3 Focus Areas to Grow a Small Church

Growing the small churchIn a discussion group I am a part of, a small church pastor asked the group for advise on how to grow a small church.

Well meaning Christians threw out all sorts of cliches that lack substance, even if they are true:

  • Pray
  • Follow God
  • Get back to the Bible
  • Don’t follow man’s ways
  • Just glorify Jesus and people will come
  • Let your light shine so the whole world will want what you have.

Most of the answers centered on prayer for guidance and then obeying that guidance to grow the small church.

While these sayings are true, these answers to this small church pastor lack direction and clarity to help focus this pastor in the areas of evangelism to grow the small church.

Growing a church is prayer and work

I’m all for prayer. I teach how prayer

  • gets us connected to the heart of God for the lost,
  • helps us learn God’s voice, and
  • sensitizes us to prompting of the Holy Spirit.
  • positions us to listen to the direction of God into His plan.

I give space in my workshops for prayer.  We pray for God to give us

  • a heart of the those who don’t know him.
  • a passion to reach the community around the church
  • a willingness to serve in the kingdom
  • a confidence to share our faith while serving the community.

But growing the small church to make a difference is also work.

As Moses stood up on the mountain praying for the people of God, Joshua was on the ground doing the work.

We get to actively work in cooperation with God’s work of bringing people to faith.

3 areas of focus to grow the small church

Without denying or minimizing the value of prayer, let me share three directions for your small church to consider as you pray and plan.

1.  Equip your members in personal evangelism.

Evangelism training is more than just reading a book and doing nothing about it.  Start with a group of people in your small church and lead them into growth in their personal evangelism efforts.  This includes helping your members

  • grow comfortable inviting friends to your small church,
  • sharing their own testimony of coming to faith in Christ,
  • sharing the gospel of Christ in clear and simple terms, and
  • inviting people to surrender to the Lord.

2.  Improve your hospitality.

Since the small church is a partner in the work of evangelism, improve your hospitality system.  Help your members be proud to invite people to your small church and into your network of relationships and service, knowing that their guests will receive a good welcome and find a healthy place to grow spiritually.

3.  Engage your community.

Find out where your community hurts and lead your small church to something about it.  Get on a mission to be an agent of transformation in the community.  While serving, help your small church members to have those life changing conversations as the Lord opens those doors. Listen to this podcast episode here on how one small country church engages its community.

With God’s guidance in your focused prayer for these three areas, you can grow your small church by taking actions.  Use these areas to focus your prayers and your work.

Need Help?

In the comment field below, answer this question:

What area do you want help in to grow your church?

Write your answer below, and I’ll get an email and we’ll start a free email discussion.


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  1. says

    You are so right…it takes both prayer and work. Small church leaders are often torn between tending to the flock and reaching out to the lost. The congregation must be made to see that there has to be balance–if you don’t reach out you will not grow.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

  2. Bill Slater says

    In a book, “Walking with the Giants,” Warren Wiersbe listed three characteristics of great churches: long-term pastorate, expository preaching, and annual pastoral visits to congregants (feasible in a small congregation).

    In God’s “score-keeping,” “great” is unrelated to size. If a small church pastor goes along with Dr. Wiersbe’s suggestions, I think growth will follow.

    I personally believe that the pastors of smaller churches are the unseen heroes of the Kingdom, which is one reason why I made them a focus of Bill Slater Ministries.

    Because God has provided for my wife and I financially through my professional training (pharmacist), I can provide ministry service to a congregation asking or expecting no set honorarium.

  3. says

    I have only 3, maybe less than spiritual, suggestions as to how small churches can begin to turn the corner toward vibrancy.
    1. The churches grounds should look like someone actually cares how the facility looks. This includes restrooms that are clean and well supplied. If your church smells like your middle school locker room it needs to be addressed immediately. If your lobby looks like a messy office someone abandoned 5 years ago clear it out, all of it and paint.

    2. Train your Sunday AM leaders to treat everyone better than their favorite retail store. From the greeters at the door to the children’s ministry everyone should feel welcomed, secure and comfortable. This can be particularly difficult with ushers but necessary even if the family comes a little late to service, they should not feel like lepers.

