From Parking Lot to Parking Lot
How to Cause Your Church to Grow
Recently a pastor of a church of about 250 attendees gingerly shared with me that he desired to see his church grow significantly. He was thankful for his small church and loved the people that God had entrusted into his care, but he had a yearning in his heart to reach more people and see their lives transformed by the Word of God.
Most pastors hope their church will grow, but only a few take steps to intentionally grow it. It won’t just automatically happen! It takes intentional vision, planning, and effort to experience the growth you desire.
Similar to a bicycle wheel, there are many spokes to church growth, but in this article, I want to focus on what I call FROM PARKING LOT TO PARKING LOT. Let’s begin with this saying that I heard several years ago:
People will not always remember what you say…but they will remember how you made them FEEL.
This is why you must intentionally (there’s that word again) create a positive, uplifting, life-building service experience that touches people both spiritually and emotionally from parking lot (arriving) to parking lot (leaving).
#1 – SEE THINGS FROM THE EYES OF A VISITOR
It is important to get a fresh perspective from new people because we often miss details due to being familiar with things. Arrange for church secret shoppers to visit and give you honest and frank feedback about your church service. Call your visitors from the last 6 months and ask them for their feedback. You may be surprised by what you hear. Of course, there is no perfect church and you can’t make everyone happy, but always develop an attitude of listening and commitment to improve.
#2 – EVALUATE YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Today many churches focus primarily on the worship experience. They add cool lighting systems, creative stage backdrops, and a fog machine. They bring the lights down, and the singers are young and hip. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this as long as it fits the culture and style of your church community. Every church has its own identity, so don’t try to be like the church across town, just be the church God has called you to be. The point that I want to make is that you have to make ALL aspects of your service experience great, not just worship.
Look at how you make people feel as soon as they drive into your parking lot (and as they leave the parking lot). Is it easy to get in and out of the parking lot? Are the parking lot attendants friendly and smiling? Are the grounds clean and beautiful?
Do your volunteers and check-in process reassure the parents that their kids will be safe and cared for? All of this makes an impact on how a person feels about the church.
Probably one of the most sensitive areas to evaluate is the actual church service. Again, hearing from visitors will give you good insights. Is the music too loud? Is the service too long? Does the teaching help people grow and make them feel like they can face the new week?
Before I move to the next step, let me share with you that the most important ten minutes of the service, especially to a church visitor, is the time AFTER the service. This is when visitors determine if the church is friendly, so be sure you are intentionally making connections after the service. You want to be sure that the last impression people have as they leave the church is positive and encouraging.
As you can see, this step of evaluating your entire service experience takes a significant amount of time and energy, but it must be done thoroughly. Don’t take any shortcuts with this step!
#3 – BE OPEN AND COMMITTED TO CHANGE
Sometimes leaders just want to hear the new ideas to add to what they are currently doing. They don’t want to hear how they need to change. There is a biblical principle of pruning shown in John 15:1-3. As leaders, we need to embrace this principle of inspecting our services and ministries to see what areas need to be pruned (changed) for the purpose of bearing more fruit (growth).
If you really want to see significant growth in your church, then you have to be open to fresh ideas and critique, and be committed to make the necessary changes.
#4 – STAY THE COURSE
It’s easier to start the process than it is to cross the finish line, but you can do it if you keep the vision of ministering to a multitude of people before you, and remind yourself why you are going through this change process.
You will have to make some uncomfortable changes if you really want to experience the growth you desire. Stay the course and don’t quit. Don’t be moved if you don’t see immediate growth. Stay the course and don’t quit. If you receive some pushback from others about the changes, stay the course and don’t quit.
What I shared earlier is worth repeating — most pastors hope their church will grow, but only a few do something to intentionally make it grow.
Church growth requires intentional vision, careful planning, and consistent effort to experience the growth you desire. Let INFINITY CONCEPTS help you get started today! Let’s talk!
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