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Location, location, location


I started pastoring a small country church a little over a year ago. I know God has me in this position because church work was starting to look easy. It doesn't look as easy any more. Although we have seen some progress, we have not seen as much as I had hoped, and, quite frankly, not as much as I expected.

This situation is very different from my previous church experience. I used to work at a church on a busy street near New Mexico State University. Lots of drive by traffic. Lots of visitors. In my research I have found that most churches are like that. Lots of visitors. Most churches can grow by taking really good care of the visitors they have. One of the best ways to take care of a visitor is to take them out to lunch. Back to my story.

This church is off the beaten path--way off.

There is a main corridor --Highway 187 -- that runs from Las Cruces to Albuquerque and beyond. We are not on that corridor. Every so often there is a road that comes off of that main corridor and makes a loop--running into Highway 187 5 miles or so up the road. We are not on one of those loops. We are on a road the runs from one of those loops toward the river and services a dozen or so houses. The only people who drive by our church are the people who live in those dozen houses or so.  I doubt we have 100 people a week drive by our church. I got to wondering if this makes any difference. We are a mile outside of a town of 700 and 7 miles outside of a town that does not have a stop light.

I had lunch with a pastor buddy that pastors a church around 3 times the size of mine. This would put his church around 75 in Sunday School. Mine is around 25. (It was 18 when I came; we are up by a third!). His church is on a very busy road--thousands of cars drive by every week. I asked him how many visitors he has. 25 a month.

I don't think we have had 25 visitors in the last year, maybe not in the last 5 years. Again, I got to wondering if traffic made any difference. Surely something as unspiritual as traffic couldn't effect church growth. A year ago it would have never crossed my mine.

Businesses seem to think traffic matters. You have seen what I have--businesses shut down one location to move 2 blocks over to get a better location. Ray Croc, founder of McDonalds is famous for saying, "I am not in the hamburger business, I am in the real estate business. You give me the right corners and the right locations and I can sell anything to any body." I am told their department that picks out where a new McDonalds is to be built is so sophisticated and does their work so carefully Burger King doesn't even bother to have such a department. They just build their stores across from McDonalds. This may be urban legend. It does highlight the point that location matters to business. Question is, does traffic make a difference to church growth?

I asked you and you told me.

When comparing churches with a good location (lots of drive traffic) with churches with a bad location, this is what I found. Churches with a good location are 60% more likely to be growing rapidly.

5% of churches with a bad location are growing rapidly; 8% of churches with a good location are growing rapidly.

Churches with good locations are a also less likely to be declining.

14% of churches in good locations are declining. 19% of those in bad locations are declining. If you have a good location you are more likely to be growing rapidly and less likely to be declining. The converse is also true. When you look at fast growing churches, they are more likely to be in good locations and less likely to be in bad locations.

By the way, I also asked about how nice the building was compared to other restaurants and schools and stores in the area. That one didn't make any difference at all.

Location is not the only thing, it is not even the most important thing that contributes to growth. In fact, it might be pretty far down the list. Having great preaching, great music, a solid prayer life, good groups, friendly people and so forth matter a lot more. But, it does matter.

If pastors of growing churches who lead church growth conferences were more honest they would say that location had a significant part in their growth story. I don't know that anyone is saying that.

By the way, my new book on Make Your Group Gorw will release June 1. It would be a great study for your people in the fall.

By the way number 2. I have a new survey on happiness. I have a new book I am working on called It Is Always In Your Best Interest to Live the Christian Life. This survey will help to inform the book. It is 20 question and completely anonymous. If you wouldn't mind taking a few minutes to fill it out, I would greatly appreciate it.






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