The Five Most Important Church Growth Principles
These outreach principles work. They should be applied not in order to grow a big church, but in order to reach God’s dearly loved children, and bring them into the caring fellowship of the body of Christ.
BY: Gary McIntosh & Charles Arn
Why are some churches so effective at reaching people and making disciples, while others remain stagnant year in and year out? The answer to this question is not geographical, denominational, philosophical, or generational. Today in the U.S. there are all varieties of churches in size, shape and color that are effectively reaching people in their community. Most are applying one or more of these five proven outreach principles. We would encourage you to do the same…
Outreach Principle #1: Outreach is THE Priority
Here is one reason why older churches are generally less effective at outreach than newer churches: The longer a church exists, the more concerned members become with self-preservation…and the less concerned with the church’s original reason for being.
Over time, churches become increasingly self-centered and self-serving. The result, not surprisingly, is that such churches stop growing. This most important principle says that leaders must turn the focus of their congregation away from themselves, and back to their original mission—and Christ’s mission—of making disciples. This outward re-orientation occurs through programming, praying, budgeting, staffing, and honestly evaluating the church’s success at birthing new Christian disciples. While there are many good things a church can do…and there are some important things a church should do…there is only one essential thing a church must do: “…go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…” (Mt. 28:19, The Message).
Outreach Principle #2: Social Networks are the Vehicle
There is a 2,000 year-old insight that any congregation can apply to reach more people. Here it is: Non-Christians come to Christ and the church primarily through relationships with Christians.
Christian friends and relatives bring twice as many new believers into local churches as all the other reasons…combined! To apply this principle, encourage each person in your church to list their unchurched friends and relatives in the community. (The average person can list 4-5.) Next, encourage members to pray specifically for these people. A church in my home town distributed a 2” x 3” card reminding members to pray for one person on their list, at one o’clock, for one minute, during one month. Third, encourage members to invite one of the people they’re praying for to an appropriate church-related event in the next six months. And remind members that they may be God’s only connection to these unreached people.
Outreach Principle #3: Felt Needs are the Connecting Point
Most unchurched people are not walking down the streets of your community thinking about the eternal destiny of their soul. But they are thinking about something; usually something of immediate concern or interest: their job…a relationship…their health…kids…finances…hobby.