Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

20 Reasons Why Your Church May Not Be Growing

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery Whiteis the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2013 Aug 05

I have a conviction.  Disagree with it if you want, but I believe it to the core of my being.  God wants churches to grow.  Healthy churches, their veins coursing with the power of the Holy Spirit, are meant to grow!  Maybe not all at the same pace, or amount, or regimen, but grow they will.

Which leads to a simple question:  you don’t have to ask yourself how to grow your church.  You have to ask yourself what is keeping your church from growing.

Here are twenty ideas.

I am not going to elaborate, or define, any of these.  I believe they are self-explanatory, and if you feel they apply to you, much of the benefit is seeking to work out what you think it might mean for your church.

But read through the list; if your church isn’t growing, I believe there is a reason.

Maybe one of these is why:

You aren’t praying for growth.

Your location is counter-productive.

You have unresolved divisions, tensions and discord within the staff and/or congregation.

Your lead communicator does not have the spiritual gift of communication.

You are methodologically, stylistically and strategically out of date.

Your leader(ship) does not have the spiritual gift of leadership.

You are watering down the message of the gospel.

Your church structure stifles leadership, innovation and front-line decision-making.

You have not taught, challenged or led the church to provide adequate financial resources.

Your atmosphere is one of condemnation, exclusion, awkwardness or rejection instead of understanding, sensitivity, acceptance and grace.

You are not attempting to connect with the next generation.

Your mentality is oriented toward the already convinced and those “in-house,” not turned outward toward the skeptic and the unchurched.

You do not pay attention to, sufficiently fund or appropriately staff your children’s ministry.

Your “front-door” services and events are designed in such a way that people intuitively do not invite their unchurched friends to attend.

You haven’t effectively strategized as to how to break through your next growth barrier, which tends to exist at around 70, 200, 500, 800, 1200 and 1800.

Your mindset is that you have to do everything, be at the center of every “Yea, God!” story, and micro-manage - so your leadership becomes a bottle-neck.

You are an “8” on a scale of 1-10.  But instead of hiring “9’s” and “10’s”, your insecurity leads you to hire “6’s” and “7’s”.

Your shoe is telling your foot how big it gets; meaning land, parking and seats.

You do not make it easy to connect with others and get plugged-in.

Your vision has not exceeded your reality.

Okay, there you have it.  A shopping list compiled from nearly thirty years of experience in the trenches.

But again, remember the question; it’s not how to grow your church, but what is keeping it from growing.

James Emery White



You will find additional discussion on some of these dynamics in James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker).

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.