Breaking 100–Staffing To Grow Not Plateau

Most of the churches in America are not growing. Even by the smallest of standards, a large majority of churches are stagnant or declining. In fact, current estimates place the number of plateaued or declining churches at seventy-five or eighty percent of all the churches in America. The large number of churches which go more than a year without baptizing anyone is even more alarming.

What can you do to get your church moving in the right direction? In a previous post, I gave three practical suggestions for helping your church move beyond the 100 barrier in attendance. You can read the previous discussion here.

Many church growth experts think that the 100 or 200 plateau is the most difficult to overcome. I consider the 100 barrier the most difficult of all for the following reason: Most of the churches in America have less than 100 people in attendance. Apparently, this barrier is significant to overcome. Also, a church with 100 people is most likely to have been at that number for a considerable period of time, therefore making growth more difficult. One of the few facts that I remember about physics is that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

How do you get your church body in motion?

I suggest that you 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.

One of his key ideas was that one pastor can only shepherd about 100 people. At that point, the pastor has all the people to whom he can effectively relate. 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 called 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.

At First Covington, we adopted a simple strategy to “staff to grow and not plateau.” We looked at our needs and resources and adapted them to one another. Specifically, we planned almost a year in advance to call a new staff member. As we adopted a new budget, we added enough money to call a new pastor for one-half of the year. We did this for a simple reason: we didn’t have enough money for a full year! Once the staff member came on board, he started helping us reach more people. More people helped us raise the budget. The next budget year we added the other half of salary and benefits for the new staff member. We did this year after year, doing our best to “staff to grow not plateau.”

What else did we do? We prayed. We asked for the blessings of God. We looked for new people to reach. We did not believe that there were some people who could not be reached.

I believe that you can cross the barrier that you are facing. May God bless you as you serve God in your church.

In a few days, we will look at the next practical suggestion to cross the 100 barrier.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for these posts. I passed them to an old friend I just ran into who started a church in New Orleans with her husband; they are praying for its growth.

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