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Any church revitalization should start with a church revitalization checklist. Preparation is key.

One of the reasons for the high safety record of airlines is that pilots and mechanics carefully work through a preflight checklist. In other words, they stop before they go. They stop before they strategize. They know what the essentials are before they move forward.

I have watched the captain walk around the plane, examining the engines and the flaps. On occasion I have even seen the captain kick the tires. When the flight personnel leave the cabin door open, you can watch them as they busily flip and check switches, examine various digital and modular instruments, and review their charts and flight plans. I have also observed mechanics running test programs to make sure that the plane’s electronics are working properly. To do otherwise could prove disastrous.

To be a successful revitalizing pastor, you need to use your own pre-revitalization checklist.

1) Clarify the Leader of the Church Revitalization Process

Who is going to take point in the process? Most of the time, this is the senior pastor. Sometimes there is no pastor or the church is about to experience a transition in leadership. In these instances, an elder, deacon, or other lay leader can certainly take on the role.

The leader of the revitalization process isn’t responsible for doing all of the work! He simply functions as the point person and if the church is doing a “DIY” revitalization process, this person is usually the primary facilitator during team work sessions, too. If your church chooses to partner with an outside group to guide you through the revitalization process, your guide will be the facilitator but the leader or pastor must still function as the primary champion of the process.

2) Clarify What You Are Doing

Gaining disciple-making momentum is no easy task. Many churches have gotten to the point where maintaining the status quo has become the status quo! But I doubt you or your church want to stay stuck in your ways for the rest of your lives. We think your church wants to change.

In order for your church to change, you must ask a very fundamental question: What are we going to do? The process might be clear in your head, but it likely isn’t clear in everyone else’s head. Take time to clarify the step-by-step process for yourself and also clarify it for your team.

3) Ask Yourself: “Am I Prepared?”

Good navigators also prepare before launching their boats. They have to get ready! They use a pre-launch checklist (much like this one) to check their boats before launching to make sure that they are ship-shape and safe.

If you aren’t sure what should be on the checklist of your process, you may want to speak with one of the other members of your staff, such as your executive pastor, another elder or church leader, or even someone outside of your church. Resources like the courses at Church Revitalization University can be invaluable in knowing what steps you should take and what the process should look like. 

In fact, our free course “Preparing Your Church for Revitalization” walks you step-by-step through four key things your church can do to get prepared.

4) Identify the Tools and Equipment Needed

When people get together, it takes work and planning. Don’t assume that you can throw a group of people together on a whim and see them all mysteriously start working together in collaboration. Take a few minutes to get clear about what tools and equipment are needed.

Here are a few of the things you or your team might use during group work sessions:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Dry erase markers & dry erase board(s) or Sharpies and easel pad
  • Laptop & Projector (or TV) for training videos/presentations
  • Cables and cords
  • Small sticker dots and post-it notes
  • A copy of the church constitution and by-laws
  • Snacks and drinks

There are many more potential things that you might find useful and that will likely vary by location and preferences. The point isn’t that you have the specific things that we mentioned in our list. The point is that you ensure you are prepared in such a way that physical tools and needed equipment don’t become a distraction, because you didn’t prepare well in advance.

5) Determine the Pre-Work

When pastors take a church through a church revitalization, pre-work should be done — not only by the pastor(s), but also any other leaders on the lead team or vision team. This church revitalization checklist is actually part of the pre-work that you should do as a pastor. If everyone shows up with little to no preparation, you may still be able to accomplish a few things, but you will lose considerable amounts of time. Try giving everyone a few things to read, an assessment or two, and any other activities or exercises that you believe would prepare them for the meeting coming up or the change process as a whole.

6) Clarify “Why” You Are Doing What You Are Doing

Start with the why. We all need to know why we are doing something. Knowing the why not only gets everyone on the same page for understanding the rationale, but it also increases motivation of everyone on the team. (It could be considered one of the most important parts of the church revitalization checklist!)

Don’t ask people to engage in a process without knowing why they should. Otherwise some on your team will clearly see the need for revitalization, while others will not. Some will see a need for making your church more strategic and others will not.

7) Prepare Yourself and Your Team For Change

Any church looking to make a significant impact into the future needs to address change directly. If we are not open to change personally, we will not experience change organizationally.

How have you prepared yourself for the changes that are coming? Have you altered your schedule to allow extra time? Have you assessed your personal spiritual, emotional, and physical health to make sure you can weather the changes that lie ahead?

Figure out what you specifically need to prepare yourself for change. Many of the pastors we have worked with have indicated a need for coaching in preparation for the change process. If that describes you, a member of our time will be glad to help.

What about your team? Have you prepared them for change? You likely have a few people on your team who quickly adapt to any change, others who will gradually come around, and others who will resist for quite some time. Make sure to keep that in mind as you select people to be on the team and as you lead them through the process. Get people thinking early about how they need to change and how the church they have been a part of will likely be changing in many ways in the weeks, months and years ahead.

How are you doing with the pre-launch checklist? Make sure to stop and address each of these areas as you look ahead to the leading your church through a revitalization process. Strategic growth doesn’t happen in one quick weekend; however, if you prepare well you will see your church take critical steps towards healthy, sustainable growth.