• Chris Wethman

Church Decline is Not an Option: 9 Vital Components of Church Revitalization

Excerpted from The Malphurs Group



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.

Read Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.[2] Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

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.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? What are the areas of your church that are untouchable? Why?

? If your church were to do something radically different, what would that be? What’s holding you back?

? What is God teaching you and your team right now through His word? How can you better listen to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout the process?

 

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, dictator-esque 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.

Questions to Discuss:

? What red tape needs to be eliminated, so that your lay leaders can make decisions, plan for the future, AND act?

? What do you need to clarify so that lay leaders are free to lead?

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.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? When someone asks you about the vision, can you clearly, concisely, and passionately communicate your church vision? Don’t shove this question aside. Test it. Request feedback. Make sure your vision is clear.

? What do people say when they talk about your church-wide vision? Do they actually talk about it?

? What would get people so excited that they shared the vision with others? Figure that out. Clarify your vision. Make it bold and big.

? What steps can you make as a team to eviscerate vision limp?

 

4) HONESTY ABOUT YOUR CORE

Your core drives you. You value something. You probably value multiple things. Those things are ALREADY driving all that you do. Be honest 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.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? What about your casual core drives you to ministry mediocrity?

? What missional motivations could you, your team, or your church aspire to? (Community impact, multiplying discipleship, dynamic first impressions?) Write these down.

 

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.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? What are the top 3-5 ministries or events that need to end in order to regain focus? You may identify more than 3-5 and then narrow the list down. (Better yet: you may need to eliminate more than 3-5.)

? How can you prepare your church for the emotional impact this will have on people? Clarify your communications plan to reduce the negative pushback. (Notice I said “reduce” and not “eliminate.” If you try to keep everyone happy, no one will be happy and your vision, people, church, and church’s impact will suffer.)

 

6) NEW OPERATIONAL ROADMAP

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, please, please make these measurable. If your operational objectives aren’t measurable, people will celebrate activity and complain about a lack of results.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? What measurable objectives will your team agree upon for each quarter of the coming year?

? Who will measure these objectives and when? If you care enough to measure something, you should also celebrate it. How will you and your team/leaders celebrate your wins? Give people something to look forward to. (Also remember that potentially painful changes will need to occur if the objectives aren’t met.)

? What steps will senior leadership take to “lead the way” and model the behavior expected of others?

 

7) COMMITMENT TO OVERHAUL FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Your church may have an incredible first impressions team and ministry. Perhaps you already have objectives specifically focused on first impressions. Don’t stop there. Everyone can improve their first impressions.

Improving your first impressions gives your church some quick wins. It ensures not only more guests, but also more guests that stay around. First impressions breathe 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.

 

Questions to Discuss:

? What steps will your team take to get a better handle on the guest experience? The longer you are a part of something the more difficult it is to assess it. Get a Sunday Secret Shopper Consultation (also called a Mystery Worshipper Consultation), invite the pastor(s) of a nearby church to visit, or have your guests complete a guest evaluation.

? What has led you, your team, or your church to focus internally at the expense of those in your community you want to reach? Don’t give fluffy answers to this one. As the pastor, own up to how you’ve contributed. Lead your team to admitting where each person has partially driven the mission drift.

? When it comes to facility stewardship, what do you need to work on so that your facilities reflect your faith? Perhaps a church building campaign is something your church is looking for in the near future. If that is the case, make sure you church facility stewardship includes a look at what makes your church unique and how your building will help you accomplish your vision. Pastors and churches usually benefit from someone experienced in church consulting at this stage. It helps ensure that all your “ducks are in a row” before financially overextending yourself with a building campaign loosely connected to a generic vision.

 

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.


 

Questions to Discuss:

? What new skills do you and your team need to acquire in order to lead at a higher level and probably in a different way? Identify these emotional, spiritual, and skill-based competencies and get started shifted your leaders into new roles. (Start with yourself!)

? What new positions can you create for new volunteers? Who will manage their training/apprenticeship?

 

9) OWN IT

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. Contact me and I'll ask you some pivotal questions.)

 

Questions to Discuss:

? How have you and each member of your team failed to own the changes needed by avoiding conflict? (Think: elephants in the room you or others have avoided.)

? What steps might you take to encourage your church to own the process and the changes necessary?

? How could you get feedback and input to increase their awareness and buy-in to the vision and operational objectives?

 

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 componnts of church revitalization to your next meeting and allot some time to discuss one or two of these components of church revitalization.

Keep in mind that many people appreciate advanced notice and will benefit from processing an area or two PRIOR to your next meeting. And as a pastor, you may also want to consider this revitalization check list.





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