8 Principles for Churches that Want to Grow

When it comes to numbers, churches tend to err in one of two ways: they either discount them as unimportant or they put too much emphasis on them.

The reality is that numbers are important, and though they aren’t the only sign of a healthy church, they are an important measure.

For Mars Hill, numbers are a key measure of our health. For us, it’s all about the numbers, if by “numbers” you mean the number of people getting their sins forgiven, getting their lives changed by Jesus, and going to heaven instead of hell. We’d like that number to go up. We’re all for that.

When numbers are viewed from this perspective, they are a good thing to desire to see grow. This is why I commend pastors who desire to see the church they pastor grow for the right reasons.

In my conversations with pastors around the world, many have questions on church growth. So, I thought I’d share eight principles I’ve learned about church growth.


The following is a rough breakdown of reported (which may not be entirely accurate) church attendance. Admittedly, these numbers are a few years old, but, as a general rule, they do give you a rough idea of church-size barriers.

  • Churches with 45 people or fewer = 100,000 churches or 25% of all churches
  • Churches with 75 people or fewer = 200,000 churches or 50% of all churches
  • Churches with 150 people or fewer = 300,000 churches or 75% of all churches
  • Churches with 350 people or fewer = 380,000 churches or 95% of all churches
  • Churches with 800 people or fewer = 392,000 churches or 98% of all churches
  • Churches with 800 people or more = 8,000 churches or 2% of all churches
  • Churches with 2,000 people or more = 870 churches or 0.22% of all churches
  • Churches with 3,000 people or more = 425 churches or 0.11% of all churches

Lyle Schaller, considered one of the best church consultants in the world, states in his book, The Very Large Church, that the two most comfortable church sizes are under 45 people and under 150 people, likely making them two of the hardest thresholds to pass through, in addition to the 800 mark.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell states that 150 is also the maximum number of people someone can purposefully connect with, which explains why some people do not like bigger churches. It may also explain why John Wesley divided people into groups of about 150, the average hunter-gatherer village is about 150 people, most military units are under 200, and the Hutterites allow their communities to grow no larger than 150.

Understanding group dynamics like this is important in understanding that there are significant challenges that come with each phase of church size, and being aware of where you want your church to grow allows you to begin preparing for those growth phases more effectively.

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Mark Driscoll

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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