How to grow a church in Georgia

Online version

I have read a number of books in recent years on influence and how ideas spread. Here is some bad news: much of what I do--writing and speaking--is among the least effective forms of influence.

What is effective? Well, I have written a number of articles on that. Check them out at Influencer articles.

Bottom line: people are only mildly influenced by words, talks and writing. They are profoundly influenced by asking two questions:

  • What do my leaders do?
  • What do my people do?

What do my leaders do?

Barry Z. Posner and James M. Kouzes say, "You either lead by example or you don't lead at all." One of the reasons why doubling groups works so well at Northpoint is that Andy Stanley stand before his people about twice a year and says, "I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling." One of the reasons why Sunday School works at Woodstock is that Johnny Hunt is in a Sunday School class every week.

Show me a pastor that stands before his people and says, "I am in a group that is doubling, I want you to be in a group that is doubling" and I will show you a church that is growing. Can it be any simpler than that?

What do my people do?

Who has a stronger influence on teenagers--teachers or their peers? Who has a greater influence on adults: leaders or their peers? The answer is peers in both cases.

We are profoundly influenced by the people in our reference group. We constantly, subconsciously ask, "What do my people do?"

How to grow a church in Georgia

I am dreaming of a meeting that would tap into these powerful forms of influence. Here is what I have in mind.

Go to the Georgia Baptist Convention website and get a list of the 100 fastest growing churches. (By the way, this plan could actually work in any state. Contact your state office. They can likely provide you with this information.) Pick a church that is growing in your area. Try to find a church that has a similar geographical setting. If you are a small church in the country, find a small church in the country. 

I have a new blog, by the way, where growing churches can tell their stories. Check If you lead a growing Sunday School, I'd love to hear your story. Share with me by email the answer to the five questions on the blog. This blog will be a good source of finding growing churches.

Ask the pastor to come and bring a handful of his best teachers to do a training meeting at your church. Training is rather loosely defined in this context. What I have in mind is half how-to and half bragging and story-telling.

Suppose the meeting is 9 - 12 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I'd have the pastor share his story for half an hour. Then let the folks ask him questions for half an hour. His story of growth is going to be powerfully influential to your people, but the best is yet to come.

I'd have each teacher share for about ten minutes about how they were able to grow their classes. This will be even more powerful than the preacher talking because these are peers. Imagine a few testimonies like this:

Or this:


Then, the really good stuff. I'd sit your teachers around round tables. Have one teacher from the growing church at each table. Also at the table would be 6 or so of your teachers. Give them 15 minutes to ask this guest teacher whatever they would like. Then, rotate the guest teachers so that your teachers get to talk to someone else.

Alternatively, you could match the teachers up by age so that the young marrieds are with the young marrieds and so forth. In a small church, you might all stay together.

I'd reserve the last half an hour for a session called "What have we learned?" Have your teachers share with each other what they have learned and what they would like to do about what they heard today. I always finish my conferences doing that and I think it is the best 10 minutes of the seminar.

Why would a pastor do this?

Why would a pastor take the time to do this? I can think of three reasons:

  1. He really does care about the lost and the growth of the kingdom.
  2. He will be honored that someone noticed he is growing.
  3. It will help him reinforce what he is trying to build into his own teachers. It is an example of "catching them doing something right."

One of the most profoundly influential meetings in my life was a meeting that worked like this on a spiritual level. When I was in Junior High my church participated in a Lay Witness Mission. Youth and adults were brought in from 200 miles around. These were not kids like the kids in my youth group. They were fired up about the things of God. They were totally committed to God and you could tell. We spent the weekend hanging out in small group and listened to them tell their story. A the end of the weekend, I was changed. My life has never been the same.

Your teachers could be profoundly changed by rubbing shoulders with some teachers of groups that have doubled.