categories: leadership
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June 3rd, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

25 comments (+ Add)

Breaking Barriers - 2

My wife and I always heard that when you go from two children to three, everything changes. (You move from man-to-man defense into zone.) Raising three children (or six in our case) is much different than raising two. It takes a different mindset. Our schedules are different. Our interaction is different. A lot is different.

If your church is going to grow from:

70 to 120
180 to 250
400 to 700
1,200 to 1,800
2,500 to 6,000
7,000 to 20,000
25,000 to 100,000

You are going to have to change your mindset. Much of what you are doing now won’t work later. Some things that will be different:

  • Your relationship with staff and church members
  • Your meetings, organizational structure, policies, and financial management
  • Your schedule
  • Your inward comfort or discomfort
  • Your style of leadership
  • Your means of communication
  • Your family

If you are unwilling to change and grow, your organization will not likely follow.

Your assignment:

  • Find someone who is where you want to be and learn from them. Don’t just try to learn what they do, but learn how they think.
  • And pray like you’ve never prayed before that God will grow you as a leader.

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there are a total of25
  1. Jun 3, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Thanks Craig for this series of posts - great reminders of things I need to work on. Two quick thoughts:

    - These truths are hard to face. Talking about them out of context makes them easy to brush off, but every leader will come to a season in their life where they are forced to face them if they have not been strategically addressed yet.

    - Attending life church, and serving on the Life team for a short time, I’ve seen you live these out. It is powerful to have your example driving these thoughts and I would love to hear more about some of the critical moments you faced in these different areas.

  2. Jun 3, 2008 at 7:08 am

    [...] Groeschel talks about breaking barriers. Great, great stuff for each of [...]

  3. Jun 3, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I found a paper by Tim Kelly called Process-Managing – Church Size. ( It does an incredible job of describing the necessary changes your church must consider when reaching new attendance levels. I’ve seen it proven true in many ways including in our ministry. If you are interested in this thread that article is a necessity.

  4. Jun 3, 2008 at 7:22 am

    “Style of Leadership” is a big one. It’s the same for successful coaches; they don’t coach every team the same every season… You have to be willing to make adjustments.

  5. Jun 3, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for the post Craig! My personality is one that likes personal contact with people. I was raised in a “pastor generation” that did all kinds of personal stuff, i.e. visiting in homes, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. on a regular basis. I still do those things but by appointment (homes) and when needed (hospitals/nh). But this “inattention” is so different for me. It took a long time to get used to. But I also knew that it was holding the church back. My approach to this new work has been different and I feel a lot better about it. It definitely affects my style of leadership and also comfort/discomfort zone. Thanks again for the great post and reminder!

  6. Jun 3, 2008 at 8:37 am

    We, in the church that I am priviledged to be a part of, have started to think like others who are in the place that we want to be as an organization. This process has really helped us from making some mistakes and thinking down the right lanes to get us where we want to be.

  7. Jun 3, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Very well said. This is a humbling, sometimes painful, but ultimately true lesson that must be learned if we are to effectively grow in ministry. Thanks for the insightful post!

  8. Jun 3, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Craig won’t be available today to reply, so I’ll fill in for him.

    Steven, perhaps we can do a post or series of posts on those critical moments. Thanks for your observations!

    Travis, thanks for linking to Swerve! We are honored that you are sharing us with your readers.

    Robbie, thanks for the resource!

    Scott, the insight into coaching is interesting. Thanks for sharing it!

  9. Jun 3, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Bill, I’d be interested in your sharing the differences that your new approach has made on the ministry.

    Jim, what mistakes have you avoided? How did you learn to think like those other churches?

    Joseph, you’re right. Pain tolerance is crucial part of growth and ministry.

  10. 10Matt
    Jun 3, 2008 at 10:42 am


    I am loving this series again. It excited me to think about change bringing growth. But I have a question that maybe some of you can answer. What happens when it is not you that is in charge, but your leader needs to change to grow. What steps are made at that point?

  11. Jun 3, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I’m sure there are some people who have had to lead up like that. Can any of you help out Matt with his question?

  12. Jun 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    great topic! I am in Las Vegas and we are 20 weeks old. We are averaging 100-120. Anybody got any good advice on moving to the next barrier? I would love to talk!

