8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark

Carey Nieuwhof is not a United Methodist. Nope, he’s the pastor of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, Canada which is part of a network of churches that have been influenced by Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries. And yet, he’s a voice we should be listening to because again and again Carey posts pithy articles on church leadership and evangelism that are worth thinking about. Today (which you have have already read) he unpacked the 8 reasons most churches never break the 200 in attendance mark:

You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance?
You ready?
They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.
Think about it.
There’s a world of difference between how you organize a corner store and how you organize a larger supermarket.

Maybe this doesn’t relate to you, but today Carey was talking to me. You see, the last two churches I’ve served haven’t broken the 200 in attendance mark. One was very close — so close that I attempted to challenge the church by offering to shave my head if the congregation could have 200 in attendance 4 weeks in a row (which only terrified them and led to worship attendance decreasing!) Breaking the 200 person plateau is a goal that I’ve often aspired to, but never reached in my ministry as a senior pastor.

Most of what Carey shares is common sense stuff that most of us in leadership naturally know. And yet, how quickly we forget in the midst of the day to day stuff of pastoral ministry, and the inertia that keeps ministries, committees, and programs in motion far beyond their natural lifespan.

However Carey only tangentially addresses perhaps the biggest issue that those of us in smallerish churches face: the fact that in many cases the people who worship and lead in those churches simply don’t want to be any bigger than they already are.

That’s the struggle isn’t it? You see, for all of the lip service we give that it’s okay to be a smaller church, all the rhetoric we spew that church vitality is found in both large AND small places, we continue to believe that numerical growth is the main measure of church success. Carey himself identifies the struggle in his article:

Please understand, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church. I just know that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to grow.

And yet, if the people who make up that church don’t want to be in a largerish church, if they believe that God’s kingdom is best lived out in a small community in which everyone knows your name, if they think that the rural church of their childhood is how God best speaks to them, there is a limit to what a pastor or other leaders can do. When my leaders tell me right out that they prefer a smaller church and don’t want our church to get larger then I am pretty much assured that their desire is likely to prevail for a while.

Read more at the United Methodist Reporter.


  1. Bishop Arthur J. Moore of the N.Ga. Methodist would answer the question of “how big is your church? this way: “I want my church to be ” BIG” then pause and say in a small tone ” my church is big enough to change lives.” A church that does its ministry that is true to the Bible and is relevant to the those in the area, and has ministries that nourish the soul, will grow. This kind of church is about blessing people and the congregation passing on their blessing to others.

  2. David Bryan says

    Size is not the main issue. The main issue when speaking of a healthy church is, are we are making leaders (disciples)? If we are making healthy leaders then the small church will continue to grow in numbers. However, to remain small they will have to be starting churches with the leadership they are making. It is up to the leadership if they want to remain at 100, 200, 1,000 etc.

    No matter the size they desire to be the last command of our Lord, to make disciples and go into the world, must be happening. Any size church is healthy if they are growing where they are planted by either growing leaders who are strong disciples of Jesus Christ and they create/or develop an existing ministry within a particular church or start a new church. A healthy life will continue to grow. .

  3. Fuller Ming, Jr. says

    We are way under 200. I think the issue is leadership, both myself, the senior pastor, and the elders. I think God want’s us to grow too – in that, God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth! I think we WANT to grow, but we don’t have (haven’t developed) the faith, talent, skills, and courage to do what it takes. I pray we will grow and change, thus our lack of growing will change and we will start to grow over the next few years. We’ve developed a good strategy – now we simply have to have the faith, courage and exercise enough leadership to do it.

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