As church attendance declines, the call for church revitalization resonates louder than ever. Church revitalization isn't just a strategic option; it's a necessary journey every congregation should embrace to have a lasting impact on our communities.
I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of revitalization. I've seen it work in plateaued or declining churches, churches on the verge of closing down, as well as big churches that look perfectly healthy. Read on to learn how church revitalization can transform your church!
Church revitalization is the process of rejuvenating a declining or plateaued church and steering it toward growth and well-being.
The goal of church revitalization is restoring a church's health and missional energy, reversing continuous decline. In many cases, a church in decline is heading toward a destination that forces them to close their doors. Church revitalization can turn a declining church around and see the ministry revitalized.
Church revitalizers play a vital role in church growth by keeping a declining local church from shutting its doors, meaning that the congregation can continue to thrive and share the Gospel.
Anyone that begins the epic journey of turning a church around and moving it back towards growth is a hero in the kingdom of God. If you are ready to become a church revitalizer and refocus your church on its missional purpose to see new growth, keep reading for the basic components of church revitalization!
Church revitalization is simpler than it may seem. The 5 basic components of church revitalization are:
You can't fix a problem unless you first admit the problem exists.
Many pastors and church leaders are brought into a church because the church knows they're declining and want to reverse course. That's great! But many other leaders are in declining churches and either don't want to change or can't get everyone else in the church to see the need for change.
You will not revitalize your church unless you and everyone else see the problem and are ready to turn the church around. Admitting you need to revitalize is step #1.
Not sure if your church truly needs to revitalize? Let's be honest: The fact that you've read this article this far is a pretty big sign! Or perhaps you know the church needs to revitalize, but other leaders and congregants don't. Either way, let's take a quick assessment to see whether your church is a candidate for church revitalization with these 4 questions:
Why does your church exist and where is it going?
If your church needs revitalization, this will be the toughest to answer.
Fully answering this question will require a fearless moral and social inventory of your church. If you have a hard time answering this question (or you know the answer and it isn't good), then I can confidently say the health and vitality of your church is under threat and it needs a renewed sense of purpose.
Is your church focused on programs or discipleship?
Programs are GOOD! But programs can be deceptive because they produce a lot of activity and activity can give the impression of vitality. But giving members things to do doesn't necessarily mean your church is helping them become more Christlike.
Is your church focused inward or on the surrounding community?
Conversations about outreach, evangelism, and charity will dominate at healthy churches. Conversations about the style of worship, funding for someone's favorite program, and the "good old days" of the church will dominate at an unhealthy church.
An outward focus is crucial for revitalizing a dying church.
What does the term "church growth" mean to you?
Is church growth about getting more butts in the pews? Or is it about discipling your members to be more Christlike and transforming your community through Christ's love?
Many churches decline due to the same phenomenon: inertia. Inertia is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged."
What got your church where it is now won't take it where it needs to be. You have to be willing to make big changes, even uncomfortable ones, to inject new life and growth into your church.
Change is tough and it's scary for everyone, members and leaders alike. Getting a church to change is a monumental task, no matter the size.
This will be the biggest hurdle in the entire church relaunch or church revitalization process. But turning a declining church around and moving it toward new life means change is absolutely necessary.
The first step in helping people prepare for change would be to show them the need. Cover the questions in the first component above and walk your people through the reality of where your church is now.
The next step is sharing with people the benefits of changing. Staying the same means continued decline and eventually closing the church down. Prayerfully changing the culture and direction of the church could bring about renewal.
If they still show resistance, ask them for their ideas for how to give your church hope and a future.
Being willing to change is only half the story. You also have to call out the status quo and work to reject it.
The status quo is what puts a church in a state of inertia. The church culture is coasting by and is no longer interested in innovating or growing. If your church is plateaued or declining, it's likely because ministry leaders and congregants prioritize "the way things are" over everything else.
People will only let go of the way things are when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing. That means you have to make the status quo hurt more than change.
