Churches are different from companies and business organizations.
Businesses sell to people while churches give to people. This is something every pastor should understand. Businesses offer people what they want but churches offer people what they need. And in many cases, people don’t realize their true needs until it is almost too late.
While businesses focus on physical or expressive needs, churches focus on non-physical needs that are sometimes difficult to express. This is to say that anyone who attempts to grow a church like a business will have several core problems.
However, there are several overlapping areas in business growth and church growth. They both involve people management. Businesses have to care about their staff and customers. Churches, on the other hand, have to care about their workforce and members. The challenges in this area are very similar.
The First Challenge in Church Growth
The first challenge in church growth is identity. In business, the discussion is about what makes a business different from every other business. A business that is going to grow must have a unique feature that is very hard to duplicate. This is clearly understood in the business world but not well understood in the church world.
Many churches are founded on the premise of the great commission with the hope of helping people make it to heaven. But that hope is given to the people the first day they walk into the church. And it is not enough reason for them to keep coming back. This is why some have a little fear injected into the preaching to guilt-trip people into always coming back. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The other way is identity. Even though all churches have the same general goals, each one should have a different specific goal. Location is a good reason to establish a church, but it is not enough. There has to be a vision that the people can identify with.
Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov.29:18)
There must be a specific reason why people would come to your church and not another church that is closer to their house. Many leave that reason to chance but it is good for it to be a deliberate reason. The reason has to be something that pertains to living in this world.
People keep going to a particular church because of the vision it offers them in this life (and not in the afterlife)
The afterlife can motivate people to come to church for the first time, but it will not make people keep coming or become committed members. You have to give them a vision they can be part of in this world.
The Second Challenge of Church Growth
This has to do with people management. Many ministers pray for church growth but they ignore the basic principle of growth.
You cannot grow into where you want without first outgrowing where you are
Many ministers have taken steps of faith that have landed them in financial trouble because they didn’t understand this principle. They are going for what they want without outgrowing where they are. They want to purchase new things without maximizing the ones they currently have.
Maximizing the current capacity is something very few ministers master. The best way to sell a vision of expansion to members is to make it obvious the current capacity is being overloaded. You just need to do more with what you have.
This leads to the single most important element of church growth. Without it, growth becomes a problem. This is because growth becomes saturation. And saturation leads to disorder. And where there is no order, the organization crumbles with time.
The Most Important Element of Church Growth
There are several important elements of church growth. And most of them are connected such that it doesn’t make any sense to have one without the other. However, one that has the single most tremendous impact on growth is data.
A church with a good church management system like ChurchPad will grow better than a church without it. Churches without management systems can experience huge surges from time to time but it will not result in real growth unless there is a system in place to incorporate people into the church.
A church management system should be automated to a large extent. There should be a defined experience that takes people from being visitors to full-fledged members. This experience can only be created and monitored through proper use of data.
Growth in business is not sustainable without data. Also, church growth is not sustainable without data. A church serious about growth must know how to collect data, know which data to collect, understand what to do with the data, and how to keep data.
Even in a church, not all decisions should be intuition-based. Churches that grow consult their data to see what decisions are in the best interest of the church. Sometimes decisions are made out of sentiment and pinned on intuition. But data makes it all clear.
Having a digital platform to collect and store data is an absolute necessity for church growth today, as we have seen in the last few months. The lockdown rules put churches at risk of being detached from the lives of people. But a church with digital data will continue to thrive regardless of the restrictions.
A church without data can grow, but it will not be a sustainable growth. Data ensures sustainable and effective growth.
The #1 Church Growth Strategy
Churches grow (in most cases) by referrals. This is famously known as “inviting people to church”. And most churches don’t have a systemized way of doing referrals. The referral system works like magic where there is accountability and data systems.
All churches that stay stagnant do not have a systemized way of generating referrals. They just inspire and motivate people in hope that something happens. And in most cases, nothing significant happens.
With the right data, a system can be developed for referrals. And yes, a church may not get the system right the first few times. But with data, they will not keep making the same mistakes. And with persistence, they will develop a system that works.
The single most important element of church growth is data. Everything works better where there is data. Data makes organization possible. And growth is only sustainable where there is accurate data to base decisions on.
Give more priority to data collection. Leverage robust church management systems (ChMS) like ChurchPad to intelligently capture and process your data.
Start the use of data in decision-making from today. Cheers.
By David Olarinoye