This Proven Spiritual-Growth Tool Can Transform Your Church

Rick Warren says he's seen this transformation tool at work many times at Saddleback Church. (Saddleback Church Facebook page)

I know a proven tool that will transform your church.

That tool is a spiritual growth campaign. I've seen God use campaigns repeatedly at Saddleback Church. They have helped us grow from two members to more than 36,000 people each weekend across 18 campuses. I've watched God use campaigns to transform our church again and again for nearly 40 years.

Campaigns not only grow the church numerically but also contribute to people's spiritual growth. They are a "shot in the arm" that move our people from nonbelievers to believers, to members, to mature members, to ministers and to missionaries who multiply the message all around the world. Here are four reasons campaigns are so effective in helping churches become healthier:

  1. Campaigns build habits. Making disciples is all about helping people develop strong spiritual habits. Your character is determined by your habits. Far too many Christians never grow because they've never developed good solid habits like prayer, fellowship in a small group, tithing, daily Bible reading and fasting.

Read any decent psychology book, and you'll learn that it takes six weeks to develop a habit. You've got to do it every day for three weeks so you become comfortable with the practice. Then you need to do it every day for another three weeks to get the practice installed in your life.

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To help people develop spiritual habits, you need an intense period of at least six weeks. This is why our campaigns last for 40 days.

  1. Campaigns intentionally create focus. In campaigns, everyone in your church studies the same topic for six weeks. Adults, students and children all participate in the campaign together. That means entire families are united by focusing on the same topic during the campaign. This focus boosts spiritual growth and enhances fellowship.

You will need to help your church focus during a campaign. At Saddleback, we cancel every event not related to the campaign. Some people won't be happy! Remind them that a campaign is temporary, and the gains in church unity are worth making a short-term change.

  1. Campaigns accommodate the multiple learning styles in your church. People learn in different ways. You have many auditory learners in your church. They learn through the ear gate. Honestly, if you're an auditory learner, you love the church service. That's the only style most churches use. But many people don't learn best by listening. You have many other kinds of learners in your church. If the only way you engage people is through a Sunday-morning sermon, you'll miss lots of people.

In a campaign, you'll learn to use multiple learning styles to connect with your congregation. People will hear a sermon, memorize related Bible verses, read a daily devotional reinforcing the topic, discuss it in a small-group environment, watch a video on the topic and do a project to practice what they're learning.

  1. Campaigns cultivate exponential faith. When you study Scripture, you discover how God responds to people's belief. When you read about the miracles God performed in the Bible, you encounter stories of faith. God will do in your church exactly what you expect him to do. The Bible says "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).

During campaigns, churches set exponential growth goals. We've seen God do amazing things at Saddleback as we've stepped out in faith and developed bold goals.

For example, when we start a campaign, we set goals on how many new small groups we'll start—a number that can only be reached with God's involvement. When we did 40 Days of Purpose for the first time as a church, we had about 800 small groups. That may seem like a lot, but it wasn't enough to get all of our congregation connected. I set a goal to start 300 small groups during the campaign, but God challenged me to start 3,000 small groups instead. We added a zero!

In faith, I announced that goal to the entire church. Our act of faith encouraged other acts of faith—specifically, people stepping up to host new groups. God did a miracle, and we ended up reaching that goal.

God has used campaigns in the life of Saddleback to do what only he can do. We've seen more people come to Christ, more people baptized and more people join our small groups through the annual campaign than we have in the entire rest of the year.

Our church has largely grown, both numerically and spiritually, through the years because of campaigns. I'm confident they can have a similar impact on your church.

Check out some of the campaigns at to discover some ideas of what you can do in your church.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at He is also the founder of, a global online community created to encourage pastors.

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