked and found very little practical coaching on how to facilitate this kind of growth. That said, I thought you might appreciate reading what each of these leaders shared with me.
Here’s the context of these discussions:
- I sat down with each of them for a conversation that lasted roughly 1-2 hours in length
- I explained that we’ve grown from 0 to 1,700, have remained committed to growing through conversion growth only, and have seen 2,200+ conversions to date.
- I shared how we are in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in a population center of 400,000 in a 10-mile radius, and have a vision of growing to 5,000 on our current site (we have plans to launch 20 other campuses but for this conversation I wanted to focus on how they grew to 5,000 in one location).
- Then I asked them a simple question: “If you took over for me tomorrow, what practical steps would you take to lead CCV from 1,500 to 5,000?”
- Then I took copious notes, later distilling their ideas into the specific action steps below.
- FYI – Please note that I focused on pragmatic questions. Each of these leaders understand that there are more important measures than attendance, that growth comes from God, etc. All are theological astute spiritual leaders.
While my questions focused specifically on growth from 1,500 to 5,000, I believe you’ll quickly see the relevance of their suggestions for any size church.
Former Senior Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, Corona, CA
Under Barry’s leadership, Crossroads grew from 1,000 to 6,000
1. I would encourage you to host a 2-day staff planning event to brainstorm what’s needed to reach 5,000. Get all the best ideas out on the table.
2. Then have every staff member write a “future job description” that reflects how they can make the biggest difference in accomplishing growth to 5,000.
3. Make it your goal to make those future job descriptions their actual jobs within 18 months.
4. Reassign or release underperforming staff as you/they realize they can’t lead at the next level.
Senior Pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church, Porter Ranch, CA
Under Dudley’s leadership, Shepherd has grown from 0 to 12,000+
1. Reach under-reached ethnic groups that feel like they have to drive to downtown Philadelphia to worship with people like them. One of the best ways to do this is to require your Arts guy to “put a rainbow on the stage” each service so that regardless who shows up, they see themselves on the stage. This is huge. If they don’t see themselves, they’ll walk away thinking they’re not welcome at CCV.
2. Multi-cultural ministry must be more than a Sunday morning growth strategy. It must be YOUR passion to see CCV reflect the kingdom of God. This must be evidenced in your friendships, the staff you pick, and who sits on your leadership board.
3. Host Massive community-wide outreach events and pass out invitations throughout the crowd to invite people to your services on Sunday.
4. You must reach out to a larger geographical area than your small, well-trodden target community. One way to do this is to put your sermons on cable TV throughout the Philadelphia metro area. People will drive a long way to be a part of a church like yours. They just don’t know it exists. (FYI – Dudley said this is how basketball coaching legend John Wooden came to his church. He found Shepherd on TV and Dudley had a profound influence on him later in life, eventually preaching his funeral).
Senior Pastor of Community Christian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Under Scott’s leadership, Community has grown from 250 to just under 4,000
1. Pick 4-5 growth engines and pour yourself into them as an entire staff. Ours were: 1. Children, 2. New Sunday night service, 3. Personalized visitor follow-up, and 4. Casting vision for people to bring people.
2. Start a Sunday night service. You will see immediate impact. You’ll grow by 300 people overnight.
3. Cast vision for people to bring people. We’ve had great success reinforcing this through bumper stickers which are now recognized throughout our area, outdoor baptism services, and a huge end of January “Decision Day.”
4. Personally follow-up with every single visitor so they feel cared for. This will differentiate you from other churches where they are just a number. (FYI – Scott personally greets 500+ people every Sunday)
Founding Senior Pastor of The Crossing, Las Vegas, NV
Under Shane’s leadership, The Crossing has grown from 0 to 5,000+
1. You must reorganize your staff. My guess is at 1,700 your current staff structure is left over from a previous era. It could be your structure itself that is stifling growth by stifling staff performance.
2. Churches at your size must assess if their Executive Pastor can coach ministry staff AND handle complex administrative tasks. Many cannot. At your size, we installed two Executive Pastors: one over Operations, and another over Ministry. If you feel the need to do that, you may have to fill those ministry gaps until you can afford two Executive Pastors. The way a church can find out if they need two separate Executive Pastors is by confidentially asking their ministry staff if they’re receiving the ideas and coaching they need.
3. Hire IntentionalChurches.com to coach you. They excel at helping emerging megachurches double in size. We worked with them starting at 2,000 and still keep them on a monthly retainer. They ARE the reason we doubled in size. They are the kick in the butt you need.
