Leading a church through revitalization is not for the faint of heart.
I’ve had the privilege of walking many churches through the process of revitalization as Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. One of the things our team looks for first when we start a partnership with a church is leadership.
Most problems in a declining church are not insurmountable. Seriously! No matter how dire you think your situation is, you can overcome most challenges by God’s grace.
The one barrier that is difficult to overcome is a leader that isn’t ready to lead.
Revitalization cannot happen without effective leadership. So, how can you know if you’re ready to lead your church through revitalization? There are dozens of factors at play, but the three detailed below are the most predictive of whether or not a leader can take a church on the journey towards revitalization.
Ready to name your reality
Most pastors are more honest than the congregation about what’s working and what is not working. Part of this is because they are deeper “into the weeds” than anyone else, and have a perspective the average church-goer cannot have.
That said, I often find that there are pet projects or pockets of ministry that even the pastor does not want to evaluate objectively. You must overcome the fear of evaluation to be successful in revitalization.
You cannot determine where you want to go without first fully understanding where you are right now. In the process we teach in Church Revitalization University, every ministry, event, and program is on the table for evaluation. Every ministry, event, and program has the potential to be changed or even eliminated.
If you’re ready to name your reality—to see things as they really are: good, bad, and ugly—then you are prepared to lead your church through the revitalization process.
Willing to engage in healthy conflict
Most people embrace the idea of change but resist the implementation of it. A diet sounds great until you have to eat the food (and stop eating others). Likewise, churches don’t mind going to meetings to talk about revitalization, but people resist change during implementation.
As a result, leaders must be willing to engage in healthy conflict. You have to follow through. You may make mistakes, but you cannot go back on the decisions you’ve made. If you felt called by God to make a decision, you need to have the confidence in Christ to execute that decision.
Successful revitalization isn’t about negotiating with your congregation about what you want to change and what they want to keep the same. Successful revitalization is the relentless pursuit of doing what’s right so you can be fruitful in making and maturing more disciples.
If you’re ready to start saying, “no,” to people with influence and deep pockets when they resist biblical change, then you’re prepared to lead your church through revitalization. You’re likely to have more than one uncomfortable conversation as you implement change. That’s ok! God will honor your faithfulness to following His mandate to make and mature disciples.
Confident in God’s Future
Too many pastors fail at revitalization because they never really believed that God wanted them to succeed. I don’t want to sound like a “name it, claim it” sort of person here. I certainly don’t want to espouse garbage, new age thinking.
However, if you want to succeed in revitalization, you have to truly believe that God has a better future for you than what you are seeing or experiencing right now. If you don’t believe it will work, it won’t. Your attitude is powerful, and it’s a reflection of where your faith is.
How can you know if it’s God’s will for your church to be revitalized? Look to Scripture. Lean into the promises found there.
God says it’s not His desire for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9). By this verse we know He wants to use your church to reach people with the Gospel so that they would not perish.
God says that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:17-19). To be at the Gates of Hell implies that the Church would be on the offensive. Therefore, we know that God wants to see your church on the move, not on the decline.
God says that those who are faithful will be blessed—that you will be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13), that you are the repairer of broken walls (Isaiah 58:12), that you are an overcomer (1 John 5:4). These are not hopeful wishes, they are the truth of Scripture.
If you’re ready to stand firm in the written promises of God and believe that God has more for your church than you can see in this moment, you’re ready to lead your church through revitalization.
Change in a church is difficult, particularly if you’ve never led a successful revitalization process before. You don’t have to do it alone. Right now, Church Revitalization University has open registration (from January 15 to February 1, 2020).
Church Revitalization University is the most affordable and comprehensive online revitalization training anywhere. CRU isn’t just an online course—it’s a process. This course empowers you to lead your church through a revitalization process. By blending training videos from our expert team with workshops led by you, your church will start making decisions and stop having discussions.
No church should decline because they don’t know how to change. We know the way, and we want to show you.
Scott Ball is the Director of Services and a Lead Guide with TMG. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott)