Noting that hundreds of church growth principles have been put forth in the last thirty years, Charles Arn responded to a recent question, What are the top five church growth principles? Based on his own study and experience, these are foundational church growth insights that you can take to the bank. Whether you’re in a church of 20 or 20,000, these principles will help to invest the talents God has given to your church, so that when the Master returns you can return more than what you were given (Matthew 25:14-30).
Principle 1: Disciple-making is THE priority. As Arn explains it, A church can do many good things. A church should do a few important things. But there is only one essential thing a church must do: go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life. (Matthew 28:19, The Message)
Principle 2: Social networks are the vehicle. There is a silver bullet’ that any congregation can use to reach more people. Here it is: Non-Christians come to Christ and the church primarily through relationships with Christians. Again, this may seem elementary,’ but I remain amazed at the number of churches and Christians who believe something other than friends reaching friends will somehow create growth.
Principle 3: Felt needs are the connecting point. Arn notes that most unchurched people aren’t nearly so concerned about their eternal destiny as Christians are. Right or wrong, they have on their mind something of immediate interest: their jobs, friends, health, kids, finances, hobbies. If the gospel of Christ is really relevant to all aspects of our lives, we need to show unreached people how it is relevant to their lives, as well. Don’t start with your agenda, start with theirs.
Principle 4: Relationships are the glue. What’s the primary ingredient that keeps people active in church? Friendships. Put simply, if people have friends at church, they stay. If they don’t have friendships, they won’t. According to one study, new members who stay beyond their first year made an average of seven new friends in the church. Those who dropped out made fewer than two. The implication for churches is clear we need to be intentional about creating friendships, not just acquaintances.
Principle 5: Transitions are windows of opportunity. Arn points out that unchurched persons in our community are not equally receptive to becoming Christians and members of our churches. Significant changes in people’s lifestyle move them toward spiritual receptivity. Such changes may be controlled events (marriage, divorce, relocation, retirement) or uncontrolled ones (death of a spouse, medical crisis, job loss). Churches need to encourage members to be aware of these events in the lives of those in their social network. And, churches can develop specialized ministries in response to these transitions.
From The Top Five Church Growth Principles by Charles Arn, president of Church Growth, Inc. REV, July/Aug 2009.