Everyone is looking for effective church growth strategies. Crossroads has been deemed the Fastest Growing Church in America. Surprisingly, many people including pastors have never heard of this church located in Cincinnati, Ohio. You might expect a church that grew by 5,928 people last year to be located in the spiritually fertile lands of the Bible Belt.
Pastor Brian Tome and eleven friends started this non-denominational church just over two decades ago for imperfect people who had genuine questions about God. Today, more than 28,000 worshippers gather weekly making Crossroads the fourth largest church in the US.
Crossroads’ continued growth is remarkable. So, what can other churches learn from the fourth largest and the number one fastest growing church in the US? The 7 effective church growth strategies below are the transferable principles that Crossroads used to grow their church that can be applied to other churches as well.
7 Effective Church Growth Strategies
1. Invite Culture
Crossroads’ digital front door says a lot about who they are. Crossroads is a church that has made it VERY easy for people to find their church online.
Crossroads’ church website didn’t make The Top 10 Church Websites In The US list, but that doesn’t mean that their website isn’t incredible.
For keyword searches “Churches near me” and “Churches in Cincinnati,” Crossroads is ranked number one on Google. Why is this so important? 880 individuals each month search for “churches near me” in Cincinnati and an additional 480 individuals search for “churches in Cincinnati.” That’s 1,360 individuals and families each month or 16,320 EVERY YEAR!
When you consider that 85% of guests will visit your church website before attending your service, the value you place on your digital front door should skyrocket. Many pastors and churches today have a low value of their church website and their low number of weekly guests validates their lack of priority in this arena. Long gone are the days of pastors and churches simply thinking, “At least we have something online, that is good enough.” Crossroads and ALL of the fastest growing churches in the US would disagree.
What makes an effective invite culture on your church website?
- Google Ranking:
Crossroads understands the importance of being found by over 16,000 individuals and families searching for churches in their geographic area.
Great churches know how to make their church found easily online. This cannot be understated. Churches across the country want to grow as fast as Crossroads, but few prioritize their digital front door the same way.
These churches value being found and here is the reason.
- Video Background:
Crossroads Church uses a great video background video to tell guests about their church. Crossroads’ priorities of Worship, Baptism, Missions, Groups, Multicultural, Sports, Fun, and Children can be seen in their 25 vignette video clips. Video backgrounds are a trend that is gaining a lot of traction across the country for church websites. 50% of the top ten fastest growing churches currently use a video background on their church website.
Why should you be considering a video background for your church website?
- Headline Tag:
Here is Crossroads’ front page headline tag:
“Welcome to Crossroads
This is a real place for real people. All are welcome. No belief systems required, no admission at the door.”
You can see that Crossroads is helping set the trend of the importance of church website headline tags. Churches across the country that value their church website know the importance of a welcoming headline tag.
Here’s why you should help your church develop a personalized headline tag.
- Find a Location & Sermons Buttons:
Notice front and center of Crossroads’ website. You can find the two most important things that guests are typically looking for. Having locations/times and sermons easily accessible helps guests get the information that they want most.
Why is the time and locations page so important?
Effective church growth strategies always include an invite-culture that guests can’t help but be drawn to.
2. Heart For The Lost And Discipleship
In recent Outreach magazine articles, Pastor Brian Tome shares his passion for the broken, God’s Word, grace and the church. Pastor Brian says, “We’re excited that God’s Word is still true: The harvest is great. Our American pop culture can’t give people true hope. It isn’t giving people timeless truth nor a peace that passes understanding. The message of grace and second chances are only found in the person of Jesus, and his primary delivery method is still the local church.
“A few years ago, I asked our staff team to stand if they had come to know Christ through Crossroads. When the majority stood, I realized we were on the right track. If your leaders are not indigenous to the community in which you reside, and if they were not far from God before your church got there, you aren’t missional.”
Effective Church Growth Strategies always include a heart for the lost and discipleship.
3. Honest Church-Awareness
Self-awareness is vitally important for leaders. I believe if more pastors assessed church services like Pastor Brian did as a teenager that American churches might look differently. As a teen, Pastor Brian looked around his home church and asked, “Why is anyone still here?” He took matters into his own hands when he was old enough and never went back.
This is what is happening all over our nation. Congregations see their churches as irrelevant and eventually decide to leave the churches they’ve attended their whole lives. Until churches and their leaders become self-aware, this trend will continue to escalate.
Effective Growth Strategies always include reflection and honesty when it comes to how their church is really doing.
4. Determined Vision
Churches will often realize their need for growth and expect to see that growth immediately after making a few small changes; however, that growth can’t happen without a specific vision set in place by church leadership.
Pastor Brian shares how his church grew: “There were 11 people in the core group, and as soon as I came, two of them left. I did two breakfasts, two lunches, and two coffees a day to try and woo people to the core group. I would chase away three people to every person who came to be a part of the core, and I think that’s where we did things a little differently. If you’re not chasing people away from the vision, then you’re not being clear about the vision. The temptation is to bring together a large crowd right away so you can have some financial security. The tendency is to say things to please people, particularly those who can bring a significant tithe. We understood you couldn’t do that and still maintain crystal clear about your vision.
I began to see poverty as a huge issue in our city. I began to ask, “Can we gather other nonprofits together in a centralized place where all of us could work together and relationships could build?” That’s where CityLink came from. We put $10 million into that and we had to take it all the way to the Supreme Court because we were being sued by people who didn’t want us putting it in their backyard. We persevered because we felt it was a kingdom issue.”
