|The U.S. Congregational Life Survey
What Growing Churches Do
The research says congregations using the following strategies or approaches grow in numbers and ministry effectiveness:
Strong churches welcome new people.
Strong churches encourage participation.
Increase the number of worship visitors.
- Increase the visibility of the congregation in the community (e.g., Web site,
paid newspaper and telephone book ads, good outdoor signage, participation in community
- Encourage members to invite others; equip members to invite effectively (e.g.
Bring a Friend Sundays, special events).
- Identify and make personal and telephone follow-up contact with all visitors,
especially first time worship visitors.
- Offer a group for new people.
Strong churches offer meaningful worship experiences.
- Fast-track new people into meaningful ministry roles. Ask them what they feel
passionate about. What do they see as their ministry?
- Identify what types of new people the congregation attracts (e.g., returnees,
switchers). Ask new people what made the church attractive to them.
- Create additional small group experiences, such as prayer or study groups.
Strong churches help people grow spiritually.
- Evaluate current worship service(s) for vitality. Are service(s) connecting with
all age groups and relevant local cultures (e.g., ethnic groups, family types)?
- Offer more worship service options (e.g., additional services, more variety in
worship and music styles, different types of services).
Strong churches commit to a positive future.
- Focus on the long-term development of disciples (spirituality or faith, financial
stewardship, and ministry).
The research also says denominations and local judicatories using
the following strategies help congregations grow in numbers and ministry effectiveness:
- Use multiple ministry methods and strategies all the time.
- Identify congregational strengths. How can the church optimize and leverage these
strengths? How can the congregation be more effective in the areas that encourage
numerical growth -- such as, care for children, participation, and more new people?
- Evaluate current church organization and committee structure. Minimize the number
of maintenance committees. Create ministry teams.
- Try new strategies. Evaluate efforts. Learn from failed efforts. Fix it and
The research says many churches are not yet using the strategies or methods listed
above. This lack of action occurs in
many denominations that are declining in membership in recent years.
- Take action and set policies to help congregations undertake the above steps.
- Start new churches.
A major research question remains unanswered: How do we address the issue of
motivation? How do we get pastors
and lay leaders to take the actions that research demonstrates works? Accurate
information must marry motivation and
action. Otherwise, fewer and fewer children of God will gather in our churches.
Learn more about growing congregations:
Beyond the Ordinary: 10 Strengths of U.S. Congregations
Now available! Order from Amazon.
Or order from the publisher online
Westminster John Knox Press or by phone 1-800-227-2872.
Learn more! Listen to radio interviews with the authors.
A Field Guide to Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why
This book presents the first comprehensive portrait of congregational life in the United
States . . . based on the results of
the U.S. Congregational Life Survey of more than 2,000
congregations and over 300,000 worshipers from across many
denominations. The Field Guide seeks to answer questions
like, What are the characteristics of satisfying worship?EHow
involved are worshipers in their communities?Eand How can
congregations both recruit new members and retain existing
members?EIt provides a portrait of congregational life today
in four dimensions: spirituality and faith, activities in the
congregation, community involvement, and worshipersEvision
for the congregations future.
Order online now from the publisher,
Westminster John Knox Press.