The way that looks at a church is to help create a sense of discontent with the way things are. This happens in two ways:
First, focus on your church's purpose. This may mean that you and your leaders will spend time finding your church's purpose by crafting a mission and vision statement. But once that purpose is solidified, focus all of your teams, budget, and messaging on that mission. This will help instill that mission in your members as well. It also gives you a frame of reference as you address the status quo. If your people know the mission and vision of your church, you can show them all the ways your church currently falls short, motivating everyone toward change.
Second, share the "why", not just the "what" and "how." You can't just tell everyone what's happening and how you will challenge the status quo of your church. You have to bring them along this journey with you. The best way to do it is to share why the status quo is hurting the church.
You can't change the culture and direction of a church overnight. It's always a slow process. In fact, it's best to go slow.
If you're a new church leader who has been tasked with growing a church in decline, it's tempting to grab the helm and turn the ship around right away. This only sets you up for failure as the longtime members will resist or leave. But even if you've been the pastor of this church for many years, you still can't expect the church to make a 180° turn unless you patiently explain your new conviction for the church and get your leadership team on board.
Anecdotally, church revitalization is successful only when the entire leadership team and a majority of the members join the new venture.
Church revitalization takes time. The transformation won't happen overnight. Patience is crucial. Otherwise, you'll quickly face burnout.
This one is the most important by a long shot.
Most declining churches once had a compelling mission and a vision for their community. But they've since suffered mission drift, losing sight of why they exist. I would go so far as to say that virtually every church in decline is a church that is no longer tethered to its mission, vision, or purpose and has lost its evangelistic zeal as a result.
Church leaders in dying churches will have to return the church to its missional, disciple-making roots. No ministry strategy will take your church further than simply rediscovering your mission and committing to living out that mission once again.
My pastor shared a secret with me a while ago:
That's a tongue-in-cheek way of expressing the truth: He initiates a big push across all volunteer teams to emphasize evangelism and ministry in an effort to get them to bring more people into the church. In addition, my pastor kicks off a media blitz, canvassing neighborhoods with flyers and buying Facebook ads to raise public awareness of our church. He also plans fun outreach events that the public would be excited to participate in.
In other words, he acts like he's planting the church for the first time twice a year, every year.
And it works! Even as a small church, the church revitalization process my pastor launches twice a year gives our church a shot of new energy every time. We've seen more growth this year because of this strategy than any year since he first launched it.
The secret to church revitalization is continual revitalization.
It's easier to build a healthy church than to revive a dying one. Regularly implement a church relaunch or church revitalization strategy at your church. My pastor does it twice a year. You can choose whatever interval makes sense for your context. The key is to maintain vitality at all times.
This will help you avoid becoming in desperate need of revitalizing your church. By implementing the above components of church revitalization, you can keep your church healthy over the long term.
What Is The Difference Between A Church Relaunch And Church Revitalization?
The key difference between a church relaunch and church revitalization is that in a revitalization, you typically have more time to make the necessary changes. A relaunch typically happens when a church needs to be completely overhauled or else will soon shut down.
How Do I Attract New Members To My Church?
My pastor is always planning outreach events. These are events that take the church outside and into the surrounding community. They can also be fun events that the public would enjoy, just to increase the number of people we interact with.
Also, he has built a robust volunteer team. Over half of all adults in the congregation also serve in one capacity or another! This has helped members become more invested in the health and future of the church, as well as created a welcoming atmosphere to greet newcomers.
How Can Existing Churches Reform Into Healthy Churches?
The answer to this question depends on your church's exact context. No two churches are exactly the same. However, below are a few things I've seen church leadership do that helped turn dying churches into growing churches:
This is not an exhaustive list. You will need to prayerfully consider your situation and do lots of brainstorming to become a healthy and effective church once again.
Church revitalization is for every church, not just dying churches. Greater church health comes when God's people are reignited with passion and want to serve their community!
The renewal of the church begins when we admit we need to revitalize, reject the status quo, embrace change, rediscover the mission of the church, and remain patient through every step of the journey.
If your church needs a breath of new life, a greater sense of purpose, or you just want to see change that leads to more vitality, church revitalization is the answer!