Church revitalization carries both challenges and joys.
Revitalizing a declining or plateaued church challenges the congregation, provides opportunity for change and evaluation, and will inevitably cause some growing pains in the process.
When looking to revitalize your church, have you considered what the vital components of church revitalization are? Are you ready for revitalization?
Here are 9 vital components of church revitalization that should help you and your team as you begin the revitalization process.
We’ve also provided discussion questions for each area that you and your team can use. Click the button below to download the team discussion guide.
1) REJECTION OF THE STATUS QUO
Church revitalization requires a rejection of the status quo. If we are honest, many churches today are more known for their “status NO.” Why is that? We’ve gotten comfortable, and we don’t want to change.
The status quo initially creates comfort. You don’t have to change or exert much effort; however, it kills the spiritual vitality of the church. You may have to change your church culture in order to thrive. We all grow when we have to embrace change and let go of what we once loved.
Re-read Romans 12:1-2 and be clear about how God is leading you and your church to change. He is the motivation, the catalyst, and the means to change. If church revitalization isn’t a spiritual process, you’ve allowed yourself to lead a corporation, not a church.
2) DECISIVE AND FUTURE-FUELED LEADERSHIP
Churches need leaders. They need strong, effective leaders. Churches need future-fueled leaders. Who wants a leader that continually looks to the past? Your members or partners may not notice, but your guests always will.
Now, I’m not referring to autocratic, narcissistic leadership. Nor am I referring to leaders that forget the past or where you have been. If you forget your past, you probably repeat the same mistakes. (Don’t do this!)
Pastors must make decisions. Church leadership teams have to respond to challenges decisively. (But first you have to empower them to do so. Start by understanding how NOT to develop leaders.) Challenge your church leaders to think about the future God wants them to create. Challenge yourself to do the same. Either think and plan for the future or collapse under the pain of the past.
3) EXTRAORDINARILY CLEAR AND CONTAGIOUS CHURCH VISION
Don’t assume that you have a clear church vision. Also, don’t assume that you have a contagious church vision. You need to be sure your vision is clear and contagious.
Define your vision. People want to know exactly what the future will look like. I don’t expect you to predict the future and execute it perfectly — that will never happen. But do clarify what the future looks like to the point that people can’t resist telling people about it. People want to collaborate with you on a mission towards a big, audacious, exciting, and inspiring vision.
Reminder: Your building isn’t your vision. Your worship service isn’t your vision. Your preaching isn’t your vision. All of these may help move your church towards your vision, but they are not your vision. Let people know how their lives will change, how their community will change, how their region and world will change. Give them something to get excited about.
4) HONESTY ABOUT YOUR MOTIVATIONS
Your motivations drive you. You value something. You probably value multiple things. Those things are already driving all that you do. Be honest what what those things are.
We don’t create values. We live them out. You already live them out — good or bad. And I do too.
You already do what you do, because of what you value. You also have things you wish you valued (aspirational values). Your church may wish it had more missional motivations too. The gap between the casual core and the missional motivations can launch a change process. Make sure you identify this gap.
5) MINISTRY ENDINGS
Churches notoriously start too many ministries that never come to an end. At some point, some thing has to go, in order to make a move towards a strong future. Start helping people get used to things ending (especially “good” things). “Good” things that aren’t the best things are not, in fact, good things. Some times you need to cut a good ministry to focus on a better one.
If you aren’t careful, feelings will get hurt. Celebrate the impact these ministries have had and explain why they must be cut. Your exceptionally clear and contagious vision must stay in focus, even at the cost of cutting a good ministry or event. Be honest. You can’t do everything that everyone wants or likes and do them all well without burning out or only doing them mediocre.
6) CLARIFY PRIORITIES
When you cut ministries and clarify vision, you will need to identify the strategic operations roadmap going forward. If you avoid this one, you run the risk of filling the vacuum of activity with more chaotic activity.
Decide which operational objectives you will prioritize each quarter. Make sure they line up with your annual priorities. But please make these measurable. If your operational objectives aren’t measurable, people will celebrate activity and complain about a lack of results.
7) COMMITMENT TO OVERHAUL YOUR GUEST EXPERIENCE
Your church may have an incredible first impressions team and ministry. Perhaps you already have objectives specifically focused on guest experience. Don’t stop there. Everyone can improve their first time guest experience.
Improving your guest experience gives your church some quick wins. It ensures not only more guests, but also more guests that stay around. First impressions breathes new life into your church. New faces inspire people. New faces require change. New faces help every other area by upping the ante for change and missional alignment.
8) DESIGN A LASER SHARP LEADERSHIP PIPELINE THAT MOBILIZES VOLUNTEERS
Your leadership pipeline isn’t only for pastors, staff, and long-time leaders. Figure out the entry points for new leaders. Discern how you will recruit new leaders using vision clarity. Clarify the ministry apprenticeships for potential leaders.
Help those currently leading to move into coaching and training roles. Mature leaders can present a huge obstacle or a huge opportunity. Mature leaders may perceive they’ve hit their sweet spot. Help them to get comfortable sacrificing their comfort so that new volunteers, apprentices, and leaders can take on new roles. Decide how you can approach the challenges to developing a leadership pipeline, in order to ensure you develop a strong team of leaders to sustain your ministry for the long haul.
It will come to the point that your only decision is to revitalize the church or simply accept whatever comes. You likely have some faithful leaders, and they are likely great people. But they’ll never fully own or accept the changes needed until YOU do. That is why we’ve included “owning it” as one of the vital components of church revitalization for you and your church.
Make a decision today that church decline isn’t an option. Flip the switch in your head that failure isn’t an option. Own the fact that change must occur in everyone’s life — especially yours — if you ever want to see the ship turn around.
I’m not advocating that you take the place of God. God is still in control, and you must rely on Him. Some churches may not ever turnaround. Some pastors will get let go. Some churches will need to become a legacy church.
Don’t let the pain of change stop you from owning your responsibility to lead it. Own it and do whatever it takes without sinning or compromising your convictions. (Before you reject revitalization due to your convictions, get someone’s input about whether you need to rethink or adjust your assumptions about right and wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve benefitted from a friend challenging me to test my assumptions.)
Which of these vital components of church revitalization do you need to take action on now? Teams of all sizes meet regularly. Bring these 9 vital components of church revitalization to your next meeting and allot some time to discuss one or two of these components of church revitalization using this free team discussion guide.