Churches all across the nation are shrinking. In the Southern Baptist Convention, of which I am a part of, 90% of churches are plateaued or declining. Estimates are that only 10% of all SBC churches are healthy and multiplying. The need for Church Revitalization is huge. Here are three essentials to think of when it comes to revitalization.
In all reality, your church needs revitalized. Many churches may not even realize that they need to be revitalized. They know something is not right, but they do not know what. They know that they are not gaining but they feel they are doing a decent job of maintaining. Most churches have good people in them that love Jesus, God’s Word, and are committed to missions at home and around the world. But they are not healthy. They are not multiplying. Worse, they don’t even know it.
Pastors, on a regular basis you need to look at markers of health. With your leadership, you need to not only define what health in your church is, but then compare that to both quantitative and qualitative health indicators.
Quantitative indicators are going to be: baptisms, baptism to worship attendance ratios, worship attendance, Sunday school attendance, small group and discipleship attendance. Look at those hard numbers to see where you are now and where you were one, five, or even ten years and more ago.
Qualitative indicators include: how long people linger after church or how much laughter is in the hallways. Conduct a simple survey as to how often those in the church experience the presence of God in the worship service. Figure out how your church feels about being the church.
You cannot say, “yes, my church needs revitalized” or “no, it does not” unless you conduct some introspective research to determine if you are one of the 90% or one of the 10%.
Revitalized churches come from revitalized pastors.
So many pastors feel defeated. Family issues, cumbersome church administration that demands responsibility for everything but authority for nothing, financial struggles, and on and on. Additionally the continual isolation of pastoral ministry is in itself enough to discourage pastors. When a pastor is disheartened then a church will not be revitalized.
Before any pastor can present a plan and strategy for revitalizing the church they must develop one to revitalize themselves. A church will never rise above its pastor in spiritual maturity or health.
Revitalized pastors have consistent times of prayer and personal Bible study. They intentionally seek out other pastors to be with to learn from, dump with and build it each other up. A mentor once shared that pastors need “cussing buddies.” Not someone to speak vulgarities with but someone they can share whatever is on their heart no matter what.
For a church to revitalize, it must come from a revitalized pastor.
Church Revitalization is a marathon. Church Revitalization is long. It requires a long-term commitment, long-term patience and long-term vision. Revitalization may take twenty years to become an overnight success.
Yes, there are success stories of explosive growth and of amazing movements of God. Those are few and far between. Most Church Revitalization efforts will be slow, will be cumbersome, and will be long. The Church Revitalization pastor must endure for the marathon not the sprint.
Reality is most churches, particularly in the convention I am a part of, are in need of revitalization. They need to remember their first love and their Kingdom calling. The church is the hope of the world; the gates of hell will not prevail against her. There is too much at stake to let things linger on in ill-health.