5 Characteristics of a Growing Church


I spent Sunday morning with my friends at the Church on The Eastern Shore in Fairhope, Alabama, a very eclectic artist community near Mobile. I rejoiced with them as hundreds of new faces visited the church on the opening Sunday of their new teaching series. That’s a part of my job that gives me  great satisfaction: watching God bless an entire team’s effort. COTE’s story is one that I have seen happen time and time again, but it never grows old. Here’s what I have seen in churches like COTES that succeed in reaching their community for the gospel.

5 characteristics of a growing church

They learn. Growing churches are learning organizations. They are always asking “how can we be better?” They invest resources and in training and helping their staff and volunteers grow. I’m always humbled when I’m asked to consult with a church and help them to stretch beyond where they’ve been.

They have a heart for those outside the faith. Growing churches know that making room for those outside the faith is difficult, messy and expensive, but they choose to do it because to them, reaching out is not an option.

They go the extra mile. I’ve never seen a growing church that didn’t stretch its resources both human as well as financially. They believe that a job worth doing is worth doing well. God deserves our very best.

They believe. Leaders of growing churches know that a crowd is not a church and that unless God shows up, they had a nice assembly and not an experience with the Living God. A meeting, no matter how well planned and exciting it is, never changed anyone’s life. Only God changes people.

They celebrate. A church is, by nature, a volunteer organization. Smart leaders will take the time to pause and celebrate with their entire organization. Gratitude is the currency of volunteerism.

What have you learned about growing churches?

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  • Josh

    The church I attend hasn't grown in decades. As a matter of fact, I think we have lost people even though no one will admit it. We say that the reason we're not growing is because we teach the Bible and most of growing churches don't. I'm not buying that argument. Thanks for the post.

    • Josh, you shouldn't buy it. Every church I work with is a Bible teaching church. You can teach the Bible and grow. I think they are both critical as well as biblical.

      • Terry Hurt

        Josh, I think just the opposite! Obviously, there are more than 1 or 2 factors to why any church is either growing or not growing (nice way of saying dying or dead). I think strong Bible teaching and preaching is present in a growing church. It has been my experience that people want to be challenged and led to go deeper in their relationship with Christ…to experience and live life with passion and meaning, not just religion. A church that passionately preaches Jesus, makes disciples and leads people to invest their life in making the world a better place can't help but grow.

  • Landon Bradley

    Great thoughts. I have never seen a church that's not outwardly focus grow.

  • They do not pay attention to others.
    Meaning, they do not pay attention to what other churches are doing around them in the sense that they copy everything they are doing. Maybe a better way of saying it is that they have an identity, they know who they are and they know who they are not. Instead of being pushed around by the trends and waves of others, they have a firm grasp of who they are.

    Not saying that they do not pay attention to other churches and what they are doing, but that they know who they are and they hold to their identity.

    • Some churches try to copy the "actions" of another church without the "passion" behind them. It never works.

  • Maurilio – thanks for stirring things up with this post!

    I work with a lot of small to medium size businesses. Many of them are manufacturers.

    The marketplace equivalent to "we can't grow because we teach the Bible" IS "we can't grow because we do quality work (or make quality widgets)".

    You might think that a business has a natural heart for customers. Not so.

    Thanks again for sharing what you're learning.

  • estesc

    Great post Maurilio, thanks for helping our church launch the new and not settle for just tweaking the old. Love your vision and your heart my friend!

    • I'm proud of all the work the COTES team has been doing the last few months.

  • dan bush

    growth involves change – not change just for change sake, but change directed toward a goal.

    thanks for helping us as we re-direct ourselves in small and big ways to be more effective in reaching our sphere of influence.

  • I think that people no longer believe church attendance is essential to their faith, so their loyalty to a particular denomination is so mature than their option to choose a mall to go shopping at the weekend! Church leaders shall work on messages to emphasize the importance of being gathered to overcome life´s problems with faith and unity.

    • Unfortunately, I think you're right. I have seen that sentiment growing more and more lately.

  • A) Personally, I've learned that growing churches are are Sprit-led. They don't have their heads absorbed in church leadership culture. I think the Holy Spirt has "branded" His "season of growth" into many of the growing churches you see today. He's tapped specific people (a patchwork of personalities) that have been praying for decades and also been "prayed up" for years preceeding their success.
    B) Prayer is their top ministry. They first fall on their faces and seek God's leading and God blesses that.
    C) They hire professionals internally. Meaning, I've seen CEOs from IBM as executive pastors who've been called to church leadership. Growing churches have a level of excellence and expectation.

    Another great post Maurilio! Love that you are a leading educator in this area; it's a critical juncture for communications. Churches are blessed to have you.

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