5 Keys to Gaining (and Keeping) Momentum in Your Church

If you have the guts to keep making mistakes, your wisdom and intelligence leap forward with huge momentum.
– Holly Near

There are seasons in your ministry when you can feel momentum happening … it seems like things are just flowing a little easier and the energy of the church is pushing the ministry forward. I’ve lead in ministries where the momentum is tangible … every step does seem to be easier than the one before. However, I’ve also lead in contexts where we don’t have momentum … everything seems to be an uphill push. In a church without momentum every step is more difficult than the one before. Gaining and keeping momentum is a difficult process for church leaders. Here are a few dynamics that I’ve observed about momentum through my years of ministry leadership.

  • falling_dominoes150 Weekends // We all want things to turn around quickly at our churches … but in my experience sustained momentum takes about 3 years to generate. It doesn’t happen in a month or a season or even a year. Distracted leaders have a hard time generating momentum in their churches because they are always pursuing the next shiny object. Your church is getting the results from the efforts it has been focusing on for the last few years. Does your leadership team have the perseverance to focus over an extended period of time?
  • Focus. Focus. Focus. // By definition you can’t gain momentum in wide variety of areas. You need to be focus your time, effort and energy on just a few things. Looking to improve the musical worship portion of your weekend experiences? You’ll need to think and act about that every week and almost ignore other areas. Have you narrowed the focus of your church leadership enough so it’s understood what you are trying to push forward? 
  • You’ll Need to Be Unpopular // To gain momentum unlike any other church you know … you’ll need to do stuff that no-one else is doing. You’ll need to make decisions and calls that might seem counter intuitive because innovation is the road less traveled. Most churches don’t have momentum … so you’ll need to do things that most churches aren’t doing. People will question what you are doing … why you aren’t like every other church around you. What are you thinking about trying that seems a bit crazy that might just help push forward your church?
  • Obsess About the Details // Small wins matters. Someone needs to keep their eye on what happens regularly in the details of your church. Sustained momentum is created by 1,000,000 small things all pushing the same direction … each of those little things pushes towards the end goal of moving the church forward. Have you inspired, informed and empowered your team to get the details right at your church?
  • Iterate towards Innovation // Chances are that the areas that you are trying to gain momentum in that other churches have already spend a bunch of time figuring out. Rather than dreaming up what you think you should learn from other churches who have already solved the issue. Talk with them and understand the mistakes they’ve made along the road. Don’t just copy and paste from their church to yours … but adopt their practices and modify them to fit your culture. Which churches should you spend time learning from this year?

I’m a big fan of Jim Collin’s thinking and writing on the topic momentum. He talks about the “flywheel effect” in organizations … I think there is a lot from this that can applied to your thinking in church leadership. Check out this video below:

[vimeo h=370 w=570]


  1. Great post. As a campus pastor, I am interested in sustaining and building momentum with the team I have the privilege of leading. I realize that it takes a long time to build momentum, but what happens when you have staffing disruptions, (turnover) in the midst of those 3 years? Do you start from scratch again? I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on that.

    And as far as focus, focus, focus, what would you say is the framework, or rubric by which you choose the 1 thing to focus on when there could be 15-20 different things.

    1. Peter! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Appreciate it.

      Some staff turn over is positive and contributes to the momentum … others takes away from it. 🙂 From my seat, when a staff member leaves it’s critical to replace that person with a stronger player. If you’re able to do that there will be little loss of momentum … in fact it often can contribute to momentum. If you replace a team member with a similar player there is risk of momentum loss … and of course if you replace with a weaker team member you slow down. At that time of transition … it’s critical to look at it as a chance to scale up your team and service to your community. Does that make sense?

      As for areas to focus on … The “big 4” in my mind that pay the biggest dividends when we focus on them are:
      – teaching … how can you improve the core teaching experience of your weekend services?
      – kids ministry … strong churches have thriving children’s programming.
      – guest services … handling guests with amazing care accelerates your growth.
      – musical worship … typically it’s the first thing seen by your people – first impressions matter!

      Does that make sense?


  2. In “being different”…what would be some practical examples of different to you?

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.