4. We’ve found that one of the side benefits of having some form of a building project going on all the time is it helps to keep the church focused. There are obviously more important things going on in a healthy, growing church, but one “upside” of constantly building is the unity it can bring.
5. You might find it helpful to join Vistage, a CEO peer mentoring group. I found this group helpful to grow my leadership and to evangelize other CEO’s and business owners in our region.
6. Identify and focus on the things only you can do that will impact growth, then release everything else to your staff. Have you identified these things?
7. Start either a Sunday night or Saturday night service. This was low-hanging fruit for us. We started it as a video venue first, then when I started teaching live it exploded. We reached a completely different crowd than on Sunday mornings. Millennials and people who couldn’t come on Sunday morning because of work or kid’s sports flocked to it.
8. At your size, you must formulate a new vision. You are a different person now, leading a different church, trying to reach a different community – than the one that existed ten years ago. What is the vision NOW that you’ll die on the hill to see fulfilled? Are you guilty of playing it safe to conserve what you have vs. being aggressive to expand the kingdom? You’ve got to go out and find that vision. No-one can do it for you.
Former founding Senior Pastor of Adventure Christian Church, Rocklin, CA
Under Rick’s leadership, Adventure grew from 0 to 5,000+
1. Require each staff member to meet with one new person a week, while you make it your goal to meet with at least two. If anyone on your team comes across a high capacity leader, ask them to alert you so you can meet with them.
2. Rick asked me a penetrating question: “Brian, let me get this straight: you met with ten leaders a week for the first seven years of your church, and it grew from 0 to 1,000 in that time? Please help me understand why you stopped?!?”
3. Make it your stated goal to overwhelm new visitors with love and personal attention.
(FYI – Rick and his wife Amy meet with one new person every single week for coffee. He calls it his “Loving people one at a time” strategy. Rick’s secretary sets up the appointments. When the person shows up, they always naturally assume it’s an invite to a large group meeting. When they realize it’s just them meeting with Rick and Amy they’re blown away that they’ve taken the time to get to know them personally, and the word naturally spreads.).
4. Since you have three services, put your three best staff members in charge of three teams (comprised of staff and volunteers) that will take responsibility to assess and make changes to grow each of those three services. This means there will be a 9 a.m. team, another 10:15 a.m. team, and another 11:30 a.m. team. Since each service provides its own unique opportunities and challenges, these teams will think through and provide targeted solutions for each service.
5. Hold each staff member accountable to grow their area by 5% each year.
6. At your size, I’d start a separate 4-5th grade youth group.
7. If it were me, I would also start a college-age service on Wednesdays (because they marry and have lots of babies). 🙂
Former founding Senior Pastor of Eastside Foursquare Church, Kirkland, WA
Under Doug’s leadership, Eastside grew from 0 to 6,000
Doug Murren Coaching
1. At your size, you must increase the number of visitors to replace the 20-25% of your congregation that leaves every year. This means at 1,700 you will lose 340 people this year. You realize this, right?
2. For every new visitor that tries CCV, only 1 out of 10 will stick. That means you’ll need to see 3,400 new visitors this next year alone just to break even and stay at 1,700. Most leaders don’t understand this.
3. To grow by 10% each year, you’ll need to see 5,100 new visitors (3,400 visitors to reclaim the 340 you’ll lose and 1,700 visitors to grow by 170). What do you need to do to reach 500+ new visitors each month? That’s your number one question to solve.
4. Don’t rely on a massive influx of new people from a handful of events to reach 500+ new visitors each month. If I were you, I’d execute 20+ events a month that gather 10-15 new people each. That will add 250+ monthly visitors. Remember: if you host an event and a large number of new people show up, you can count on the fact that very few of those people were brought by someone. Focus on facilitating relational evangelism because a higher percentage of those people will stick and become disciples.
5. To reach another 250+ new visitors a month, I would focus on micro-advertising avenues like Google, Facebook, and local niche advertising opportunities.
6. The best way to increase visitor flow is what you already know: cast vision each week in your services for your people to be bringers and includers, then give them invite cards to give to their friends.
7. Require all volunteer leaders to recruit an apprentice to serve with them to quickly replace the 20-25% loss of attenders that churches face each year. Never be in a position to have a key ministry area lose momentum because you lose a leader.
8. Make personal connections with new visitors by mailing a package with one of your books, a personal note from you, and a cell phone number where they can call you if they have any questions. Overwhelm new visitors with immediate personal attention.
Isn’t this some great advice? For any size church?
Did you notice any common themes?
What are 3-4 ideas you could take and implement in the next 90 days?