Church Growth Principles
Most churches are NOT growing and are resistant to church growth principles. There are certain signs that signal a church is in decline or dying. Some have said that a church has a certain death rattle when it is in trouble: poor attendance, decreased finances and enthusiasm, talking about the good old days and a resistance to change. Thom Rainer has stated that 65 percent of churches are declining or plateaued.
My wife and I live near West Palm Beach, FL. George Barna’s recent research on “Churchless Cities in America” left us with no doubt regarding our missional context. Barna’s research included 62,896 adults in a nationwide study conducted over a ten-year period. His research concluded with staggering news for West Palm Beach and many cities across our country. Barna’s findings:
West Palm Beach, while not alone, gives a glimpse into the evangelical landscape of the growing “Unchurched America”. Currently, 38% of Americans identify themselves as Unchurched. More troubling in Barna’s research is the data showing that the younger the generation, the more unchurched they become: “Nearly half of Millennials (48%) qualify as post-Christian compared to two-fifths of Gen X-ers (40%), one-third of Boomers (35%) and one-quarter of Elders (28%).”
3 Ways People Find Your Church
People like to think that there are hundreds of ways that individuals find your church. The vast majority of people that show up for your services have found you one of the following three ways:
- Your Church Members- This is the desire of every pastor but as awesome as it is there are limitations. Not everyone that moves to our area finds one of our faithful members.
- Your Church Sign- Church signs are very important as well and shouldn’t be understated. Every pastor knows the importance of their church signs but they also know their limitations. The great thing about a church sign might be its location and the bad thing about a church sign might be its location. Also, a church street sign has limited information.
- Your Church Website- Want to grow your church? You better understand the emerging church growth principles shaping today’s most rapidly growing churches.
Think Like The Unchurched
Let’s be honest, most believers find it next to impossible to think like an unbeliever in terms of genuine questions, possible hurdles, faith fears or misconceptions. Many pastors do not understand the impact of these church growth principles.
Imagine the following scenario: You are new to town, you know very few people and you awake one morning with an excruciating toothache. What do you do? Do you walk up and down your street asking complete strangers for dental advice? Do you jump in your car and drive all morning until you find a sign that says, Dentist Office? If you are like most people when you have a question you search online, “you Google it”.
Being found in these Google searches is critical but so is having a church website that people instantly connect with. The 10 fastest growing churches in America understand these church growth principles and apply them with an intentional “invite culture.”
Did You Know?
In many regions across the U.S. there are literally tens of thousands of individuals and families searching for churches each year. While it is difficult to tell how many of these searches are conducted by churched or unchurched, we do know with specificity exactly how many searches are conducted. The advanced tools that we have at our exposure today are remarkable in that they allow us to pinpoint specific keywords in specific regions.
Example: We can give you the number of people searching for the keywords “Churches in Raleigh” specifically in the Raleigh area. In 2017, 390 individuals or families search for “churches in Raleigh” on average each month. 480 people made this search in September and 260 people made this search in February.
Let This Sink In- Church Growth Principles
- Specifically Vague– Why would someone search for a specific, vague question? Specific in that they want to see potential names of churches in a specific city. Vague in that they aren’t typing in the name of a specific church. Google and digital marketers say these specific searches show “explicit intent”. Imagine someone Googling the word “dress” vs. someone Googling “Fairy Tale wedding dress in Raleigh, NC”. These searches show different intent and yield different results because the person searching is looking for something very specific.
People aren’t arbitrarily performing searches for churches in Raleigh. They are looking for something very specific in a very specific location.
- Magnitude– Over the course of a year 4,680 people search for “churches in Raleigh”. More than this use the search term “churches near me” in Raleigh. During the month of September 1,300 individuals searched for “churches near me” in Raleigh. Many church leaders do not understand the transient nature of our culture. The ones that do understand that 40,000,000 Americans each year move in the US are maximizing the growth potential that it provides.
- Missed Opportunities– It would be great if the members of your church knew each and every person performing these online searches. It would be great if each and every person performing these online searches got all the information they needed when they drove by your church street sign. The US Census Bureau reports that more than 40,000,000 people in the US move each year. Pew Research says, More than four-in-ten Americans who moved to their current community within the last five years (45%) also have looked for a new congregation in that time frame.
