Revitalization is difficult. It requires the church to embrace the need for change. It demands that the church confront its current reality. It means that the church finally rejects the status quo.
The problem is that in many churches, revitalization is just one bullet point on the pastor’s job description. Churches hire a new, young pastor with a fresh perspective, and they assume that he can revitalize the church on his own.
The solo pastor revitalization process never works.
These things end in one of two ways: the pastor gives up or the pastor leaves. If you want your church to be revitalized, it has to happen in the context of a team and a process. A process without a team will fail because the church won’t “own” the outcomes. A team without a process will fail because they will waste time on unimportant issues and ignore critical details.
Everything begins by selecting your team.
When The Malphurs Group works with a church in our Strategic Envisioning process, we guide the church through a team selection process. We want to share what we’ve learned through our years of working with churches through this process.
Here are three principles for selecting members of your Revitalization Team:
Include a broad cross-section of your church on the team.
The knee-jerk reaction for churches is to simply ask their board, staff, or a combination of the two to guide the revitalization process. In churches that average 500 or less, we discourage this approach. There are a few reasons why.
Most importantly, the congregation at large will be less likely to embrace the outcomes of the process. It’s the same handful of people who always make the decisions, and frankly, people are used to ignoring many of those decisions. The congregation reacts differently when Sally from the pews makes an announcement regarding changes than when the Board Chair does.
Another reason is that the leadership well might be running dry. The staff and board have already tried to work through some of these issues in the past and may have failed. Your team needs new eyes with different experiences within the church.
I said “usually” don’t just use the staff and board for a reason. In larger churches, especially those that average 500 or more, a staff-led process with a couple of board members works better. These tend to be multi-staff church and the staff are integrally connected to what’s happening in the church at the lowest levels. To exclude them from the process would likely mean you wouldn’t have all of the details needed to make informed decisions.
If you’re a smaller church, include some staff and board members, but don’t let that be the whole team.
Use known leaders.
There are people in your church that have influence that don’t have a title. It’s certainly fine to enlist people who have a position in the church, but it’s even better if you can add some people to the team that don’t have a fancy title but have influence. These are the people you’ll want to lean on the most when the church needs to implement a difficult decision. Their positive attitude and influence can grease the wheels, and you need them on your team.
Known leaders are men and women, so your team should include men and women, too. Regardless of your church’s theological background, this team should not be doing anything that would violate your convictions. The existing decision-making structures remain in place, so there is no need to worry here. You need male and female voices. You need young and old voices. You need to hear from leaders across a broad cross-section of your church.
Your team doesn’t need to include people who have influence with everyone. Simply make sure that the people you ask have influence within a certain group.
Only positive people are allowed.
Don’t put people on the team that have an ax to grind. They aren’t helpful. Time is precious, and if you put people on the team who will leverage every meeting to vent their frustrations, you won’t accomplish much.
Having positive people on the team doesn’t mean that these people should have rose-colored glasses. That’s being pollyanna, and it can be just as unhelpful (but at least it’s not as destructive) as ax-grinders. A positive person is one who wants the best and hopes the best for the church, and is willing to tell the truth constructively to achieve that aim. More importantly, they’re more interested in working than talking.
Be certain you stack your team with positive people who are ready to work and ready to engage in constructive criticism for the sake of the church getting healthy.
If you begin with these three criteria, you’ll be well on your way to forming a healthy revitalization team.
We have a checklist with additional character qualities we look for in a revitalization team (we call it a Strategic Leadership Team in our process). This checklist is called the Strategic Leadership Team Selection Grid.
Click below to download the Strategic Leadership Team Selection Grid for free.
Have questions about revitalization? One of our guides would love to speak with you.
Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).