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Getting Your Church Unstuck From Growth Hindrances

Under 60 People

Generally speaking, the leader feels his job involves knowing everything about each and every person in the congregation, and “being there” personally for everybody. Church is a big family at the dinner table; that’s why potluck meals work so well within this size church. Pastor cares and does so much, that he lulls the congregation away from its own responsibility to bear one another’s burdens. For the most part, he responds to problems and reacts to situations that arise in the normal course of people’s lives.

Acting more like a chaplain or a concerned parent, the pastor of the typical small church delegates almost nothing, and if he does ask someone to oversee an aspect of church life, he will keep checking on it so often and so intrusively, that the individual feels about as empowered as a youngster with a learner’s permit on her first driving lesson with mom.


1) Identify three ministry jobs (i.e. doing the bulletin, selecting the worship songs, running the sound system), turn them over to volunteers, and after explaining the job for an hour, do nothing and say nothing related to those jobs for three months.

2) Do not attend the next church fellowship function, and for the next three months always invite someone different to open any gatherings (with a prayer of a greeting) and to close them. Have neither the first nor the last word.

3) Redirect one hour of your weekly schedule—something you normally do—and go sit somewhere like in a coffee shop with pen and paper, write down any new ideas for church (not reminders).

90-120 People

Having broken free from the previous stick point, churches of this size are developing into a comfortable community, not just a family. Usually, there are not (yet) many structural or logistical problems. The first faint glimpses or a leadership structure are emerging, but delegation is probably friendship-based and related almost exclusively to small or easily controlled aspects of church life. No one is really being freed to do things the way they think is best. Rather, the pastor has thought it through and merely tells someone what to do and how to do it.

There will always be exceptions, but generally speaking, a church of 90 will stay stuck without a full-time pastor and a half-time assistant who keeps regular office hours.


1) Legitimize your operations by making the “office staff” more substantial—setting prescribed hours when you’re (always) open, filling those hours with workers (paid and unpaid), getting a ‘real’ piece of office equipment, having a “staff lunch” for volunteers, etc.

2) Begin to establish multiple gatherings of the same kind, like dividing into two weekend services even if your building is not full, starting three breakfast groups for emerging leaders; for five months discontinue regular meetings with your elders, so they can each meet during that time slot with their own group of the same size/gender composition as the former elders’ group.

3) Identify three main areas of ministry (i.e., CM, worship, men’s meetings), and invite at least five people in each area, to two brain-storming sessions to dream big. Delegate specific jobs and responsibilities to each participant. Help them to do it if they need the help, but expect them to do it. Leave it in their hands.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2016

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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