7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America

American Church Attendance

Are people really attending church? What do the facts say?

1. Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church — half of what the pollsters report.

While Gallup polls and other statisticians have turned in the same percentage — about 40% of the population — of average weekend church attendees for the past 70 years, a different sort of research paints quite a disparate picture of how many Americans attend a local church on any given Sunday.

Initially prompted to discover how church plants in America were really doing, Olson, director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church (covchurch.org), began collecting data in the late “80s, gradually expanding his research to encompass overall attendance trends in the Church. In his study, he tracked the annual attendance of more than 200,000 individual Orthodox Christian churches (the accepted U.S. church universe is 330,000). To determine attendance at the remaining 100,000-plus Orthodox Christian churches, he used statistical models, which included multiplying a church’s membership number by the denomination’s membership-to-attendance ratio.

The Numbers

His findings reveal that the actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40% the pollsters report. Numbers from actual counts of people in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) show that in 2004, 17.7% of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend.

Another study published in 2005 in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler — known for their scholarly research on the Church — backs up his findings. Their report reveals that the actual number of people worshipping each week is closer to Olson’s 17.7% figure — 52 million people instead of the pollster-reported 132 million (40%).

“We knew that over the past 30 to 40 years, denominations had increasingly reported a decline in their numbers,” Marler says. “Even a still-growing denomination like the Southern Baptist Convention had reported slowed growth. Most of the mainline denominations were all reporting a net loss over the past 30 years. And at the same time, the Gallup polls had remained stable. It didn’t make sense.”

The Halo Effect

What Hadaway and Marler, along with Mark Chaves, author of the “National Congregations Study,” discovered was at play is what researchers call “the halo effect” — the difference between what people tell pollsters and what people actually do. Americans tend to over-report socially desirable behavior like voting and attending church and under-report socially undesirable behavior like drinking.

Gallup Poll Editor in Chief Frank Newport agrees that the halo effect factors in to poll results. During a Gallup telephone survey of a random sampling of about 1,000 Americans nationwide, interviewers ask respondents questions such as, “In the last seven days, did you attend a church service, excluding weddings and funerals?” to determine their church-going habits.

“When people try to reconstruct their own behavior, particularly more frequently occurring on-and-off behavior, it is more difficult, especially in a telephone interview scenario,” Newport says. But he stands behind Gallup’s 40% figure: “I’ve been reviewing U.S. church attendance carefully,” he says. “No matter how we ask the question to people, we get roughly 40% of Americans who present themselves as regular church attendees.” He adds, however, that if you were to freeze the United States on any Sunday morning, you may find fewer than 40% of the country’s adults actually in churches.

“Although about 40% of Americans are regular church attendees, it doesn’t necessarily mean 40% are in church on any given Sunday,” he explains. “The most regular church attendee gets sick or sleeps in. The other reason may be people who tell us they go to church but are worshipping in non-traditional ways, such as small groups, people meeting in gyms or school libraries.”

A Disconnect

In another study surveying the growth of U.S. Protestants, Marler and Hadaway discovered that while the majority of people they interviewed don’t belong to a local church, they still identify with their church roots. “Never mind the fact that they attend church less than 12 times a year,” Marler observes. “We estimate that 78 million Protestants are in that place. Ask most pastors what percentage of inactive members they have — they’ll say anything from 40–60%.”

Even with a broader definition of church attendance, classifying a regular attendee as someone who shows up at least three out of every eight Sundays, only 23–25% of Americans would fit this category. Olson notes that an additional million church attendees would increase the percentage from 17.7% to only 18%. “You’d have to find 80 million more people that churches forgot to count to get to 40%.”

Clearly, a disconnect between what Americans say and what they actually do has created a sense of a resilient church culture when, in fact, it may not exist.

