No Gimmicks, Just Growth: A Hack for Expanding Your Church


In "No Gimmicks, Just Growth," we explore how to expand your church strategically. The secret isn't in quick fixes or flashy trends - it's in nurturing individual growth. This approach, known as "Full Circle Discipleship," is a potent strategy for fostering a thriving, growing church community.

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Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 2:00 PM EST

Have you ever wished you could find a shortcut to church growth?

Just like life hacks, there may be simpler and more efficient ways to grow your church.

We All Love a Good Life Hack

When hacked correctly, a life hack improves your life.

Think of it like a system or procedure that better utilizes our time and everyday life.

A life hack is like a shortcut.

For instance, I’m currently traveling home from a church client visit in Boston. I rarely check bags, but I saw a great travel hack while in the airport: Tie a colorful ribbon around the handle of your suitcase to make it much easier to spot in the baggage claim carousel.

Hacking Our Way Through Life

The reason we love life hacks is relatively obvious. Hacks save us time and energy.

A great hack reduces the complexity of life. It allows us to accomplish something in less time and effort.

Life hacking is a big business. Some call it marketing.

In a way, diet pills and in-home exercise machines are like life hacks. They promise a faster and more efficient way to achieve the desired result.

Today, we try to hack our way to everything. We hack school, work, commutes, the internet, streaming services, and everyday items like checked bags.

We all love a good hack!

Church Growth Hacks

Trying to hack church growth is nothing new.

Pastors constantly prowl for new ideas or gimmicks to hack their way to growth.

From what I see online and through social, churches will basically try anything! Yet most of these “hacks” aren’t successful. The opposite in most cases. The hacks make the pastor and church look like a hack.

So here’s the real question: Is there a way to hack growth in a local church?

I believe the answer is yes. Especially if we define “hack” as a systematic approach to more effectively and efficiently grow our church.

How To Hack Growth in Your Church

What I’m going to suggest isn’t a gimmick or fad. This hack is relatively foolproof. When implemented consistently, church growth is close to unstoppable.

The Hack: Growing people

Growing people grow churches.

I’ve yet to see a church actively and effectively growing the faith of their congregation and not growing numerically in the process. The numeric growth may lag behind the faith growth, but eventually, the collective renewing of minds leads to the renewing of church bodies.

Sure, we’ve all seen churches turn inward and focus only on insiders, but that’s not true discipleship. By the Great Commission definition, discipleship involves reaching the unreached and engaging them on a spiritual growth pathway. This is done best through an organizational process and relational connection.

So, if a growing person doesn’t eventually reach the unreached and support the growth of others, I’d suggest that person only half grown. Or has stagnated in their development.

This is why insider-focused churches can’t grow. These churches lack a holistic discipleship pathway that inspires followers to look beyond themselves.

On the other hand, people growing in their faith tend share some common behaviors:

  1. They share their story with others.
  2. They begin to see others as a priority.
  3. They engage their time and resources in their local church.

Unfortunately, You Can’t “Hack” Spiritual Growth

And this is where churches fall apart.

Growth isn’t accidental or unintentional. Growing people grow churches, but growing people takes a plan. It requires a strategy.

If you want to focus your strategic energy on just one thing, focus on this: Create a church that inspires and supports people along a growth process.

Churches get so focused on sideways tangents, like giving, attendance growth, or online streaming numbers. We should track all of this stuff and measure comparatively against ourselves to evaluate our model. Still, these metrics are better outcomes than objectives.

The central outcome of your church is to create the most conducive conditions for a person far from God to interact with your church in a way that causes them to lean in and begin a spiritual journey.

Building Your Discipleship Pathway

This is where things can become more complicated, but with a clear plan and intentional strategy, success may be simpler than you think.

To create a holistic discipleship pathway, you need to do a few things well:

  1. Meet people outside the church and outside of faith.
  2. Support the felt needs of outsiders to help make their life better.
  3. Build trust and a relationship with these outsiders.
  4. Allow them to transition to insiders over time.
  5. Engage them in the life and mission of your church.
  6. Inspire them to reach those they know on the outside.

Now you’ve got to decide how you’ll do this.

  • How will you create the first steps to support your insiders as they work to reach the unreached?
  • How will you create a church that builds trust with outsiders as they initially lean in?
  • How will you create steps through the process of growing trust?
  • How will your church transition people from leaning in to buying in to engaging in?
  • How will you support spiritual growth, beginning with non-believers through mature followers?

I could go on, but you get the point. Success is found in the intentional steps you create to move people from where they are to the best next spiritual place in their life. We do this by creating incremental steps of faith.


  1. 4 Fundamentals of Effective Discipleship Pathways
  2. 10 Questions to Better Understand Your Discipleship Pathway

Wrapping Up

In the end, the “hack” for growing your church isn’t a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a commitment to cultivating personal spiritual growth within your congregation.

This approach, or what I like to call “Full Circle Discipleship,” is a tested and proven strategy for not only increasing your church’s numbers but for creating a vibrant, engaged community of believers.

Don’t forget: Growing people grow churches. So, focus on nurturing the faith and development of each individual, and you’ll see your church grow naturally and sustainably over time.

Ready to get started?

You can begin by answering the questions above. But my approach may help you, too.