The Pain of Breaking the 200 Barrier

200 barrier

Most churches in America never break through the 200 barrier, in fact, only 15% of churches break through it. Some pastors talk about it like it is the mythical unicorn. There are books, podcasts, webinars, and articles on how to break it. For years, Revolution would bump up against the 200 barrier and then go back down. We’d have seasons where we would stay above it and I thought we were through. Finally, we broke through it.

No light from heaven shone. There were no songs or angels. It just happened.

Since that moment, I’ve learned something.

Breaking through 200 hurts. A lot.

To break through 200, a lot of things in your church change and most of them are connected to the lead pastor. Teams you used to lead and meetings you used to be in, you no longer are. There is now a layer between you and someone you used to talk to every week.

If you are a planter, things your wife used to do you are now paying someone to do. People who were leaders from the moment of your church starting to get to 200 have hit their lid and are now replaced by other leaders.

This issue of control and feeling of loss looms larger than most leaders talk about. Don’t get me wrong, a growing church is exciting, but it is painful.

Here in lies why most churches don’t grow: the church and the pastor are not willing to go through the pain for it to grow.  What I mean is, people who feel connected to the pastor at 150 will often feel less connected at 200.

You will begin hearing things like, “the church doesn’t feel like a family anymore.” “I don’t know anyone at church.” “I used to have coffee with the pastor, but now I have to make an appointment.” People will lament it feels like a corporation instead of a church or that there are a bunch of new people. Pastors will have to stop micro managing and allow leaders to run with ideas. You will start to see things you don’t like in your church, the church you started. Not every pastor can handle this. Communication loops change. What used to take a phone call or a text, now takes a video, announcement or mass email. Putting together an event or work day used to take a few days of lead up now takes a few weeks to work out schedules across ministries. Where you used to know every leader and were able to put people into place of leadership roles, you now need a process to vet and check those who are leading teams. The world has changed. And this is why most churches break through 200 and settle back at 150. They don’t like the way things felt at 200. 

In addition to all this, there is another reason few pastors are willing to make the jump through 200.


It is a squeeze on a church financially to break through 200. At this point, you need to hire some more staff and you won’t have the money for it. It will stretch your budget and your faith. You will take a step that depending on where your church is could sink your ship if it goes poorly. Many pastors and churches are not willing to take this step, are unsure of how to hire correctly and so they stay stuck. In the end, this boils down to a willingness to do what it takes to become the church God has called you to become.

If you are still with me and arguing with me in your head, let me hit the last reason churches and leaders don’t break through this barrier.

Their personal lid.  Many churches or pastors simply don’t have the capacity to break this barrier. Many will say, “Then they shouldn’t. We need small churches.” There is some truth in that and some lie. We need small churches, but we need those churches to be healthy, must be discipling people and helping people find Jesus and baptize them. Some churches do this, plant more churches and never break 200. Some planters start churches well, get it to 200 and pass the baton to go and plant another church.

In the end, the churches and leaders that break through 200 and go on to break 400-500 have the willingness to make the sacrifice so that a church can do more and help more people enter a relationship with Jesus so they can become who God has called them to be.

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