2. American church attendance is steadily declining.

In 1990, 20.4% of the population attended an Orthodox Christian church on any given

+ weekend. In 2000, that percentage dropped to 18.7% and to 17.7% by 2004. Olson explains that while church attendance numbers have stayed about the same from 1990 to 2004, the U.S. population has grown by 18.1% — more than 48 million people. “So even though the number of attendees is the same, our churches are not keeping up with population growth,” he says.

Well-known church researcher and author Thom Rainer notes that the failure of churches to keep up with the population growth is one of the Church’s greatest issues heading into the future. In a 2002 survey of 1,159 U.S. churches, Rainer’s research team found that only 6% of the churches were growing — he defines growth as not only increasing in attendance, but also increasing at a pace faster than its community’s population growth rate. “Stated inversely, 94% of our churches are losing ground in the communities they serve,” he says.

Denominational Differences

A breakdown of overall attendance percentages by church type shows decreases across the board in evangelical, mainline and Catholic churches.

The most significant drop in attendance came at the expense of the Catholic Church, which experienced an 11% decrease in its attendance percentage from 2000 to 2004. Next, and not far behind were mainline churches, which saw a 10% percentage decline. Evangelicals experienced the smallest drop at 1%.

Though scholars are hesitant to definitively acknowledge a decline, they do say that attendance is not increasing: “There’s no good evidence to suggest that overall church attendance has gone up in the recent decade,” Chaves says, adding that he believes there has been a decline. He cites the watershed book Bowling Alone (Simon and Schuster) by Harvard sociologist Robert D. Putnam as his primary reasoning.

“I think church attendance is a close cousin to the other kinds of activities Putnam says Americans are doing alone — indicating that Americans have become increasingly disconnected from family and friends,” Chaves says. “So if all those areas are going down and church attendance isn’t, that would be odd.”

He identifies various implications declining attendance may have for church leaders: “If this is the reality, then I see a trend toward people being less involved, while maintaining a connection to the church. Maybe a pastor used to be able to count on seeing someone every week, but what’s now happening is that people’s lives are busier and they’re attending more infrequently. So church leaders can’t count on these same people to teach Sunday school, serve on committees, etc.”

Contradictory Research

Recent data from The Barna Group (barna.org) indicates just the opposite. Church attendance is actually growing, company President George Barna says — climbing slowly from 1996″s 37% to 47% in 2006. His research shows that other core religious behaviors are also up.

For example, Bible reading increased from 40% in 2000 to 47% in 2006.

“The data shows the number of unchurched people is unchanged — 76 million adults,” he says. “And 47% of Americans reported to us that in the last seven days, they attended a church service, excluding weddings and funerals.” His research indicates that attendance at house churches has also spiked. That may explain, Barna says, why these core religious behaviors are up. “Nevertheless, people are seeking God.”

Ed Stetzer, and director of the Center for Missional Research at the North American Mission Board (namb.net) of the Southern Baptist Convention, has found similar evidence of spiritual behavior occurring outside church walls. He recently finished a study on alternative faith communities, and found that a growing number of people are finding Christian discipleship and community in places other than their local churches. The study found that 24.5% of Americans now say their primary form of spiritual nourishment is meeting with a small group of 20 or less people every week.

“About 6 million people meet weekly with a small group and never or rarely go to church,” Stetzer says. “There is a significant movement happening.”

3. Only one state is outpacing its population growth.

Hawaii, where 13.8% of the state’s population (1.3 million) regularly attends church, was the only state where church attendance grew faster than its population growth from 2000 to 2004. However, church attendance in Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee — all of which have higher percentages of church attendees than Hawaii — was close to keeping up with population growth in the respective states (see U.S. map on page 50).

In Hawaii, 6.3% of the population attended an evangelical church in 2004; mainline denominations accounted for 1.8%; and 5.7% regularly worshipped in Catholic congregations.

A few states break from regional attendance trends. Texas — in the middle of the Bible Belt and home to more than 17 of the country’s largest churches — saw only 18% of its population (22.5 million) attend church on any given weekend in 2004, compared to surrounding states Oklahoma (22%), Louisiana (28%) and Arkansas (25%). And Florida (14.1%) had the lowest percentage of the Southern region (averaging 23%). Both Texas and Florida saw population growth (2000 to 2004) that was twice the national average.

