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.
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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. Determine the Church’s Current Health
Before you can make good decisions, you need to have good data. How is your church doing right now in the six areas of church health? What’s driving the negative trends in your church? Intuition is not enough. You need a solid assessment. Using a low-cost option like the Church Ministry Analysis by the Malphurs Group will give you an objective assessment of where you are right now. One of the key features of our approach is that we don’t compare you to other churches, instead, we compare your church against the Scriptural definitions of health and see how you can be the best version of yourself. Before you undergo a revitalization process, you need to know where you’re starting from.
4. Clarify Who Will Participate
Churches make a mistake when the pastor takes on the revitalization process by himself. One of the key indicators for successful change is recruiting the right people to become advocates for change. People are far more likely to advocate for a change they had a voice in crafting. Therefore, select a team of 12-15 known leaders in the church to serve on your revitalization team. In the Strategic Envisioning process, we call this the Strategic Leadership Team. Typically, this is a group is a combination of staff, board members, and other key lay leaders in the church that represent a broad cross-section of the congregation. The right make-up of this group varies from church to church. But every church needs to empower a team to champion change.
5. Set Expectations for the Process
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 the time to establish the timeline for the process, the amount of time for each meeting, and the supplies you might need for the work at hand.
In Strategic Envisioning, we split the process into three distinct phases. The first is training: there is often an education gap between the pastors, board, and lay leaders. For everyone to succeed in the process, everyone must operate from the same level of competency. We provide 4-6 hours of training that ensure that everyone is up to speed on the necessary topics around church health. The second phase is planning. Depending on the church, we will partner with them for one or two 2-day workshops. Each workshop is focused on helping them create a shared dream and plan for the future. Churches assume that the planning phase has to take many months; this isn’t true. In our experience, the quality of the plan that is developed over two months is similar to a plan that took 6-8 months to develop. The third phase is implementation. This phase includes monthly meetings focused on ensuring that teams are acting on the plans that they developed. These 60-90 minute meetings are the lifeblood of the revitalization process, and ultimately determine the long-term success of the process.
The key here is to set the dates for your meetings in advance. Be sure people make these meetings a priority, and that as many of your team members attend as many meetings as possible.
6. 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.