How to Break Growth Barriers, Updated Edition

Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church

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Some churches grow rapidly, only to hit a ceiling. Other churches have experienced declining or static attendance--many of them for decades. Frustrated pastors and church leaders want growth methods that work, but without adding to pastoral fatigue.

How to Break Growth Barriers argues that growth comes when effective leadership and lay-empowerment skills work hand in hand. This requires a shift of focus from the shepherd as the primary caregiver to shepherd as developer and coach of many caregivers. The authors show pastors how to communicate a vision for the future and then how to lead the congregation into the paradigms necessary for potentially limitless growth.

The strategies found in this book are not only tried and true, and taken from a biblical perspective of a "harvest" vision. They're also newly updated to reflect our changing culture, including helpful charts and checklists for self-evaluation.


"When I began in ministry as a young leader, I lived by this book as our church grew from a handful of people to 200 and then over the years to over 1,000. Everything Carl George and Warren Bird said was bang-on every step of the way. This book has been a lifesaver for me in ministry. So I could not be more thrilled to see that it's being revised and expanded for a new generation of church leaders. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."

Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor, Connexus Church, Barrie and Orillia, Ontario; blogger,

"The whole goal of ministry is to give it away to more and more people. In Saddleback's early years I invited our people into a covenant, 'If you'll do the ministry, I'll make sure you're well fed.' That turning point transformed our church and led to a season of incredible growth--and this excellent book shows you how to make a similar transition."

Rick Warren, pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California; founder,

"What if God wanted you to handle twice as many people as you are ministering to at present? Five times? Ten times? This highly practical book shows you a contagious vision of the harvest God wants to grant to your church. Then it shows you how to put the primary-care pastoral ministry of the church into the hands of lay shepherds who lead small groups."

Chris Hodges, pastor, Church of the Highlands; author, Fresh Air

"I wish I had read this book long ago. For too many years my husband and I did all the counseling and care, spread far too thin. Then a pastor friend helped us see the value of raising up and coaching other caregivers. That's what this book does. It saves you heartache, shows you what to do, and multiplies your impact."

Noemi Chavez, copastor, Seventh Street Church, Long Beach, California

"The movements I lead wouldn't be what they are today without the insights and coaching of Carl George. The contents of this book are directly related to everything we do in the multiplication of small groups, new campuses, and networks of reproducing churches."

Dave Ferguson, lead pastor, Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois; founder, Exponential Conference; cofounder, NewThing church planting network; coauthor, Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets

"If you want to be more effective at empowering others, read this amazing book. Adequate caring, fueled by Holy Spirit-given giftedness, lies at the foundation of all sustainable church growth."

Sam Chand, leadership consultant; author. Leadership Pain

"I am excited the book is being updated; I have shared this with many church leaders. Very few books are as effective at clearing away the cobwebs of confusion and enabling ministry leaders to imagine a better future."

Allen Jackson, founding pastor, World Outreach Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee; coach/author, Intend Ministries

"How to Break Growth Barriers unlocks the strategy for pastors to powerfully multiply pastoral care through small group community. When that happens, both pastor and people win, plus more disciples are made."

Allen White, author, Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church's Potential; church consultant,

"It was over twenty years ago that I sat in Carl's seminar, 'How to Break Growth Barriers.' It was a revolutionary experience in my thinking about church. When the book came out, I bought it and still have it today--dog-eared and well-marked. I am happy that a new generation of church leaders have an opportunity to benefit from this updated and revised edition. It's still revolutionary!"

Mike Chapman, senior pastor, City Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee

"How to Break Growth Barriers is an excellent resource not only for senior pastors but for people at all levels--and especially women in leadership. It skillfully navigates barriers, both external and internal, that hinder growth."

Sherry Surratt, lead author, Just Lead! A Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church

"Carl George has taken the best practices of healthy church growth and placed them in the hands of church leaders in How to Break Growth Barriers. This is a 'must-read' for those seeking practical and proven ways of expanding fruitful ministry."

Bob Ona, lead pastor, First Assembly, Fargo, North Dakota

"I read the original version and was tremendously helped by it. May this updated version be the same blessing and challenge to a new generation that it was to me."

Mark Batterson, pastor, National Community Church, Washington, DC,; author of sixteen books including Chase the Lion

The Authors

  1. Carl F. George

    Carl F. George

    Carl F. George, one of North America's premier church growth consultants, has trained pastors, staff, and top executives from more than one hundred denominations. He is former director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth and...

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  2. Warren Bird

    Warren Bird

    Warren Bird (PhD, Fordham University) is vice president of research for the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability ( An ordained minister and former seminary professor, he is also author or coauthor of thirty-one books including How to...

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Praise for the Original Edition

"This book is a must . . . penetrating insights that are both spiritual and pragmatic."--Bill Bright, founder, Campus Crusade for Christ International, Orlando, Florida

"A power source to 'jump-start' your ministry and re-capture growth and outreach. Don't miss it!"--Win Arn, president, Life International (now Church Growth, Inc.,

"Carl George continually amazes me with his 'cause and effect' insight into the reasons why churches grow and why they plateau."--Elmer Towns, dean, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia,

"This book will transform the thinking about church growth of everyone who reads it."--Lyle Schaller, church consultant; author/editor of ninety-four books on church growth and health

"Once again Carl George proves he's a light year ahead of the church trapped in old paradigms. Reading this book is like opening a blind and seeing things previously hidden from view."--Ralph Neighbour Jr., president, Touch Outreach Ministries

"The wise counsel found in these pages will be of inestimable value to everyone who loves and seeks to serve the church."--Ted Engstrom, president emeritus, World Vision

"A momentous book that will become the textbook in how to break growth barriers."--Dale Galloway, pastor, New Hope Community Church, Portland, Oregon

"The disarming thing about Carl George is how he blends the science of church growth (if there is such a thing) with the spirit of church growth (and there is such a thing). That 'spirit' is the Holy Spirit, and I'm grateful for Carl's emphasis as we seek ways to partner with the Savior who is building His church so wondrously today."--Jack Hayford, pastor, Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California;

"I particularly like Carl George's emphasis on the ministry of all people. In this, he stands in the line of Martin Luther and Elton Trueblood."--Kenneth C. Haugk, founder and executive director, Stephen Ministries

"The author has offered compelling reasons why care givers must find a new way of caring. The needs are too great and the world is too complex to go on with business as usual."--Bill Hinson, pastor, First United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas

"The book commands 'must-read' status for all who do ministry and teach others to do ministry."--John W. Reed, chairman, pastoral ministries department, Dallas Theological Seminary

"Carl George is both prophetic and practical. His latest book is a great toolbox for leaders living on the cutting edge."--Walt Kallestad, pastor, Community Church of Joy ELCA (now Dream City Church), Glendale, Arizona