Olson notes that states with very diverse cultures tend to have lower attendance numbers than the states surrounding them. “Most of our churches know how to address only one culture,” he says.

A closer look at the states only found more decline between 1990 and 2000. Church attendance declined in more than two-thirds of all U.S. counties: Slightly more than 2,300 counties declined, and 795 increased.

4. Mid-sized churches are shrinking; the smallest and largest churches are growing.

While America’s churches as a whole did not keep up with population growth from 1994 to 2004, the country’s smallest (attendance 1–49) and largest churches (2,000-plus) did (see graph on page 52). During that period, the smallest churches grew 16.4%; the largest grew 21.5%, exceeding the national population growth of 12.2%. But mid-sized churches (100–299) — the average size of a Protestant church in America is 124 — declined 1%. What were the reasons for the decline?

“The best way I can describe it is that a lot of people believe they’re upgrading to first class when they go to a larger church,” Olson says. “It seems highly likely that some of the people in those mid-sized churches are the ones leaving and going to the larger churches.”

Stetzer agrees and adds that because today’s large churches emphasize small groups and community, hoping to create a small-church feel, they offer the best of both worlds.

“There are multiple expectations on mid-sized churches that they can”t meet — programs, dynamic music, quality youth ministries,” he says.  “We’ve created a church consumer culture.”

As president of the Bridgeleader Network, David Anderson, senior pastor and founder of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Md., has consulted with church leaders nationwide. In his work, he has observed that mid-sized congregations tend to lose the evangelistic focus they once had, and instead adopt what he calls a “club mentality.”

“You have just enough people not to be missional anymore,” he explains. “You don’t have to grow anymore to sustain your budget.”

As for why the smallest churches have kept up, Shawn McMullen, author of the newly released Unleashing the Potential of the Smaller Church (Standard), notes that smaller churches cultivate an intimacy not easily found in larger churches. “In an age when human interaction is being supplanted by modern technology, many younger families are looking for a church that offers community, closeness and intergenerational relationships,” he says.

Olson points out that for a church of 50 or less, the only place to go is up. “They have a relatively small downside and a big upside. A church of 25 can’t decline by 24 and still be on the radar. But it can grow by 200.”

5. Established churches — 40 to 190 years old — are, on average, declining.

All churches started between 1810 and 1960 (excluding the 1920s) declined in attendance from 2003 to 2004. The greatest attendance decrease in that period (-1.6%) came from churches begun in the 1820s, followed by the 1940s (-1.5%).

The numbers climb to the plus side in the 1970s, with churches between 30 and 40 years old showing a slight .3% increase. The percentage goes up significantly for congregations launched in the 1980s (1.7%) and 1990s (3%).

Established churches in decline are suffering from a leadership crisis, says Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston. While his church is 50 years old, Caldwell says he has been there 25 years and in effect has made a “DNA change.” The church has grown from a struggling congregation of 25 to 7,100 under his charge.

Reversing the decline, he says, was about the leaders of the church — both clergy and laity — deciding to redefine the congregation and meet the needs of the community.

Bob Coy, senior pastor and founder of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, points to a different crisis for established churches — one of relevancy, especially in light of today’s young people searching for real truth and reasons for actions. “The emptiness of yesterday’s liturgy has got to become relevant,” Coy says. “The next generation is screaming for a relationship with God.”

The declining numbers send a message to church leaders content with only building their own churches, Olson says: “I hear people say, ‘Why do we need new churches? Why don’t we help our established churches do better?” or ‘Don’t we have enough churches?” If we keep doing the same things, we’ll continue to have the same results — decline. Established churches are the base, and new churches build on top of that. Using established churches to keep up with population growth is just not going to work.”

