There are a variety of things pastors can do (or not do) that tend to hinder growth in a church. In an article by pastor Brian Jones, he cites these four growth blockers:

  1. You are afraid to fire staff.

Bill Hybels once said that the time to fire someone is the first time you think of it. In other words, once you’re convinced they’re not the right person for the job, you either have to move them to another seat on the bus (which often can’t be afforded), or begin what we at our church call our “corrective action process.”

The goal of this is to help a struggling staff member succeed, not fire them. Only after you’ve exhausted all efforts at correcting poor performance should you terminate someone. That’s only fair. But once they must be let go, don’t postpone the decision. I see churches keep underperforming staff all the time, thinking that it’s the Christian thing to do. Trust me, Jesus would fire underperforming staff if he were in your shoes. Don’t overspiritualize the decision.

  1. You’re pastoring regular attendees instead of your aggregate ministry group.

Stop defining your “church” as the sum total of your regular attenders. Your job is to pastor what Doug Murren calls your “aggregate ministry group”—the sum total of all the people who are connected to, but may not be actually attending, your church. In outreach-focused churches, the aggregate ministry group is a group two to three times their actual Sunday morning worship attendance. If you are a growing church of 200, that means between 200 and 600 people consider your place home.

The average Christian leader thinks that if someone visits his or her church, and doesn’t come back, they’re not a part of their congregation. Not true. Get inside the mindset of a purely unchurched person. One lady came up to me after our grand-opening service and said, “This was fantastic. We ought to do this again sometime!” I said, “Um, we are. Next week in fact.” Senior pastors who don’t focus on conversion growth aren’t attuned to the behavior and mindset of the average 21st century non-Christian.

The non-Christians in your area are not church shopping. If they visit, they consider it a one-time commitment. One and done. They’re not visiting your church and then trying four or five other churches like yours in the area until they find a church home. Many non-Christians visit, then say, “OK, I like this place,” which is their way of saying, “That’s my church.” In their mind, they are a part of your church, even though they may only come back one to three times that year. Your job—in your church newsletter, emails, stage communication, vision casting, etc.—is to speak to them and pastor them as if they are already a part of your church community.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.