1 Corinthians 3:6(NIV)
"6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow."
At times it can be easy to skip past step one and two here and simply rely on step three. While it is definitely in God's hands to dictate the outcome; there are things we can do to put ourselves in a better position to receive a return on investment. Leadership does hold some responsibility in the growth, maintenance and general facilitation of its membership; yet, I would advise caution here so as not to overly focus on one's actions or to measure the return based on what is immediately apparent. This particular item has many potential pitfalls in and of itself unfortunately. One must be careful not to "sheep steal," in efforts to boost attendance, membership and general growth. One must not compromise the integrity of the Word of God, individual mission/vision/focus of particular Body in question. One must not overextend resources in a "low-yield," venture. One must not limit God and the potential for growth by "confining God to a box," or specific set of pre-qualifying factors/standards. These are just a few of many areas of concern.
I would simply offer a few suggestions to plant the seeds of growth; you may use any, all or none as you feel God would lead.
1). Make use of low-cost/high-return platforms; such as web-based platform. It costs very little to establish a website if you do not currently have one; and there are even sites that walk you through step-by-step website creation. They make it simple, user friendly, and reasonably customizeable. There are even a few who offer this completely free of charge, even providing the broadband access on global scale. Once one has a website running, it is cost free (presuming one has the equipment necessary,) to present weekly sermons, advertise upcoming events, provide access to services and resources, deliver educational material, and much more. This allows a membership/participation from a virtually unlimited base of believers and non believers alike, in a cost free format for them, with the added bonus of convenience. Quite often, what begins as folks watching weekly sermons online; eventually can result in their physical attendance and membership moving forward.
2). Maximize the opportunities within your community. This is less applicable in very small churches that are in very rural areas, but can still be of some benefit; the options are just more limited. There are always charities, non profit organizations, and humanitarian groups providing services and facilitating events in most areas; throughout the year. If these organizations/events/services are in alignment with the Church's tenets, mission, vision, and scriptural integrity; we do well to reach out and seek to participate. (IE, serving at local homeless shelters, volunteering at food drives, participating in major events such as Convoy of Hope, Habitats for Humanity, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) Quite often these organizations are very welcome to added volunteers, and it will give leadership and members "hands-on," opportunity to showcase the values, messages, and spiritual principles found in their church. Often those both receiving your help, and people within the confines of the organization will be ministered to simply by your acts of love and kindness; causing them to be interested and intrigued about your church. You need not actively promote or endorse your church in these events for two basic reasons: A) Often the organization hosting the event will "plug," each church/volunteer organization in appreciation of the assistance. B) Actions speak for themselves. Simply by reflecting the character of Christ; those who are broken will be drawn to the light and love on display; often prompting their proactive curiosity towards your church or ministry.
3). Make use of the flock itself! Present the need for growth to the congregation. Ask for folks to be willing to post flyers, bulletins, or calendars at their places of work, recreation, educational institutions, etc. (Wherever these things are legally and structurally allowed mind you.) Often, most business owners have little issue allowing flyers or bulletins from non profit entities such as churches to be placed in their establishments, and even some Christ based educational institutions promote the advertising of Churches wholeheartedly in attempt to encourage their students to be active and present in the Body.
4). Do not discount the value of Jail/Prison Ministry. Now I know that some would be very critical of this approach, but I would remind you of Jesus' willingness to interact with "sinners," and the undesirable elements in society. These are the souls whom are in greatest need of a proper spiritual foundation, a message of love and hope, and deliverance from a life enslaved to sin. These are the people who have been abandoned by every other segment of society, even disowned by family, and often have nobody "in their corner," so to speak. This my friends, is the ideal opportunity to not only be fruitfully obedient to our calling in sharing the message of Jesus Christ; but to nurture growth from a vastly ignored field.
Since these folks have nobody who cares anymore, nobody who will visit them, show them kindness, grant them forgiveness...by reaching out to them you will find that many are not only willing and receptive; but they will also be fiercely loyal, because you have been the only one to reflect true compassion and kindness in spite of their failings. Furthermore, once they are mature and stable in their faith; these are believers who will not be afraid to reach out to those who seem most given to sin, they will not be afraid of the rough neighborhoods or tough street thugs. They will boldly witness in areas the "average," believer may be hesitant or unwilling to venture. I say again, do not discount the value of a jail/prison ministry!
These are just a few possible ways to help nurture growth, but they are not all the options. It is up to each congregation and its leadership to determine what approach is best. In the end, it is not about the return; but in knowing you have invested the time and effort to plant the seeds, water the seeds, so that God can provide exponential growth! May Father grant clarity in these matters. Thanks and God Bless.