  13. Jun 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    I read your post this morning and it has had me thinking all day. I’m lovin it. It got me thinking about something that I thought I would comment on. As I started thinking about the fact that I need to grow and change if I want my church to grow and change I began to think about what that looks like. Perhaps something like this:
    I looked at my watch. I saw me (lead pastor) as the big hand and my church as the little hand. If I (the big hand) am on 12:00 and my church (the little hand)is on 9:00 then how much and at what rate do I need to move forward for my church to go where it needs to go. Say I want to see my church go from 9:00 to 3:00 (which is half the distance of a complete trip around the clock)then the concept of a clock tells me that I need to make 6 complete trips around the clock to get my church to make a half of a trip.The great part about it is tht the growth is measurable even though I may always feel like I have to be focusing on something ahead of where the church is currently. It is also daunting to think of the responsibility of this kind of leadership.
    I also realize that this may only make sense in theory.

  14. 14jim
    Jun 3, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    One of the mistakes that we avoided was small thinking. When you think small, you act small. Acting small is what the barriers are to me, it is doing things the same way because that is how it has always been done. For me personally I find that I think way to small and God’s ways are much higher and larger than mine.

    What we do is literally talk about how we would do something and then think about how a larger church would do it. Most of the time we were cutting ourselves short in the leadership side of things. We do not allow God to work through the people in the church and they do not get the leadership experience that they need.

  15. Jun 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Anybody out there with experience breaking through a similar barrier to Terry’s who can help him out?

    Rusty, your comment definitely reflects the work and responsibility that rests on the leaders’ shoulders to help break through the barriers.

    Jim, thanks for coming back and sharing your insights with us. Those are great!

  16. Jun 3, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    [...] Craig has more great stuff about breaking growth barriers. Check it out! [...]

  17. Jun 3, 2008 at 3:58 pm


    Thanks for asking a question about what difference it has made. One of the hardest things I had to come to (and I spoke about it this past Sunday) is that as a pastor one of the most devastating things is trying to please everyone. Doing what I was doing, visiting like I was visiting was exposing me to all kinds of stuff and people wanting me to take sides. I have nipped that in the bud here by not listening to every song and dance. I spend a lot of time with my leadership guys and others I want to see in leadership in the future. Wondering about what everyone was thinking-would they be yeah or nay-had me spinning my wheels a lot. Another thing I had to come to realize (and this was possibly the hardest thing of all) was that I did not and could not possibly know everyone’s name. The church here is near 200 and I cannot possibly know all our visitor’s name every time I see them. I try but it gets harder the older I get. :) One other things that has happened is more ministry is taking place by those “not paid to do ministry.” we are truly seeking to be a church that does ministry. Hope that helps.

    For Terry: some of the advice above will apply. I would also say invest in your leadership or those whom you see being in leadership. Create successes your leadership can participate in and your folks can visually see. That stokes their fire and also they are more willing to get on board for the next one. As one leadership guru was fond of saying, “Success creates change in your pocket.”

  18. Jun 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Bill, thanks for sharing your journey with us. Great stuff! Also, thanks for engaging in the conversation with Terry.

    Does anyone else have thoughts for Terry?

  19. Jun 3, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Any thoughts out there on networking or partnering with Pastors that are where we want to be? 200, 350, etc. Side note, Lyle Schaller’s book the Very Large Church is a nice read. (thus far)

  20. Jun 3, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Hey man thanks so much for helping out young church leaders. Your insight is very helpful. I am really enjoying your most recent blog series. Thanks again!

  21. Jun 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm


    Yes, The Very Large Church is a great resource for learning what it takes to break through the various barriers. I also recommend it.

  22. 22Sy
    Jun 4, 2008 at 8:58 am

    What about your relationship with the BODY in your own church? I love how the SOUTH leadership team works. They have everything so delegated that they just LOVE the people. They talk to people, touch (appropriate touch :O) ), and spend their time INVESTING on the weekends, as opposed to RUNNING the event.

    I would LOVE to see ALL church leaders recognize the importance of relationships over the “event.”

    What happens then? Multiplication factor - the body will start COPYING what they SEE the leaders doing and then you have an army of 100,000 in the WORLD - bringing people to Christ at work, at the grocery store, etc.

  23. 23John Mashburn
    Jun 4, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Soooo hard to do (as you know). Before coming to Life eight years ago, we had been members of another local church - for almost 25 years. We saw and lived through transitions through two growth levels very close to the numbers you stated. The first time our church accidently changed and moved on up. The second time our church just waited to see if the old ways of doing things would continue to work… they didn’t and we moved way down.

    “Flexible is too rigid - be fluid.”

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