Overcoming Growth Barriers

Featured Articles / Leadership //

Everyone wants their church or ministry to grow but they’re not always willing to do what it takes to grow. To be perfectly honest, some leaders are more comfortable with old problems and patterns than new solutions. We don’t live in the book of Numbers; we live in the book of Acts. Read the book of Acts and you’ll see it’s full of numbers and they keep getting bigger. God’s plan for people and ministries is to start small and grow!


Being a boy who likes to eat, I’ve discovered something first hand. If you buy bigger pants, you’ll grow into them. That’s why I do what a lot of Americans do. I have a max size and I vow to never buy paints bigger than that size. My options get arrested—either don’t wear pants or loose weight. Working at growing churches for almost 40 years has taught me to do just the opposite. Don’t stay small or do nothing to promote and cause growth. Overcome growth barriers by getting bigger pants. What are you talking about, Jim? I’m talking about laying a foundation for growth and making sure the foundation you establish can handle the growth Jesus wants for you.


The key to any building is the foundation. Sound familiar? If you’ve read my book, STRETCH—Structuring Your Ministry for Growth, you’ve heard that phrase over and over again. The type of foundation determines what you’re able to build—in construction and in ministry. This is the reason some churches and ministries don’t grow. Their structure can’t handle it.


I classify structure in two main forms: growth structure and maintenance structure. A growth structure will naturally turn into a maintenance structure over time. When I started in ministry, I had 7 kids in my children’s church. My goal was to hit 100, so I structured my ministry for 100 kids. Things were rocking along until I hit about 75 or 80. All of a sudden, I discovered a principle that’s still true today. In the American church, when you are 75-80% full in a service or room you are full, and your growth structure just turned into a maintenance structure. It will stay in maintenance mode until it starts to decline, unless you do something to enlarge your structure for your next goal or target. (Same action brings same results.) If you want to grow to 300 you need to enlarge your structure for growth.


There are three main areas that affect growth; these are barriers that keep your ministry small. All three have to be in growth mode to see growth not only happen, but cause you to sustain it. The first is organizational structure. (This also includes policy and procedures.) If people were no problem, what jobs or careers do you need to establish? Don’t let your need for workers keep you from dreaming. Include middle managers and other coordinators. Now, answer the questions: What do you want them to do? How do you want them to do it? Draw the organizational chart, write the job descriptions, and come up with the policies. That’s a lot of work, Jim. Again, that’s another reason folks stay small. They don’t want to do the necessary work it takes to overcome growth barriers.


The second main area that has to be in growth mode is people. You need the right people in each of those slots in your growth mode structure. (Tina and Ryan won’t let me have that many words to tell you how to get them. You’ll just have to re-read some of my other KidzMatter articles to learn how to recruit, train, and release them.)


The third main growth barrier is your facilities. This is why churches build new buildings, start new services, or even go to multi-sites to get their facilities in growth mode.

Any one of these three main areas can kick your ministry into maintenance mode. So what are some ways to do that and keep these three areas where they need to be?


  1. 1. Have a desire to change. Be open to doing whatever it takes. Do what you need to                                do!
  2. 2. Examine your vision and determine the type of structure you need to build.

Where do you want to end up? That’s all a vision is. Come up with realistic goals                                  for each area, be specific, and make sure this is where your pastor wants you to go.

  1. Count the cost. Where are you starting from? “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). What are the needs? What do you have to work with? What are the strengths?
  2. 4. Come up with a plan or a blueprint. Everyone needs a plan. Start with prayer, and                                 don’t lean on your own understanding. Brainstorm on different ideas. Consult a                                                                               mentor or coach that can help. Always listen to the Holy Spirit and follow peace.
  3. 5. Help others know about your plan. Communication is a key to growth. Do the work                                to communicate and use every method that you can use.
  4. 6. Know your team and always be on the lookout for a new recruit or trade. The best

way to do this is by spending time with your team. Watch them in action. Look at

things from others’ perspectives. Place people by their gifts and abilities. Be willing

to make substitutions and include others in the game. Change people’s position, if

it’s best for the team, and always coach folks to their next level.

  1. Walk out everything we’ve talked about here. After everything is done and said there’s always more said than done. Quit having meetings and work!
  2. Communicate upward. Keep the leadership above you in the know and up to date.
  3. 9. Communicate laterally. Be a leader’s leader. Set the example and point the way to                                Leave no man or woman behind, which requires setting the right pace.
  4. Pursue excellence. You’ll never be the best if you don’t desire to be the best. Keep

updating your own personal definition of excellence. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit

it every time!


Here are some important questions to ask yourself if you really want to grow.

  • Have I established the right structure for what God wants us to build?
  • Is my present ministry structure a growth structure or a maintenance structure?
  • Are my present structure, policies, and procedures simple and easy to follow?
  • Am I committed to doing whatever it takes, even if it means change or doing things

I’ve never done before?


What are you waiting for? You have some work ahead of you, but that’s okay. Jesus has only asked us to be obedient to what He’s saying to do; He’s already promised He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail. So, on your mark, get ready, GROW! Dare to overcome your growth barriers.








About the Author

Jim Wideman is considered as an innovator, pioneer and one of the fathers of the modern children ministry movement. He is a speaker, teacher, author, leadership coach and ministry consultant with over 35 years of hands on experience in the local church, Jim has trained hundreds of thousands of children’s and student ministry leaders from all denominations and sizes of congregations around the world. In the 80’s The INCM awarded him with their “Ministry of Excellence Award”, in the 90’s Children’s Ministry Magazine name him one of the 10 Pioneers of the Decade, In 2010 “Children’s Ministry Magazine once again named him one of the “20 Top Influencers in Children’s Ministry, and in 2012 the INCM presented him with their first ever “Legacy Award” for his lifetime achievement in Children’s Ministry. Jim currently oversees all the Next Generation & Family Ministries-Birth through College at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN Jim and his amazing wife Julie, have two successful daughters, two handsome son-in-laws and the cutest grandson ever born!