6. The increase in churches is only 1/4 of what’s needed to keep up with population growth.

Between 2000 and 2004, the net gain (the number of new churches minus the closed churches) in the number of evangelical churches was 5,452, but mainline and Catholic churches closed more than they started for a net loss of 2,200, leaving an overall net gain of 3,252 for all Orthodox Christian churches. “In this decade, approximately 3,000 churches closed every year; while more churches were started, only 3,800 survived,” Olson explains. In the 21st century, the net gain in churches has amounted to only 800 each year.

10,000 more churches needed

Perhaps most telling is the fact that from 2000 to 2004, a net gain of 13,024 churches was necessary to keep up with the U.S. population growth. In reality, that means rather than growing with the population, the Church incurred a deficit of almost 10,000 churches.

The gap is a serious one for Christianity in America, as research and studies show that church plants are the most effective means of evangelism and church growth. “More evangelism happens through church planting than mega-churches,” Anderson says. He urges leaders to plant multicultural, missional churches.

Although ultimately, America will continue to see a great dying off of churches, Stetzer says he is encouraged to see a renewed interest in missiology and Christology, as well as churches that are striving to change themselves. “They’re asking what a biblical church would look like,” he says. But he advises church planters to customize their church to their community rather than copy an existing model.

“What’s going to make an effective church plant in their community depends on what their community looks like,” he explains. “Far too many pastors plant their church in their heads and not in their community.”

Olson encourages churches, regardless of their size or expansion strategy, to either plant a church or work with other congregations to plant a church every five years.

Many church plants of the last five years are intentionally smaller than those of the 1990s, he observes, because the younger generation is opting for smaller churches that offer a more intimate experience. “So we need to realize that if churches are going to be smaller, we’ll need to start more of them to have the same impact.”

7. In 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990.

So what is the future of the American Church? Does declining attendance mean declining influence? If present trends continue, the percentage of the population that attends church in 2050 is estimated to be at almost half of 1990″s attendance — a drop from 20.4% to 11.7%. Olson’s projections for the years leading up to 2050 are less than encouraging. He estimates a drop to 16.6% in 2010, and 15.4% in 2020.

He notes that while church attendance is projected to increase from 50 million in 1990 to 60 million in 2050, because the U.S. Census estimates that America will grow from 248 million in 1990 to 520 million in 2050, the Church can’t keep up with population growth if it stays on its current course.

The prognosis doesn’t discourage Anderson. “It encourages me that the harvest is greater,” he says. “I”m somewhat comforted by the idea that Americans have left dead churches.”

Caldwell echoes Anderson’s positive outlook: “If anything, this information causes me to get fired up about what I can do to reverse these trends.”

Coy, too, sees the projections as a call to action for church leaders: “If we’ve given the impression that church is an option, maybe we’re the ones who are at fault,” he says. But church attendance is only the beginning, he adds. “We have to get serious and begin to live it every day.”

Clearly, the future looks less than bright for the Church in America; nevertheless, countless stories of transformed lives remind us that God is using, and wants to continue to use, the 330,000 U.S. Orthodox Christian congregations to draw others to Him and strengthen believers for His work in a hurting world. In the words of the late author Henri Nouwen, the Church maintains the vital connection to Christ:

“Listen to the Church,” he writes in Show Me the Way (Crossroad). “I know that isn”t a popular bit of advice at a time and in a country where the church is frequently seen more as an ‘obstacle” in the way rather than as the ‘way” to Jesus. Nevertheless, I’m profoundly convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the Church. The Church is the body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church; and without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the Church. To listen to the Church is to listen to the Lord of the Church.”

by Rebecca Barnes and Lindy Lowry

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Study Shows How the Last 10 Years Has Changed America


The events of the last decade have had a powerful effect on how Americans perceive themselves, so says a report by the Barna Group. According to these new study results, Americans are happier than they were in the 2000s, less busy but more lonely. Only slightly more are in serious financial debt, but a significant number are more concerned about the future.

