It seems every week a church contacts me to ask advice about church revitalization. I also frequently hear from pastors who are considering stepping into a role in church revitalization. I greatly appreciate the Kingdom platform God has given me—but sometimes it feels overwhelming—as if I have something to offer.
Frankly, I am still in the learning process.
But we have learned a few things. And we have had some success—twice in church planting and twice in church revitalization.
And I fully believe we need lots of church revitalization. Read some of my thoughts about the need HERE
The problem for me is it seems people often start the conversation at the wrong place. They start with the how and I want to start with the why—or maybe the what.
When people start to talk about the how of doing church revitalization—the things we have done or haven’t done—I always feel like we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse. We need to talk about what church you are going to attempt to revitalize—and why you are considering the move in the first place.
I think before you consider revitalization, you need to first consider some broader questions.
Here are five questions I would consider before I would attempt to help revitalize a church:
Can this church be saved?
There is actually a more difficult question. Is the church worth saving? I know those are difficult questions. They may even make me seem very arrogant. But there are some toxic churches in the world. I know churches who have never held on to a pastor for more than two years. They are brutal to pastors. They don’t want someone to help them grow, they simply want someone to maintain things as they are, fill the pulpit three times a week and visit them when they are sick. And if you try anything else, they will remind you they were there before you came and will be there when you’re gone. What is the realistic potential even if the church is saved from eventual death? Will a pastor be able to lead? Can changes actually be made? Nothing of value happens in church revitalization—or really anything organizationally speaking—without some change. Chances are good it won’t be popular—in any church—but change is always necessary.
Is this the right location?
Look at the demographics of the community. Does it—or are the people willing for it to—represent the community? If the community has changed demographics around them, they may need to make changes for the community to see them as a vital part of the community. The message doesn’t change, but the demographics of communities change over time. People move. New people move into the community. If the church isn’t willing to embrace the unique needs of the community, maybe there is a more receptive area elsewhere. Are they willing to ask such hard questions?
Is this the best use of resources?
Would Kingdom dollars be better spent elsewhere? And, again, hard question, but the longer a church has been plateaued or declining, the longer—and harder—it will be to help the church grow again. Another hard question—how many churches could be planted with the same resources and efforts? Is there a wiser stewardship for the Kingdom than this? Now please understand—I believe in revitalization. I think established churches still play a huge role in the Kingdom—for so many reasons—but, you should be willing to ask the difficult questions or your chances of seeing progress are limited.
Is everyone willing to pay the price?
It will be hard. Change will be difficult for some to accept. Revitalization is harder than planting—in my experience. Will change be accepted? Can you take the hits? Are the leaders of the church going to stand with you? Does your family fully support your decision and are they up for the challenge?
Are you the right leader?
Do your experience, passions and skill sets prepare you for this role? Would you be more effective elsewhere? And the bottom line question here: Is God calling you to this? I have often said I believe God gives tremendous latitude at times in where we are to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We need more church planters, more healthy leaders in growing churches, more missionaries, more people to be solid, missional believers serving in secular positions—and more people to revitalize churches. But sometimes God calls us to specific places, even if only for a season. If God is calling you to this then nothing else matters. Obey quickly!
Answer those questions—then we can discuss the how questions.