How to Get Your Church Growing Again

February 15, 2018
ministry team
3 Lessons I’ve Learned in Leading a Ministry Team
March 1, 2018

How to Get Your Church Growing Again


Guest Post from Aaron Buer. Reposted with kind permission from Breeze.

From time to time, we all get stuck. Our churches get stuck. We get stuck in our personal lives and we get stuck in leadership.

It just happens. It’s normal.

Often, stuck doesn’t mean that things are terrible. It just means that things are comfortable. It means we are coasting.

I realized a while back that our ministry was coasting. We were stuck in the land of “good enough.” Thankfully, in this season, our church leadership was beginning to take dramatic steps away from “good enough” and toward “excellent.” We caught the vision and we too got unstuck.

Can we all agree that staying stuck isn’t an option? Our churches need to get growing again. We need to get moving in our personal lives and we simply must improve and develop as ministry leaders. The stakes are too high! People need Jesus and our people need healthy and growing leaders.

Ok. Good. We all agree. We can’t stay stuck.

So, how do we get moving again?

I think it comes down to answering one question:

What’s the one thing that changes everything?

In your church, what is the one factor that affects everything else? In your personal life, what is the one behavior or practice that unlocks everything else? In your role as a leader, what is the one thing that when you pursue it, leads to good things in every other area? What is the one factor that acts like the lead domino?


When you push on it, it knocks over all the other dominos and leads to great things. What’s the one thing that changes everything?

Let me give you an example of the one thing from our student ministry. Our team recently spent a year asking this question in a variety of ways. There were a lot of options:

  • Is it student attendance that affects everything else?
  • Is it a great curriculum?
  • Is it great small group leaders?
  • Is it an amazing student center?
  • Is it a gifted student pastor?
  • Is it more money?
  • Is it catalytic events?

The options are nearly limitless. And, our answer is probably different that your answer. But, for our context, through a variety of research methods, we decided that our one thing is “invested small group leaders”.

We learned that when our students have the same leader year after year, who is spiritually mature and relationally invested in their lives it is an absolute game changer. It leads to more frequent student attendance, better student retention, and more visible and trackable spiritual growth in our students. So, for us, our one thing that changes everything is invested small group leaders.

What is it for you? I can’t tell you what it is. You have to put in the research.

What’s the one thing that changes everything?

I can’t tell you this. It’s worth the work because if you can uncover what the one thing is in your ministry, church or life, then you can influence the one thing and when you influence the one thing, you get unstuck. A few suggestions to help you discover your one thing:

  • Do an off-site with your key leaders and ask them this question. It’s very likely that over the course of an entire day, you’ll get close to the “one thing”.
  • Survey your people. Ask them about what influences, motivates and helps them grow.
  • Put together focus groups. (Sometimes a survey is great but sometimes you just need to hear from your core people. Buy them all coffee and ask them!)
  • Compare notes. Call up churches, ministries and people you respect and ask them what their one thing is.

If you put in the work, you can discover your one thing. Then, it’s time to figure out how to influence the one thing.

Influence the One Thing

Let’s get practical. How do you affect the one thing? How do you grow in the one area that really matters? Here’s what we’ve done.

If the one thing that really matters in our ministry is invested small group leaders, then we have to get dead serious about recruiting, developing and retaining invested leaders. Here are a couple of decisions we’ve made:

  • If you can’t commit to leading your students for all 3 years of middle school (or 4 years of high school) then this isn’t the right ministry for you.
  • Invested small group leaders show up 90% of the time. If you can’t be here 90% of the time, then this isn’t the right ministry for you.
  • Invested small group leaders mentor their students spiritually. If you aren’t pursuing Jesus and actively surrendering your life to his authority, then this isn’t the right ministry for you.
  • If you don’t have the time to invest in student relationally (sporting events, hosting gatherings, etc.) then this isn’t the right ministry for you.

If you couldn’t tell, we raised the bar pretty high. But, we had to. This is the one thing! If all of our small group leaders are invested leaders, our student ministry will be a phenomenal place for students and that’s what we want to be about.

My point is this: When you discover what your one thing is, go all in! Get after it. Cut out what doesn’t matter and focus on what does. Redirect your focus and your resources around influencing the one thing and you will get unstuck. You will grow.

Measure the One Thing

Something I’ve learned is that discipline and focus require vigilance. Click To Tweet

Our way of pursuing vigilance is a scoreboard. We recently put a scoreboard in our staff office that measures how we’re doing in terms of our one thing.


Now, it can be tough to measure your one thing. Figuring out how to measure it will require a serious brainstorm and possibly a little trial and error. For us, we’ve decided that the two best measurements for invested leaders are:

  1. Small Group Leader Attendance: We decided that when a leader attends our student ministry events 90% of the time they are an invested leader. Also, when a particular ministry context has 90% of their leaders present on a given night, they are invested as a whole.
  2. Filled Small Group Leader Positions: We decided that when students don’t have a small group it’s really bad! Only when all of our small group leader positions are filled are we healthy.

We put a scoreboard on the wall of our office that reflects these measureables so we know how we’re doing.

Why? Because who cares if you know what your one thing is and what it looks like to get there if you aren’t actually moving in that direction!

Everything that matters has a scoreboard. Football. Politics. Finances. And, the one thing.

So, the final step in getting unstuck is creating measureables around your one thing.

Wrap Up

Let’s wrap this up. The way to get unstuck in your ministry, personal life or church is to discover what the one thing is that affects everything else.

Once you know what it is, figure out how to influence it. Then, to make sure you’re moving in the right direction, measure it.

If you’re interested in trying this out, schedule an off-site or schedule a personal day and start brainstorming! We’d love to hear how it goes.


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