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The Rob Skinner Podcast: Helping You Make This Life Count

Jan 15, 2021

Today on episode 73_,  I’m going to talk about how to help your small church, ministry or small group grow.  I’ll share from a lesson I did at the Look Up small church leaders conference.  I’ll be talking about:

  • Facing the problem
  • Understanding why churches stop growing
  • Dealing with growth plateaus
  • Overcoming sticking points at different sizes

You can reach Rob at


  • Introduction


“Some had spoken as well as he or better.  Gandhi’s greatness lay in doing what others might do but don’t.”  Louis Fischer


There is good news and bad news about growing your church.  The good news is that you can absolutely do it.  No matter the obstacles you face the location you find yourself in or the people God has called you to lead, you can make it grow.  The bad news is that it will demand that you do “what others might do but don’t.” 

My goal is to give you the tools to grow your church from where it is currently at to over 100 members.  


Facing the Problem

  • Understanding why churches stop growing

Visiting the church in Ashland in 1986 and 2004:  “24”

This church, led by a well-meaning and well-intended minister was stuck for decades on a long growth plateau. 

Growth plateau, barrier or sticking points are different names for an affliction that affects every church at one point or another. 

The church is a body and just like a physical body it exhibits homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the tendency to resist change in order to maintain a stable, relatively constant internal environment. 

Examples:  Weight loss, muscle gain, personal habits.

Your ministry is perfectly designed to stay at your current size.

Your schedule, membership, leadership, culture and expectations preserve your current size.

  • The good side is that churches rarely decline rapidly or disappear.
  • The bad side is that it takes all-out effort and skill to get to the next level.

Research supports that there are predictable sizes that a church will level out at. 

The most common growth ceilings are fifteen, fifty and one hundred. 

  • When my wife and I planted a self-supporting church in Ashland, Oregon I remember a conversation I had with our campus leader, Chris. I told him, “We have to break out of the teens!” 

You might be around 15, 50 or some other number, but you aren’t alone facing this challenge. 

Many leaders experience the frustration of “three steps forward, two steps back.” 


  • Dealing with a growth plateau


  1. Denial, avoidance or a lack of acknowledgment.

When I visit church conferences, I talk to many church leaders and reconnect.  One thing I have noticed is that few if any will want to talk about how their church is doing.  They speak in generalities.  They are unwilling to face squarely that their church is stuck.  This is a recipe for maintaining the current size. 


This happens when the church leader stops believing his church will grow and attributes the lack of growth to environmental factors such as the size of the surrounding population, lack of money, age of membership, or lack of leaders.  All of these certainly contribute to a church’s growth potential, but there are enough exceptions to the rule that it comes across as excuse-making to simply surrender to a lack of growth.  When the leader no longer believes his church can grow, the game is over.

  1. Face the problem

A better and yet more difficult way of dealing with growth barriers is to take a hard look at yourself and figure out what God is demanding of you in order to reignite growth in your church. 

Growing churches are led by growing leaders. 

You may not be the reason why your church has stopped growing, but you certainly will be a large part of the reason it starts growing again.

Share:  Tucson’s growth history

Statistics are a casualty of 2003

  • Practical challenge: Know, face and talk about your numbers


  • Overcoming sticking points at different sizes

There are two primary areas to evaluate when you are trying to figure out what it will take to kick-start growth in your church.

  1. The leader’s mindset and habits

The leader of a church under one hundred serves as the model and motivation of the church. 

“You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. ”  1 Thessalonians 1:5 MSG

Paul reveals his simple method of planting and leading a small church.  He set an example or pattern that young Christians were explicitly called to follow.  He knew that his own living example was the “DNA” of the future church.  His attitudes and behavior would be mirrored in the growing church body. 

In the same way, if a church has leveled out in its growth, the leader has to examine his attitudes, words and actions. 

  Today, we are going to dig in to the leader’s thought life and example in an effort to remove roadblocks to church growth.


  1. The church’s culture, structure and schedule.

If a leader is growing but the church itself remains stuck, it could be that the calendar, structure or culture of the church is inhibiting growth.  Sometimes, churches can be held back by one person or small group of people who are holding on to the past or afraid of repeating past mistakes.  We will spend the second half of the class looking at church structures that promote growth.



Leading a church is challenging, leading it to consistent growth is the hardest job in the world.

However, you and your church can be the exception.

You are the golden child in your congregation: “You are just like cream, you always rise to the top.”

You wouldn’t be where you are unless someone thought you had exceptional promise and talent.

You can grow your church, but it will take everything you have and more.


Next episode:  How to win the mental battle