Eight out of ten Americans consider themselves happy, a slight decrease from the nine out of ten that thought so in the 2000s. A third of Americans questioned described themselves as busy; nearly half of Americans said that 10 years ago, and slightly more (29 percent vs. 35 percent) describe themselves as “stressed out” now. But the number of those who self-identify as “lonely” has nearly doubled from 10 years ago, an interesting reality in the social media age.

More people are concerned about the future now than 10 years ago (77 percent vs. 64 percent). Forty-eight million Americans, 16 percent of those surveyed, said they carry serious financial debt; this is only a slight increase from 13 percent 10 years ago. Concern about the moral condition of the country has risen 13 percent from the 2000s.

These self-perceptions, says Barna president David Kinnaman, are something leaders need to pay attention to. “Self-perception is a fascinating science and should be turned into action by political, social and faith leaders,” he says. “Ideally, research should enable us to better communicate and lead our followers to a clearly defined preferable future.”

“The research points to many opportunities for the Christian community—the original social network—to provide genuine responses to the needs of today’s culture,” Kinnaman concludes.

“The Church, when functioning properly, can address the rising epidemic of loneliness, financial strain and indebtedness, increasing concerns about morality, among many other things. Faith communities must respond to the “fearful” realities of the future with wisdom and love. After all, Jesus teaches that we should not be anxious about tomorrow, not even the changing psychographics of Americans.’’

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Articles and Other Stuff to Promote Healthy Growing Churches

How to Get First-Time Guests to Become Second-Time Guests

Thanks to Rick Ezell at Lifeway.com for the majority of this article.  I have taken the liberty to edit and make some changes as well as add thoughts and ideas of my own.  My hope is that after reading these “Five Simple Facts” that church leaders will take to heart that it takes more than good sermons and music to turn a first time guest into a second time guest.   Andy



Fact #1 – Your visitors make up their minds regarding your church in the first ten minutes
Before a first-time guest has sung an inspiring song, watched a compelling drama or well-produced video vignette or heard your well-crafted sermon they have made up their mind whether or not to return. But, you probably spend more time and energy on the plan and execution of the worship service than preparing for the greeting and welcoming of your first-time guests.

Action – Use the following questions as a quick checklist:

  • Are parking attendants in place?
  • Is there appropriate signage?
  • Are your ushers and greeters doing more than shaking hands and handing out bulletins?
  • Is the environment user-friendly and accepting to guests?

Fact #2 – Most church members are not friendly
Churches claim to be friendly and may even advertise that fact. But my experience in visiting churches as a first-time guest demonstrates that most church members are friendly to the people they already know, not to guests.

Watch to see if your members greet guests with the same intensity and concern before and after the worship service as they do during a formal time of greeting. The six most important minutes of a church service, in your visitors eyes are the three minutes before the service and the three minutes after the service.

Action – Encourage your church family to:

  • Introduce themselves with genuineness and care.
  • Find out if guests have questions about the church.
  • Introduce guests to others who may have an affinity or connection.

Fact #3 – Church guests are highly consumer-oriented
If your church building is difficult for newcomers to navigate, if your people are unfriendly or focus mostly to their friends then another church down the street may have what they’re looking for. The pastor and church members need to look at their church through the eyes of a first-time guest.

Action: Consider employing objective, yet trained, anonymous guests to give an honest appraisal. Many restaurants, retail stores, and hotels utilize the service of one or more outside services or individuals for helpful analysis of welcoming and responding to the consumer. Churches would be well served to utilize a similar service.

Note:  Multiplication Ministries/Pastor to Pastors Ministry staff are trained and well equipped to provide an evaluation of a church’s ministry which includes attending your church service as a “secret worshipper” which can provide valuable perspective for pastors and church boards about the ministry.

Fact #4 – The church is in the hospitality business
Though our ultimate purpose is spiritual, one of our first steps in the Kingdom business is attention to hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). Imagine the service that would be given to you in a first-class hotel or a five-star restaurant. Should the church offer anything less to those who have made the great effort to be our guests?

