How To Move Your Attendance Beyond 100

The most difficult barrier in church growth is the 100 barrier. I know this because the typical church in America is a congregation of less than 100. The 100 barrier is simply difficult to overcome.

I have three very practical suggestions for breaking the 100 barrier. I also have a suggestion of how to make  your church seem “smaller,” a real issue as your church begins to grow.

First, follow the late Lyle Schaller’s suggestion to “staff to grow, not plateau.” Schaller was a Methodist with practical suggestions about church growth. I discovered Lyle Schaller about the same time that I became pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, LA. He impressed me so that I bought twenty-four copies of his book “Growing Plans” and distributed them to the key leaders of our church. Schaller had a number of excellent philosophies to help churches grow which I wanted our people to think about.

One of the key ideas was that one pastor can only shepherd about 100 people. At that point, the pastor has all the people he can relate to. The remedy is to call an additional pastor who can relate to more people. This can be a part time or full time addition. It can be an assistant or a youth worker. It doesn’t matter. Schaller calls this staffing to grow. With this addition, the church is now equipped to move beyond the 100 barrier. Almost all churches are staffed to plateau–to remain right where they are.

Second, place a vision before your people. Give them a practical book on church growth. “Growing Plans” is still a helpful resource. One idea of church growth that I have consistently followed is to invite the leaders of the church to a “Vision Meeting,” a meeting where I laid before them my vision for the future. This usually comprised ministries that I wanted to start and changes that I wanted to make.

I find that this kind of meeting takes the edge off of change. It also sets a real expectation for your people. Once the pastor throws out the idea, the people start seeing it as viable. I have often been asked when I was going to get it accomplished. That is, of course, exactly what I wanted them to ask.

Third, learn to relate to groups of people (Another of Schaller’s ideas). John Maxwell calls this walking slowly through the crowd. The pastor must relate to the people and be accessible to their needs. As the pastor does this, he makes the church feel “small” and he removes the prejudice against a large congregation. Relating to groups of people instead of one at a time, allows the church to move through the 100 barrier.

In the coming weeks, I will take all three of these concepts and explain how to put them into effect.

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13 Responses

  1. Dr. Bailey,

    First let me thank you for writing this blog. It never fails to challenge my thinking, and is often the high point of my day.

    My question is this: Why is it important to break the 100 barrier?? What is wrong with a small church? I know that FBC Covington is a mega-church on the North Shore, and you work hard to serve the many people who attend services there. But it seems like so much personal contact is lost as churches grow and, even with small group bible studies, folks feel detached from that family intimacy that small congregations offer. I wonder if the push for “bigger” necessarily equates to a push for “better”.

    Would enjoy reading your thoughts. Thanks again for the blog.


  2. Jerry, thanks for reading the blog and your encouraging words.
    You have great comments.
    My brief response. I don’t have space to elaborate on my answers. Maybe I should write a blog about why you want to grow. I’ll probably follow up at some point in the future.
    Several reasons. First, Can the church really follow the command of Christ to make disciples without a growth mindset? Shouldn’t we want to be penetrating the darkness of our communities?
    Second, unless churches grow, we must keep planting new churches or return to the house church culture. Both of these seem difficult in our culture. The house church apparently works well in China, etc. It might work in our culture as well but it would be a major shift.
    Third, without all churches growing, we keep having less influence over the culture. The culture becomes more and more pagan.
    Fourth, a large church of small groups includes people well. I ask our involved people regularly, “do you think of FBC Covington as a large church/” They don’t! because they are in small groups and because they serve. That always makes the church intimate.
    Thanks for stimulating my thoughts. Would others of you jump into the discussion as well? Jerry and I would love to hear your thoughts.

  3. It was written by Schaller years ago, a very practical book that describes how small, medium, and large chruches grow. You should be able to find it on Ebay or some of the used books sites. Isn’t the internet wonderful for finding out of print books? I used to have to rummage book stores in hopes of finding a book I wanted.

  4. This reminds me of a class I had in seconardary education. If a teacher knows the goals to seek for a project , course or a subject ,then through democratic process can lead the class or group to to establish the same objective. That is strategic planning.

    There is nothing wrong with a small church in a small community. However, as long as there are people without a church in any community, our goal should be to grow the church. I am happy that we have ministers to place emphasis on age groups and common needs. As long as communities grow in number so should churches , schools, police forces , hospitals and other institutions. I see the work of the head pastor to shift from doing it all to leading the staff and key church people to sheperding those that God has sent into our church.

    As a member of FBC Covington, I do not feel we are a mega church. I love the comfort of having other capable ministeries do part of the work and who can give Dr. Baily time to be visible in community and church organizations. He has the talent of remembering names and can call the name of most of the members as he speaks to them. The mark of a good leader is to choose good people and to work with them to make them part of the power structure or shared governance. There are about ten Baptist churches within five miles of my home, one in walking distance. Royce and I drive 25 miles to FBC Covington. My Bible study group takes care of a lot of the needs of each other and is the main attracton of the church for me at this stage of my life. Mature Christians should share the load of pastoral care with the ministers, leaving them time to work with the lost and grow the church.

  5. Dr. Bailey,

    Do you think the same issues and suggestions apply to the “200 hump?” Reading over your post I find that similar solutions could work concerning the 200 barrier as well. I was wonder if you would recommend one or two others that may differ with the “200” versus the “100.” Thanks so much for your time and ministry.

    Joe Garner III
    Covenant Baptist Church
    Lafayette, LA

  6. it’s interesting that you bring up the 200 barrier. Most people say it is the most difficult. (Probably the most difficult is the one you are facing). I always say 100 because that is where most churches are.
    The first two in this post fit any barrier. Schaller would say to look ahead and prepare to cross the next barrier as well. Probably setting the vision really fits the 200 barrier. Your people are probably ready to grow and open to receiving the vision.. You also want to add ministries to reach out to a larger group of people. Also, you want to start relating well to groups. I think that you will find that blog interesting.
    Hope this helps.

    1. Gina, thanks so much for your comment. Tomorrow’s blog (7/30/19) will attempt to answer your comment. I certainly encourage further discussion–waylon

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