This determined vision has resulted in unparalleled growth for over two decades for Crossroads. It is not a road that will always be easy, but with a plan set in place, Crossroads has provided an excellent example of the results of a specific vision.
Effective church growth strategies always included a determined vision.
5. Hard Work And Perseverance
Ask any pastor whose church has experienced growth and I guarantee that they’ll say their growth as a church did not come easily. Pastor Brian agrees and admitted that the success of his church hasn’t been easy: “When I was 35 my marriage was not doing well because the ministry had become an idol to me. I had gained a lot of weight; I was unhealthy, sitting in the atrium of a building that was already full and yet felt totally deflated. I sat there and said to God: “What is going on here? What’s next?” All I could see was another campaign to raise more money and build more buildings. And then, if that went well, another campaign. And then another. I told God, “I can’t do this. This is not what I signed up for.”
Despite the difficulties he faces, Pastor Brian persevered and has been the lead pastor at Crossroads for more than two decades. The hard work that is required over this period of time is exemplary.
Effective church growth strategies always require tremendous longevity from their leaders.
6. Entrepreneurial Spirit
Though we don’t like to view churches in a business mindset, there will always need to be a spirit of entrepreneurship in effective churches. Churches cannot be complacent to sit back and wait for growth and kingdom work to happen on its own, but instead, have to actively pursue new ways to make an eternal impact.
When asked what kind of kingdom work Crossroads was doing, Pastor Brian said, “We are in the middle of a major season of discernment about what our initial presence will be. We created an app last spring based on our journey called Brave, which has stimulated small groups all over the country, Mexico, and Canada. That was our first foray of digital ministry on a Web page or a podcast. We are asking, “How can we reach communities and gather people together?”
The thing I do best is mobilizing people. I bring people together. In the Brave experience, we’ve already seen the possibilities. At some point, there’s going to be an Amazon expression of the church that’s going to make the Wal-Mart expression irrelevant. Our entrepreneurs are creating ideas we can’t even talk about yet. It’s prerevolutionary. That’s all come out of reaching out into the entrepreneurial space and adding to our macro-church.”
Effective church growth strategies always include entrepreneurial spirits in order for kingdom work to be accomplished.
7. Forward Thinking
Effective leaders are able to see a preferred future and they have the ability to help others see it as well.
Pastor Brian was asked what he see’s happening with churches in the future, “Fifteen years ago, no one thought the masses would rather shop online than go to a store. And yet we do. Similarly, people are now drawn to expressions of the church that aren’t bound by traditional brick and mortar. Twenty years ago, it was rare that a church would attract 10,000 people. Ten years from now, many churches will gather 100,000 people.”
Effective church growth strategies always start with forward-thinking and inspiring others to think the same way.
Where To Start?
The seven effective church growth strategies mentioned above are transferable to churches of any size and in any location, but it has to start with determined and sustained leadership.
Take advantage of these effective church growth strategies are foundational, free, and focused. Any pastor that is looking to grow their church can use these effective strategies to build a strong foundation for fruitful and growing ministry.
- Invite Culture
- Heart For The Lost And Discipleship
- Honest Church-Awareness
- Determined Vision
- Hard Work And Perseverance
- Entrepreneurial Spirit
- Forward Thinking
Effective Church Growth Strategies Mindset
Do you have the same mindset as the pastors of the fastest growing churches? If you are ever around these pastors you quickly pick up on the seriousness of their calling to make disciples. These pastors want everyone in their regions to hear the gospel, to repent and believe and then be discipled.
Hooks in the water? My brother is an avid fisherman. He competes in some of the most competitive offshore tournaments in the world and he competes well. When you ask him what his secret is he says, “I get as many hooks in the water as possible.” Jesus also recruited men to become fishermen of men.
Learning From The Best
What do effective church growth strategies look like? They do not come in a “one size fits all” package. The leaders guiding these churches have different backgrounds, different leadership styles, different theological positions and they are located in different parts of the country. Here are some common things that they share.
- Devoted To Prayer- Like the disciples in the early church, these men and their congregations are devoted to prayer.
- Church Growth Principles- These churches are not “just getting lucky.” These pastors have studied church growth and they are applying the strategies that work best to ensure continued rapid growth.
- Unleashing The Church- These men empower others. Identifying, recruiting, training and releasing is their continued pattern to unleash their churches.
- Creating An Invite Culture- Every pastor wants to see his church grow. While the easy answer is right under their nose most pastors can’t see it. The front door of your church has changed locations. You have got to say “Welcome To Church” where people are first intersecting with your church.
- The Power Of Community- There are approximately 4000 mega churches in the world that approximately 100 million people attend. That is pretty impressive. Did you know that 1 billion people all over the world attend smaller churches? Many of these men are creating smaller multi-site churches.
- Simple Church- Churches are highly complex organizations. This is why business guru Peter Drucker said to be a pastor is one of the five toughest jobs in the world. Steve Jobs made this point about simplicity, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” The fastest growing churches in the US strive to stay simple.
- Trends- These men do not chase every trend but they are aware of trends impacting today’s culture. There are two trends that every pastor that wants to see his church grow must know.
- Digital Front Door- While other pastors are passe` about their church websites, these pastors are obsessed with its importance. These men realize that the vast majority of church guests visit your church website first. To drop the ball with potential guests at the first point of contact is not a mistake they are willing to make.
- Google Rankings & SEO- If you want to see your church grow you need to read the following three articles: