Growing a church can mean a lot of things, whether church projects or creating church relevance, but always it means building church leaders who are focused on discipleship ministry.

Ever had one of those moments when you knew what you needed to do, but were afraid to take the step? This was my “wrestle with God” moment.

As a lead pastor, I’d continued leading worship for years. Worship was my sweet spot. I liked doing it, and the people enjoyed my leadership. But something changed in my heart when I got challenged at a deeper level by a new mentor. Our problem was, our church was not growing, and something needed to change.

I began to realize that God was pushing me off the stage, out of my comfort zone. Not gonna lie…scary!

It was scary because if I was off the platform, I had to trust someone else with the important role of leading worship.

But even scarier than that was this: I had to model for the people what it looked like to do ministry well. I had tried every other option I could think of—unsuccessfully. I concluded that if I wanted change, I needed to model it.

For a long time, there had been no well-directed strategy for assimilating new people coming into our church that led to joining our church. As a result, we were not retaining guests well.

The transition was not easy, but it was rewarding.

Here are three things I learned on this journey:

  1. Modeling speaks louder than messages

Pastors are good at speaking into things and encouraging others. We know what we want: a friendly welcome team, vibrant small groups, an electric worship experience. Speaking about it, though? Not enough!

We had a “front door deficit” that needed to be fixed. So, along with a few influencers, together we started what we called the First Encounter Team to welcome new people at the door.

We saw 35% growth that year in our church.

2. Modeling communicates what’s important.

You can’t do everything. But making a bold move not to preach or lead worship for a month and modeling what a particular ministry should look like shows your people what you value. And what God values.

This transformation was not just limited to my efforts.

Our youth pastor, the one who did the “host time” from the stage, had some people that he’d invited to church attend our “next steps” for newcomers, or “growth track,” which we call Encounter Connect.

To highlight it, I grabbed the mic, hopped up on stage and celebrated that Pastor Brandon was in Encounter Connect with his guests.

With this new awareness within the congregation that they, too, could invite guests who would take the next steps, I saw a priority shift. When that happened, we doubled the number of first-time guests from the previous year.

Now, almost every week we hear from staff members who are praying for lost people, inviting them to church, and getting those people to Encounter Connect so they can take a next step towards Jesus.

Change starts with us, and when people see the leadership modeling it, they value it as well.

3. Modeling is the catalyst for culture change.

Psychologists claim that learned behaviors are caught, not taught. We as leaders need to be “culture-creators” through modeling.

I needed to be a culture creator for our First Encounter Team, Encounter Connect, and our small groups which we call EGroups.

I still invite people to church and try to build relationships with new people with the intent of inviting them to Encounter Connect. I’m also about to launch a small group with a plan to multiply. Once again, I must model the culture so others can follow.

Culture change takes time as well as consistency. In the words of a dear friend Darren Bonnell, “It took Jesus 3 years to multiply himself 12 times, and one betrayed Him, so give yourself a break.

My encouragement to you is to be consistent. Don’t lose focus.

Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus knew what his purpose was on earth, and He modeled for us what it looks like to serve and to give.

After Jesus washed his disciples' feet, He told them (John 13:14-15) “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He encourages us to do the same.

What my church needed wasn’t more messages, but more models. I believe that plan will help any church grow.

Growing a church requires church leadership and sometimes that leadership requires modeling rather than merely messages or management.

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