Church revitalisation means bringing about changes. And that means knowing how to conceive, plan, and implement a project. Of course the Biblical teaching on the church is valid for all churches at all times. But this project concerns your church, at a specific time, in a specific context, for a specific culture. It’s not an exact science. However here are some principles which might be helpful.
Sow constructive discontent
Start by getting the leaders on board (or form a steering committee approved by the leaders)
Enhance the project with people’s suggestions, even their criticisms. There’s a reason for the reaction of people who are unwilling to change. Listen to them and take their remarks seriously. They may improve your plan!
Invite someone from the outside to come and speak to the church, either a specialist or someone who has already lived through change.
Discuss with opponents in private.
Make the suggestion: “We’ll try it for 3 months and see how it goes”.
Many books have been written on the topic of change. I would like to recommend Our Iceberg is Melting : changing and succeeding under any conditions (by John Kotter). It’s a very simple parable of how a colony of penguins decide to move away from their iceberg to a safer home despite most of them being reluctant to change at the beginning of the story. Buy several copies (it’s not expensive on Amazon) and lend them out to church members! Even the least strategic thinkers will enjoy reading it, and come to understand the need for change and the several stages which are necessary to bring it about.
It must be a priority as a leader to maintain a healthy spiritual life, but this cannot be reduced to just a few areas in order to get a “quick fix”. Here is a list of areas to consider : why not look at each one and give yourself a rating on a scale of 1 to 10?
Evangelicals Now DECEMBER 2016
REVITALISE YOUR CHURCH
The challenge of falling congregations is a reality for many churches. Phil Walter asks ‘How should we respond?’
Does your church need more strength?
When churches face the situation of lower numbers, the consequences are widespread.
A sense of failure – even guilt – amongst the leadership can be crippling. A falling congregation often means less impact on a community, fewer visitors to Sunday services, fewer workers available and, of course, the fear of closure unless something can be done to reverse the trend.
What is faithfulness?
For churches that are small and struggling the effect is multiplied. Often what follows is a siege mentality: ‘Let’s guard what we have and survive for as long as we can’. Churches focus on being ‘faithful’, in the context of continuing to do what they have always done. Being ‘faithful’ may look different for each church.
Church Revitalisation : one size doesn’t fit all !
A revitalised church is quite simply a healthy church. But churches can lose their health at various stages of their life. This diagram shows four critical moments in the life of a church.
The first one, surprisingly, is when the church is growing, because it is all too easy to get into a routine and not plan for the next stage of growth. This may be because the church is becoming inward looking, or because their ways of reaching out to non-Christians are no longer effective. Without change at that critical moment, the church will probably plateau within a few years.
Thom Rainer in his book Autopsy of a Deceased Church suggests some responses for a plateauing church which has “symptoms of sickness”:
The importance of leadership in revitalisation
Leadership in any organisation is important if forward movement and growth is to be achieved. In churches it is equally important to follow the example of Jesus who trained his disciples well and then equipped them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The area of church revitalization is no different. So what is needed in the European context today in our churches? Well it is easy to say – “good strong spiritual leaders” but in practice that is not as easy to accomplish. Let me suggest three things that you could consider.
Firstly, recognise there is a problem and agree amongst the leaders what must be done. Are the “values” shared amongst the leaders? Is one man holding back the rest of you?