Action – Encourage members to extend hospitality to guests by offering to…

  • Sit with them during the church service
  • Give them a tour of the church facilities
  • Eat lunch with them after service
  • Connect with them later in the week

Fact #5 – You only have one chance to make a good first impression
Your first-time guests have some simple desires and basic needs. They decide very quickly if you can meet those criteria. The decision to return for a second visit is often made before guests reach your front door.

Action – Use the following questions as an evaluation tool:

Are you creating the entire experience, beginning with your parking lot?

Are you working to remove barriers that make it difficult for guests to feel at home?

Do newcomers have all the information they need without having to ask?

Are greeters and ushers on the job, attending to details and needs?



5 Practices of an Inwardly-Focused Church

bodyguardIn his attempt to continue to identify the silly things that we do as churches, Brian Kaufman at http://www.shrinkthechurch.com decided to focus his attention on a few practices of churches that are more concerned with the activity inside its own walls than the community it rests within.  You may not agree with some of the thoughts below and we welcome dialogue.  The point here is to observe, report, discuss, learn, repeat.

1) An Inwardly-Focused Church Makes Converts Not Disciples

Matt Chandler made this point during his Ultimate Authority series.  A world full of converts is like a little kid sitting in his daddy’s truck holding the wheel and making engine noises as the he sits idle in the driveway.  An inwardly-focused church is concerned more with the numbers of those saved by the existence of that very church (i.e. look how fantastic we are).  What if the church announced the number of new disciples alongside the number of salvations?  Would there still be a feeling of celebration in the room?  Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there is a need for celebration when people are welcomed into the Kingdom – my point is that Jesus commands us to mobilize, evangelize and teach.

2) An Inwardly-Focused Church Lives and Dies by Sunday

Are the majority of the church’s decisions heavily skewed towards Sunday?  If so the church might be more concerned with the production of the service than the promotion of the Gospel, and perhaps furthermore its own vision statement.  I don’t really find examples of any church within the Bible making reference to Sunday as “Go time.”  Perhaps I’m wrong on this point, but, a church that has allowed the Sunday services to consume the majority of financial & human resources is one that is structurally equivalent to a Nissan Pathfinder – top heavy.  And at some point we will begin to sacrifice the risk of mission for the logistics of production.

3) An Inwardly-Focused Church Offers Multiple Styles of Worship

This one is difficult, so bear with me for a moment.  Is our God traditional or contemporary, emergent or conservative, Catholic or Lutheran?  In my opinion multiple worship styles communicate one thing very clearly, “We are not sure what kind of church we are but we want to appeal to a broad audience.” My issue here is not with specific styles of worship, it is with specific styles of worship under one roof.

In my opinion multiple worship services/styles are confusing and further promote an Enlightenment-era philosophy in which our personal comfort and preference supersedes the reality of the Great Commission and cross of Christ.  If you’ve got the resources and vision to do multiple styles of worship perhaps the strategy needs to be rethought?  For example, perhaps a new style of worship could be saturated in a church plant located closer to the demographic which responds to that certain style?

There are a lot of very large and rapidly-growing churches that produce multiple worship services and would probably argue well against this point.  Admittedly, and to the frustration of my wife, I tend to over-simplify some things as black or white.  Can we still be friends?

*As a side note, I do struggle with the obsession over denomination as it relates to our identity in Christ and our fixation on subjective righteousness, but that is for another article.

4) An Inwardly-Focused Church Hides It’s Checkbook

A church afraid to talk about money is denying people the chance to be challenged out of slavery and engage in worshipful generosity.  Likewise a church which conceals its own checkbook is denying the people confidence in the authority under which they have willingly agreed to be subjected.  An inwardly-focused church convicts its people with “Show me your checkbook and I’ll show you your heart…” but shy’s away from being subject to the same philosophy.