According to Pew research, nearly half (47%) of those who have looked for a new congregation within the last five years say they relied on the internet as part of their search.
- Be Found– A new person to your community probably doesn’t know your church’s name. Can a new person in your community find your church online? The answer to this question is probably NO. Many churches do not understand the complexities and nuances of Google rankings. While many mega-churches and larger multi-site churches are hiring staff members or specialists to handle their church SEO, website optimization and Google rankings many can’t afford to make this investment.
- Awareness– Why do people look for a new church? There are actually many reasons and Pew Research provides the following research:
The simple truth is that people do change churches. We may not always understand why or agree with their reasoning but the truth is for a variety of reasons people do change churches. America is more transient than ever before. Growing churches have discovered church growth principles to get their name in front of the thousands of families that translates into more guests visiting their services each week.
Most churches realize the vast number of people moving into their communities but they haven’t developed a comprehensive strategy to reach these individuals. Growing churches are doing some things different than non-growing churches. You can’t apply every church growth principle but you do have to get more new people to attend your church. Without a way of getting more guests and then keeping them, you will not grow your church.
135,000 Individuals Looking For Churches
Over 135,000 families and singles search monthly for “Churches Near Me”. That’s a whopping 1,626,420 searches for Churches Near Me each year in the US. This brings up two great questions.
Churches Near Me
First, How many of these families are searching using these keywords in my general area?
Secondly, Can any of these people find our church when they perform this search?
If you have read our article called Churches Near Me, you will be able to answer this last question.
How This Works
There are a lot of people moving to your area each month. The empirical research tells us that MANY of these families are indeed looking for churches. Church growth principles have to begin by understanding how people are searching for churches today. Here are a few examples:
Tulsa, OK – 1,063 a month
Greenville, SC – 1,653 a month
Raleigh, NC – 1,309 a month
Denver, CO – 1,743 a month
Savannah, GA – 1,907 a month
Santa Fe, NM – 590 a month
Destin, FL – 507 a month
Ashville, NC – 619 a month
Wichita Falls, TX – 478 a month
Multiply these numbers over the year and you will get an idea of the potential new guests that your church needs to be in front of. Unfortunately, many churches have their heads in the sand when it comes to the topic of the new digital front door for churches.
We live in a transient society. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 14% of Americans move each year. Over 40 million Americans move every year. Millions of these individuals are searching online for “churches near me”.
Our tools and resources reveal that just in our County that’s close to 1,500 families and singles use this search term each month in Palm Beach County alone. 18,000 families and singles search Google for “churches near me” annually in Palm Beach County.
Savvy churches across the country are keenly aware of online searches for churches. These growing churches are optimizing their sites and intensifying their efforts to climb the Google church rankings.
Climbing Google Church Search
- Larger churches are prioritizing their Google church rankings. These churches are hiring specialists to assure that their church remains at the top of Google rankings.
- Church SEO- The Google SEO formula is arduous and exhausting. This is why SEO consultants can charge $200.00 an hour.
- SEO Understanding- Having a Facebook and Twitter account isn’t a digital marketing strategy. Most churches do not have the bandwidth or time to research and stay up on the ever-changing SEO landscape.
Many churches are getting ahead of the learning curve. They understand that online searches, SEO’s, digital marketing and SEO optimized websites are the new realities of ministry. Crossroads Church is setting the bar as the fastest growing church in the US. Their use of technology for growth helped them grow by 6,000 new attendees last year.
More and more people will be searching for churches near me. This is a new ministry reality. Whether you know it or not, your church is affected by SEO’s, Google church searches and your church’s website optimization every day.
Your Church’s Google Ranking
The vast majority of new people in your area will begin their church search online. Let’s work together to make sure your church is on the radar for these new families. Think about a high Google ranking the same way you’d think about a real estate investment- location, location, location. You have to determine to rank in the top three and dedicate the resources to get there.
The algorithms are extremely complicated and ever-changing. If you’d like to get a comprehensive survey of your city or region simply fill out the contact form and we will be in touch. Should your church growth principles include Google rankings? YES!