What to Do When Your Church Grows “Too” Fast
A rapid influx of new Jesus-loving church members. That’s what every church wants, right? Absolutely! We all want our churches to grow with new believers and long-time Christians coming back to church. We want them sitting in our pews every Sunday receiving the love of Christ, and we want all of them ASAP. This IS what we’re after. That doesn’t mean, however, that fulfilling the goal of exponential church growth won’t come with some issues on the church operations side of things. In fact, when a church grows “too” fast, it can prove logistically problematic if there aren’t already robust support systems in place.
If your member levels are showing indicators of impending rapid growth, here are a few things to do to prepare for a bigger congregation.
#1: Invest in Technology
There’s a wide variety of software programs to choose from that can make running the behind-the-scenes church operations much easier and more efficient. If you’re not already using a church management system (ChMS), that’s a great place to start. You’ll need that to maintain contact information for members and guests alike. You’ll also want to be able to communicate with guests and members. Most ChMS tools offer email and text messaging capabilities that make sending and receiving messages simpler than ever. For things like managing facility upkeep and scheduling HVAC equipment, eSPACE by Cool Solutions Group is an excellent tool, as well. And for even more communication resources, there are plenty of email software programs — MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Constant Contact — to help you reach members more efficiently.
If it’s not already a part of your ChMS, accounting software is another must-have item to add to your technology list. Part of being an excellent steward of church finances involves properly accounting for church funds. There are plenty of great options to help you do that, including QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Aplos.
Similarly to accounting, keeping electronic files organized and in a central location is also a necessity in this technological world we live in. For this, Google Drive (or another cloud-based tool) is an excellent document storage unit!
#2: Develop Your People Slowly
All people, including natural-born leaders, have limits. Just because someone is great at leading a team of 25 volunteers doesn’t mean that same person will excel at leading 100 volunteers. Developing your team’s strengths is all well and good, unless you do it too quickly. Pushing them past their limits before they’re ready for more work will backfire and eventually lead to burnout. Work to increase each team member’s capacity slowly in order to determine where they are in relationship to that capacity. Offer continual leadership training to both staff and volunteers and do regular evaluations to learn about each person’s effectiveness before giving them more responsibility.
#3: Build Volunteer Teams
A bigger congregation means you’ll need more volunteers as greeters, in the parking lot, taking care of children in the nursery, etc. To prepare for a growing church, start building out your volunteer teams before you actually need them. To incentivize members to become volunteers, begin brainstorming ways you can make serving more a part of your church’s culture. This article can give you a good place to start.
#4: Implement Policies and Processes
As you add staff and volunteers, you need to make sure everyone understands “how we do things around here.” That’s where policy and procedure documentation (and training) comes into play. It’s important to have written documents that explain things like when to conduct background checks and who requires one (dependent on role); who is allowed to volunteer around minors; emergency evacuation procedures; how to request supplies; or how to submit an event request form. Don’t assume your team knows what you expect. Document it, train them on it, and reiterate it on a consistent basis.
#5: Connect with Other Leaders
Find other church leaders who are a few steps ahead of you when it comes to rapid church growth. Talk with them about the growing pains they experienced and how they dealt with them. Consider creating a network of pastors, executive pastors, church business administrators who’ll share ideas, resource recommendations, and will be available to help each other troubleshoot issues. There are several organizations that help make these connections through membership or coaching programs such as The Church Network, Vanderbloemen Search Group, and ChurchFuel. Whether you get involved with one of these organizations or create an informal group of your own, it’s important to connect with and learn from other leaders.
As a church, your mission is undoubtedly to spread the Word of God to as many people who will listen. So if you experience an influx of churchgoers, consider it a job well done. Just don’t forget about the other part of your job: running a smooth, organized congregation that can support its members in the long term.