How to Grow Your Church by 33% In One Year: the Science of Marginal Gains

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As you reflect on this year and look ahead to the next, you’re likely considering the ways to increase your ministry’s impact. 

Here are some common New Year’s Resolutions we’ve heard from other church leaders: 

  • “I want more presence in my community.”
  • “I want more visitors and for them to feel welcome and at home at my church.”
  • “I want to increase engagement among my existing members.
  • “I want to streamline tasks so I can focus more on connecting with my people.” 

Are any of these ringing true for you? Well, you’re not alone. Church leaders across the country are looking for ways to increase their impact in 2024. 

What could a 33% gain, for example, mean for your church? Probably a tremendous amount, but that big of a change overnight could feel overwhelming. Keep reading to see how making small, incremental changes can produce a big collective impact. 

How small improvements combine for a big impact

Making a handful of modest yet strategic improvements can compound into transformative outcomes for your church, in just one year. It’s called “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains” and it’s based on real math. 

Say you want to make a 33% improvement in your ministry by the end of the year. That seems daunting. But what if there was a way to make a handful of small improvements that result in big change? Here’s how that works with a simple example:

Obviously, that’s a very simple, small illustration, but it does a great job of demonstrating how only a very small improvement can lead to big upside. 

It’s too easy for church leaders to think, “We’ll just reach more people” and leave the rest to chance. A proper follow-up system really makes a difference. 

So, where can you make small improvements? Here are just a few areas you can put on your radar screen next year!

1. Add Texting to Your Communication Strategy

Communication lies at the heart of any thriving community, and in 2024, it’s time to maximize the power of small gains in this area. Enter Gloo’s Free Texting feature – a simple yet impactful tool to connect with your people and community. 

With a 98% open rate, texting was by far the most popular communication tool in 2023 (and years to come), so it’s clear why churches are making this simple change to see immediate results. 

What can you do with Free Church Texting

  • Efficiently share news with your congregation about upcoming services and events
  • Welcome new visitors quickly and with a personal touch
  • Create a devotional series that you can share over text for select groups who are interested in personal study
  • Answer urgent questions easily 
  • Foster a community of communication and connection with simple two-way texting

You can do all these things, or pick just one.

This seemingly minor adjustment to your communication strategy—just send a text instead of (or alongside) your traditional communication methods—can foster a sense of community and engagement that pays off in the long run. While there are a variety of texting services available to churches, Gloo’s robust texting service is offered free to churches forever.  

The simple change of adding texts to your follow-up and communication strategy alone can result in 33% better effectiveness in 2024. Why? Because so many leaders leave follow-up and communication to chance.

Social media might reach 5% of your followers on a good day (thank you, algorithm).

Announcements in the weekend service might reach 50% of your people (not everyone is in church every Sunday, and it assumes they’re listening and will remember).

Email is great, but if you have a 40% open rate, that means 60% never saw the message.

Well, texting has a 98% open rate. You don’t want to abuse that and spam people, but getting your message out to 98% of your people could be the biggest improvement you make next year. 

2. Make the Work You Already Do Go Even Further

If one thing annoys most church leaders, it’s getting lost in administrative and routine tasks. 

The good news is that AI can now handle a lot of the small things, freeing you up for ministry. 

For example, like most preachers, you put hours of thoughtfulness and prayerful energy into your sermons each week. That shouldn’t change. But Church.Tech’s AI-powered tools can turn your finished message into a plethora of resources, from small group guides to captivating social media posts with the simple click of a button. 

Obviously, you’ll want to reserve editing rights and check over everything that’s produced, but early research shows that people can save up to 20 hours a week by using AI tools to help them along, whether that’s brainstorming ideas, getting started, or finishing the groundwork you’ve already laid out. 

When you’re facing writer’s block with your weekly email, blanking on which hymns to include in your upcoming service, or struggling to think of a fresh new way to communicate the value of your church for digital outreach—AI is there to help you out. 

Embracing AI doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, with AI it can become a series of small, manageable steps that collectively lead to significant gains. 

If you’re not sure you’re ready for AI, sometimes putting a toe in the water is the best strategy. AICoPilot.church (a free joint venture Carey Nieuwhof is working on with Church.Tech) can help you get started by generating compelling subject lines for your email, developing a social media strategy for your channels, or writing social media posts for you. 

Alternatively, try out the Children’s Discipleship Activity Generator; it’s a great way to add an extra touch to your children’s ministry and get the kids involved. 

A small investment in getting comfortable with AI before the new year means you can go into 2024 ready to leverage this new technology for better digital outreach–meaning more time for you to focus on real connections in your church. 

3. Invest In Your Personal Development For Ministry Growth

Small gains are not just about efficiency; they’re also about equipping yourself and your team with free resources to more effectively connect with your people. 

Did you know that 67% of leaders who spend just 10 minutes a week on personal development report a significant increase in effectiveness in their own role? Dedicate just a few minutes a week to growing your knowledge, and watch your growth take off. 

In the FREE Gloo Discover platform, learn from expert contributors like Carey Nieuwhof, Ed Stetzer, Christine Caine, and Francis Chan on essential topics ranging from evangelism in today’s world, to effective engagement with both visitors and members, to how to use AI responsibly in the Church–all at no cost. 

Gloo Discover, offers all of the above and more for free. 

Discover makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, and by starting small with just a few new resources, you can see the payoff in your engagement and personal growth. 

Small gains in knowledge and inspiration accumulate, creating a foundation for lasting success.

4. Save Time (and Money) on the Sunday Experience 

The good news about Sunday is that it comes around every seven days. The challenging news about Sunday is that you need to be ready with a fresh weekend experience every seven days.

As you know, that can tax the resources of leaders in any church of any size. 

Until now, a lot of weekend planning has happened randomlyPastors, communications coordinators, and worship leaders spend church money on things like guides, templates, and other ministry resources. 

That stuff can be hard to find and expensive on top of it all. If you could find high-quality, ready-to-use resources all in one trusted place, would that take some pressure off of your shoulders? Gloo might have the answer. 

Gloo Marketplace is a new (growing) resource that makes a variety of resources available in one place, resources like: 

  • Digital sermon kits, containing teaching guides, discussion questions, sermon planning guides, and more
  • Sermon bumpers and other videos to add something extra to your service
  • Trending sermon and worship media from trusted sources like Shift Worship, Outreach, and many others

That can save time and money since many of the resources are offered at a low price. 

Start Small and See the Payoff 

Ask yourself what small improvements and changes you can make in 2024 that will result in big gains. 

As James Clear points out, time will multiply whatever you feed it. So the question becomes, what will you feed it and not feed it as the new year unfolds? 

Small improvements, when compounded, can lead to extraordinary outcomes. 

Here’s to making 2024 the year of maximizing small gains for your church’s flourishing future.