Do you know what your pastor makes? Do you know the percentage breakdown of where your dollar goes?  Does your church provide regular updates to the financial mission of the church and/or annual financial reports? Is giving communicated as a joyful acts of worship or a necessary means to keep the lights on?

5) An Inwardly-Focused Church Holds On Tight

Have you ever seen a little kid with all his stuffed animals playing on the floor? He seems peaceful and content … until another little kid comes and tries to play too.  What usually happens? The kid will put his arms around all the stuffed animals and say, “mine!”  That’s kind of how I picture a competitive church.  The popular idea of “closing the back door” deals with the challenge of keeping people in the church – their church – regardless of that person’s desire to sacrificially engage or parasitically consume.  This parallels my first point about making converts not disciples.  What if a local church’s vision was to kick the back-door wide open as people go out into the world?  To promote a culture which causes tension in those that constantly take from the church is to risk a roster of attendance for the sake of a congregation on mission.

Suddenly, we’re not concerned with what the 5 other churches are doing with their fall series.  We don’t have conversations that involve a phrase like “stealing our people.”  We don’t hold onto our people as though we are offended if they choose not to stay.  We create a healthy environment of people committed to the local church’s vision.  It is a culture saturated with people who willingly lead the charge and stand in the gap.

I recently attended a church conference where the room was packed with pastors from all over the Phoenix area.  I later had conversations with some others that also attended and one thing we all recognized was the unspoken tension among local churches.  It was kind of like a bunch of gangs all wearing their colors but coming together for one purpose.  Our faith and mission bind us, but our pride creates boundaries that if crossed could result in territorial warfare.  It was both ironic and disturbing.  Any West Side Story fans out there?


This list is nowhere near exhaustive but my hope is that it begins a larger discussion within church leadership as we move forward with the Gospel, let the cross be our focus and the Great Commission to be our ultimate decision filter.  I am not isolated from the ideas above but instead include myself whole-heartedly as a prideful sinner in need of divine perspective and grace as often as a heartbeat.

Posted in Disciple-making by Pastor Andy. 7 Comments

Sound Advice?

How have you counseled one who has no wisdom?
And how have you declared sound advice to many? Job 26:3 (NKJV)

Much of what I do as I work with churches is “to give advice” about a number of matters as it pertains to churches and ministries. I learned early on in my own ministry to listen to advice given and I think doing that, 30 years of experience as a pastor and keeping well read on issues of the church has been vital.

Being a Pastor to Pastors the thought of “œpastors giving advice to other pastors” seemed important to me, so I collected a number of comments that would be considered general advice from one pastor to another.

Then it dawned on me. Perhaps advice from church people to pastors as well as advice from pastors to church people would be good reading for each of us.

So, here’s what I collected. Do you have anything to add in any of the following 3 areas?



Advice from Pastors to Other Pastors

  1. Pray more – develop your own relationship with the Lord more.
  2. Read the Scriptures more – challenge your own Theology more.
  3. Love your family more – make more time for just them. Your children desperately need a closeness with Daddy!!! Your spouse needs to know she’s the ‘leader of your parade.’
  4. Go to the extreme to avoid the appearance of evil.
  5. Dare more – stretch your Faith and Pray more – develop your own relationship with the Lord.
  6. “Find a mentor early on in your ministry who is experienced. His advice and common sense will prove to be invaluable as you encounter pastoral situations that your schooling never prepared you for.”
  7. What I have learned about pastoral ministry are things I learned mostly the hard way.
  8. It is not about you – it is about the Lord Jesus Christ. (apply to everything)
  9. Success in ministry requires success at home. (apply to your schedule)
  10. Your gifts, ministry and power in ministry all come from God (1 Cor. 12), so never be jealous of anyone whose ministry is doing “better” than yours, and never look down on someone whose ministry is not as large as yours. (apply anytime you meet with or hear about other ministries – rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep ““ Romans 12:15)
  11. It is worth the effort and time to make and maintain friends with other pastors
  12. God’s purpose in your life is conforming you into the image of Christ – success in ministry is seeing those you are discipling becoming conformed to the Christ’s image (1 Cor. 11:1).
  13. Learned contentment (Philippians 4:11)
  14. Don’t be surprised when the attack comes from a friend or ministry co-laborer (Phil. 1:15-17).
  15. Time runs faster than you do – accomplish your priorities and not the tyranny of the urgent.
  16. Doing is important, but being is more important
  17. Pastoral ministry is a wonderful privilege even though it requires you to bleed and weep with your people – it is not a job (John 10:12-13).
  18. “Preach to broken hearts and people’s needs”


