We often hear statistics about declining numbers in the UK church, yet many local churches are bucking the trend. Why do some churches grow and others don’t?
Is this a question of theology and God’s sovereign choice, or of geography and population changes, or are there tangible things a church can do to grow numerically?
To be clear, there is no magic formula for church growth, nor is numerical growth the only mark of growing, just the most measureable (what about discipleship, community engagement and commitment?).
Yet there are definitely certain traits within churches which correlate with growing numbers. Whilst correlation does not imply causation, there is a lot we can learn from this, if we do want Cambray to be a church that grows numerically.
The theologian and radio presenter Justin Brierley used statistical surveys and interviews with leaders of growing churches to identify the following seven ‘growing traits’:
- Prayer – a growing church is always a praying church, and particularly praying for numerical growth and conversions, which raises expectations.
- Sunday Services with broad appeal – growing churches tend to focus services on appealing to a wide range of ages, nationalities, stages-of-faith, dress-codes and even denominational backgrounds, with energy and resources committed to high-quality preaching and thought-through, well-led music.
- Extra services – research indicates that once 80% of the seating in a venue is in use, a congregation stops growing. Cambray’s morning services are now pushing towards 350 people in a space for 400.
- A warm welcome – we like to think of Cambray as welcoming, but if we are a regular, our experience may be very different from that of a newcomer: how they are greeted at the door, whether anyone talks to them when they sit down and at the end of a service. The ‘welcome team’ at Cambray should be all 350 of us!
- Embracing change – a growing church means accepting changing structures, with pastoral support networks allowing everyone in the church to be ‘ministered’ to without the pastor having to do it all. It also means a willingness for people to step down from roles they may have been doing for years, in order to let new people and new systems have the chance to grow. Often tensions can arise when churches grow and change but individual members do not.
- Encouraging belonging and believing – how evangelistically sensitive is Cambray? Churches that grow create a sense of belonging for people, even before they’d call themselves believers. Yet evangelistically insensitive churches create theological and stylistic hoops for newcomers to jump through before they can feel part of the community.
- Investing in young people – more than 80% of Christians make a commitment to Christ before they reach the age of 18. Growing churches realise what this means, putting a greater proportion of time, money and people resources into Youth and Children’s Work. For Cambray, it should also mean young people being placed in visible leadership roles and intentional mentoring of younger deacons, service-leaders and preachers.
Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, we must ask ourselves whether we are a growing church. How are we responding to Jesus’ commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’?
We are each responsible for Cambray’s growth, both spiritually and numerically, for the sake of the Kingdom, and God calls each of us to play our part in making Cambray a community that is praying, accessible, strategically organised, welcoming, open to change, evangelistically sensitive and invested in young people.
Please join the staff team and deacons in making this time of transition a time of real growth.
Every blessing to you,