Church Growth Blog

I'm a New Executive Pastor in a Turn Around Church

Church Growth March 30, 2015

Week One – Where to Start?

I want to apologize for the recent hiatus in writing to my newsletter audience, especially with new subscribers joining every day. Here is the news flash. I’ve become an executive pastor in a “turn around” church! The early stages of this journey have totally buried me. It has also given me fresh perspectives on how to help churches grow, which will deepen my future writings. I am also developing video presentations to recruit key volunteers and associated training materials and videos, which I will be happy to share those who write me at

Many of you know that I have been training, consulting and writing on church growth for tens of thousands of pastors for the last 30 years. My recent book, The Optimized Church has been very well received. Yet I have been out of active pastoral ministry for over 16 years. So I jumped off the cliff and became a local church leader. Forget theory! I am now living the day-to-day realities and pastoral challenges of growing a turn around church. How did it happen?

I was happily training a group of pastors at a North Coast Network training event on my home church campus at North Coast Church in Vista, CA. As soon as I finished my presentation I was approached by the lead pastor of a church that has been known for years as a great church in North County San Diego. His opening words were urgent. “Our church needs everything you have been talking about!” I was soon to discover that the church had declined from 3,500 to less than 500 in weekend attendance. As the pastor and I shared, I was gripped with a burden for this church, located in my own city. So a few weeks ago I agreed to join their staff with the understanding that I am still very free to conduct outside ministry.

From day one I hit the ground running. The first order of business was to fix the church’s connection process. Visitors, which represent 100% of the church’s growth potential, came and left through a revolving front door. No one was positioned to hear their stories, let alone mobilize the resources of the church to meet their needs and interests. Their Velcro Factor approached that of a new Teflon pan. Where to start?

As the new pastor on staff, who had purportedly come to “fix” the church growth problem, there was pressure to show forward progress by doing something…anything that “looked like” church progress. Add to this the fiscal reality that churches in this condition have virtually no resources to fund new ministries. This is a recipe for building houses on the sand that do not weather the storms of isolation, time and atrophy. It may not look like much progress is being made at first, when one is down in the dirt laying the foundations for ministries. But this is the work that is critical for it to prevail and last. We had to get the house in order before we could expect reliably connect newcomers and build growing ministries. I rolled up my sleeves and started at the beginning. In our next issue I will share our starting point, which is already bearing measurable fruit for our turn around church.

Be Blessed In Your Ministry!

Allen Ratta