Advice from Pastors to Church People

  1. Make sure you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and not of someone else. Follow other people only to the extent that they are following Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  2. Make sure you fully understand that you are a created being who exists to glorify the Creator and not the other way around. Do not complain and grumble that God is not doing things to your satisfaction. Be concerned whether you are doing things to His satisfaction.
  3. Mature and learn to feed yourself (2 Timothy 2:15). You cannot spiritually survive, much less grow, on one sermon a week. You must read, study and apply the Scriptures to your life daily (Psalm 119:9-11).
  4. Make sure you understand God’s priorities for your life and set your goals accordingly to fulfill them, (Romans 12:1-2). This includes your spiritual walk, your family, your church and your community.
  5. Be active in using your spiritual gift(s). God has gifted every believer as members of the body of Christ, the church, to serve so that the whole body can mature and become like Christ (Eph. 4:11-16; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 12-14).
  6. If the members of a local church were serious about just those five point, I believe that most of the problems that exist in churches would vanish.


Advice from Church People to Pastors

  1. Please have a group that follows up on people that haven’t been to church in awhile, but used to attend.
  2. Follow-up on new comers. Just a friendly call to let them know that you are thinking about them makes a world of difference.
  3. Always return calls and try to learn all the people’s names.
  4. We know you’re busy but please take the time to visit us in the hospital before a surgery. If you can’t personally make it, send another church leader.
  5. Stay on target. If you plan a message series for 8 weeks, keep it to 8 weeks.
  6. Make it easy for people to find/read the scripture passage. Put it on screen, use page numbers in a church provided Bible or give help as to where to find Zephaniah or Haggai.
  7. Be sure you have a leadership team with the same mission and goals. Not that everybody always agrees, but do the activities, topics, plans fulfill the mission and goals.
  8. Communication with us. If the congregation does not feel that leadership communicates important information they will start looking elsewhere.
  9. Define your church. Are you seeker-friendly, spiritual growth, evangelistic, all of the above?
  10. If spiritual growth is a part of your mission, be sure you have “greenhouse environments”. Plants grow better in situations where temp, humidity etc are targeted toward plant growth. In the church, One-to-One.
  11. Discipleship, Home Bible studies, Men’s groups, Women’s groups, Singles, College are just some of the things that a church needs. If the church is small then choose priorities. Don’t think you personally need to do all of this. We are here to help you pastor. Just ask us, train and trust us.
  12. If you don’t have a person to take a leadership position for a particular ministry, consider whether that ministry is necessary. Perhaps God is saying “Not now” to a ministry, just as a God will often say “Not now” to a personal prayer request.


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The Disciple Makers Blog

Welcome to the informational and interactive side of Multiplication Ministries.

There is nothing fancy about our blog with all the whistles and bells and spinning graphics. It’s this simple This blog is dedicated to sharing articles and news that will strengthen the church, make disciples and encourage pastors, church leaders and members alike.

Our ministry is committed to being available to churches and their leaders worldwide for the purpose of assisting them in fulfilling

Pastor Andy McAdams

The Great Commission.

As a pastor for over 30 years, I love sharing from the knowledge, training and experience that God has allowed me to gain. Myself and a number of our staff are available to serve your church anywhere you may be, no matter what size your church is€¦and we’re only an email or phone call away.

Pastor Andy


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