    3. Keep your service simple and easy to understand. Briefly explain rituals and be careful not to use “insider” language. Pastor, if preaching is not your strength stop preaching for 45 minutes…cut it in half and stop trying to impress people. Everyone is better off leaving the service wishing for more rather than regretting they had been force fed to the point of misery.

    Just a platform for launching to renewal.

  4. says


    You really tease out number 2 above: Improve your hospitality.

    It’s really hard to grow you church if people don’t come back for a second visit.

    Removing unnecessary barriers is extremely important and a good review of your hospitality systems is a perfect place to start.


  5. Harold W. Hambley says

    As a retired home missionary working with small churches, I have suggested four areas that a pastor needs to focus on in building a healthy church:
    1) Discover the church’s values
    2) Choose 5 to 7 people who will become the pastor’s leadership team.
    3) Write out the mission and God’s vision for their particular church
    4) Develop strategy for the next 3 years that will include the church and the community.
    Another thing I do is take the team through the 7 letters to the 7 churches of Revelation. I ask them: If Jesus were to write you one of these letters which one do you think Jesus would write you today. Then I ask them: If Jesus were to write you in five years what would He write.
    For a church to grow whether small or mega it has to be healthy.

  6. says


    Great points. I think # 4 is a good one to develop.

    Likewise, your point about healthy is significant. I’ve been asked many times to give hospitality workshops at unhealthy churches and that’s just a band-aid on a sick patient. .


    I am just been posted to a NEW parish,With a handful of workers,wit lot of structural changesHOW DO I GO ABOUT IT?

  8. says


    I invite you to tell us more about your new parrish. Is it a new church, or an established church that is new to you? Feel free to share here or tell me more via email.


  9. david says

    i have been task to recommend strategies to my local church on how to win more souls, retain first timers, follow up, train greeters, and design a program for the evangelism team?

  10. says

    Dear Friends,

    I so loved reading your information and instruction on how to grow a small church. My husband and I pastor a (very) small congregation, just birthed about 15 months ago. We have very dear loving and caring folks, but sadly, most of them lack vision it seems as most are elderly.

    We will usually run about 20 to 22 people. Our only service at the present time is on Sunday evening. Another much larger church and pastor own the building, and they have the basement presently stored full of many items. As most of our people are elderly, and some of us drive a very long distance to the church, we do not have a Wed. evening service either at the present time.

    We have 18 Charter members, which we believe is fairly good for a newly birthed church, and then we have 4 children and youth. Since most are elderly, we well realize that we probably will not appeal to younger families and the youth of today. Our family is very highly experienced and trained in a great music program, however, that does not always appeal to families looking to put their feet down in a church if they are searching for a particular youth program oriented church today.

    We have no special programs organized at this time, but do want to start a local Food pantry soon, and a Ladies’ Home Missions Group.

    The younger ones who attend are our own 3 grandchildren, and another young girl about 15 years old. All are the ages of 15, 13, 4 and almost 2 yrs old.

    Due to quite a lot of physical problems and sickness, my husband, the pastor, seems to lack the physical stamina and vision presently to do much in the way of visitation in the community, and the other menbers have not stepped up to this task as of yet. We have several men, of whom (none) will take any leadership roles whatsoever, which puts all the load on the pastor.

    We have considered sponsoring a bi-monthly Gospel sing, which we would advertise well, however, we also, being singers and musicians ourselves for many years, realize that you cannot grow a church just on that alone, but we felt it might give our own members a boost and an uplift and cause them to eventually step up to having the desire to get more involved.

    Can you give me some words of encouragement or advice or what we, as a group, might be able to do as a “quick start” plan to boost our little church and see it grow. We have good very loving, caring, and praying people, but most are (not) verbal about witnessing, testimonies, etc. Most of our folks are country folks and a little intimidated about taking the leap of faith to move forward and do whatever is necessary to see the church grow.

    Any advice would be most appreciated ! God Bless you !


  11. lorraine lamb says

    how can we get our small country church to grow when nobody wants to d anything…they are mostly older people now and just don’t have the concern for souls…..

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