Forward Today: Church growth…now?

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve had a couple of conversations lately about church growth during this time of pandemic. At first, it seems counter-intuitive. How can we be growing when many of us can’t even gather in person for worship and learning?

Of course, there are many kinds of growth in the church. There’s spiritual growth, in which current members grow deeper in their faith. We think about that a lot in our RenewalWorks ministry. Then there is numerical growth, when we see our churches growing to include more people. I believe the church needs both kinds of growth—depth and number.

During the crises we now face—pandemic, growing awareness of racial injustice, politics—the church will rightly begin with a compassionate response to those in need. We can’t neglect our care of those who are affected by illness or the economic downturn or other forms of crisis. But we also should not lose sight of growth. After all, Jesus told us our main task is to make disciples.

I encourage you to think about what growth might look like in your own congregation. Can you use traditional methods or find new ways to encourage spiritual growth? Hold classes online. Send out materials to empower people to start new prayer practices. Encourage Bible study. These can be done well in person or online.

And then there’s numerical growth. I’m heartened by several recent stories I’ve heard about churches that are gaining new members even now. Everything that is happening in the world is pushing people to search for meaning and hope, so it’s not surprising people would be looking for churches. Are you ready to welcome them? Are you ready to invite people to join you?

I saw a Facebook post from one church holding a newcomers class online—and there were a LOT of squares on the Zoom screen. We can grow, even now.

I’ve started a video interview series in which I talk with people about discipleship and church growth. Perhaps one of these conversations will inspire you to think about discipleship and church growth at your church, even during a pandemic.

  • I spoke with the Rev. Kate Wesch from West Seattle about her congregation’s remarkable numerical and spiritual growth, mostly through Bible study and learning about our faith.
  • The Rev. Nurya Love Parish and I talked about her small church that has grown by embracing their core purpose and by focusing on discipleship.
  • Early in the pandemic, I talked with the Rev. Jason Prati about how his church was responding to the pandemic and still growing. It was back in April, which seems an eternity ago, but there are still lessons to learn.
  • Just recently, I had a chance to talk about innovation, success, failure, and growth with the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija. Sometimes we have to fail in order to learn, and that’s OK!


Let us all keep our eye on growth. There are people all around us who need to hear a word of hope, mercy, grace, and love. In the name of Jesus Christ, tell them some Good News.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director



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