How Do We Grow?

Published on November 16th, 2017

Three Churches Share Their Outreach Strategies

It’s a question many churches ask on a regular basis: How do you grow when you’re a small congregation? Not every church can build a high-priced facility to attract new people. Instead, congregations have to focus on what they do best: relationships. 

Epiphany Lutheran Church 

Epiphany Lutheran Church in Westfield, Indiana was planted in 2008 and has steadily grown to over 300 people. Led by Pastor Jeremy Mills, the church resides in a growing suburban community heavily populated by young families.

“From the beginning, our outreach policy is that every person identifies someone and invites them to church,” Pastor Mills says. “That has been a great success. If you looked at our membership, 75% come in because someone invited them.”

Although the church has used various outreach programs, word of mouth has been the most successful outreach method. He says it comes down to ownership, accountability, and members believing in the vision of the church. Pastor Mills also follows up with every lead and greets people after service.

“There’s no magical formula,” he adds. “It’s putting in the work and the effort. I ask members to be aware of people who may not be churched, and be comfortable talking about it.”

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church 

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Warsaw, IN has been a congregation for five years under Reverend Michael Barnes.

“Most of our outreach is focused on trying to correct misconceptions,” Reverend Barnes says. “It’s been difficult with the background of the town. Lutheranism is seen as a cult. We try to be out there in the community and create awareness of who we are, what we represent, and what we stand for.”

Their church outreach includes participating in community events, where they canvas the crowds and strike up conversations about faith. Because they do not have a church building, Reverend Barnes sets up a mobile office in coffee shops and restaurants, where he invites people to chat.

“People are intrigued I have no office and the invitation is there to sit down. It’s a way of getting into the community.”

Christ the King Lutheran Church 

Christ the King Lutheran Church in Mooresville, IN is a new mission church started in July 2013. Pastor Rick Ebb, a retired army chaplain, says that new converts make up half the church and military connections have produced 50% of their growth.

“Veterans are an isolated part of our population and desperately need to be in church. They feel comfortable here because we have other veterans.”

Besides attracting veterans, they also have a growing population of single adults. The church is not afraid to try new initiatives, using social media and a midweek service to attract new members. But overall, it’s the relationships that keep people coming back.

“I would say outreach comes down to one word: relationships,” Pastor Ebb adds. “Most people go to church, not because it’s church, but because of the people there.”