Author’s Note: January 15, 2020 marks the launch of Church Revitalization University–an online, guided process for your church to engage in our Strategic Envisioning process. To get you started in the right direction, this week’s article and blog are intended to make sure that you avoid some of the critical revitalization mistakes we encounter.
Every church can be revitalized. It’s true.
How you handle a revitalization process will determine your success or failure. Through our years of experience in leading churches through revitalization, we find three common mistakes time and again. However, if you can avoid them, it will significantly increase your chances of success.
Interestingly, one of these mistakes occurs before the process begins, one occurs during it, and the final one follows your planning. Take stock of all three mistakes, and follow our advice to avoid them. If you side-step these pitfalls, you’ll be on your way to greater disciple-making impact.
Not having leadership support before the process begins.
Unfortunately, in many cases, a church must first define “leadership” to understand who or what group (up to and including the entire congregation sometimes) needs to be a part of the decision-making process to begin and then work through a revitalization process. It’s an epidemic in the church all over the world.
If a pastor manages to begin a revitalization process without first clarifying who needs to be on board and making sure that they are supporting the effort, it will fail most of the time either by quiet “swept-under-the-rug” death or by catastrophic fury. I’ve even seen it tear a church apart just trying to decide who should vote to hire a revitalization consultant.
No revitalization work will find roots and flourish unless the people in charge are identified and agree to support the effort from the start and through the tough times of change. This is why so many churches do not even try. They know any talk of change will require asking and answering leadership questions that they have been avoiding to keep the peace.
Not communicating well with the congregation throughout the process.
Once a revitalization work begins, it is imperative that the process, and changes along the way, be continuously communicated to the congregation. Not only communicated but celebrated! A revitalization process at its heart is a vision process. Fresh vision is established, and a methodical, strategic, biblical, prayerful, and spirit-led process commences. That’s exciting!
Most of the time, when people fall out of favor with a revitalization process, it is because they forget or fail to see the vision behind the changes happening. Vision cannot be embraced until it is expressed, and that is an ongoing process. There are countless opportunities for church leadership to continue sowing vision into everything the church does and says. Your communication plan must point every new change back to how it all fits together and the better tomorrow that you’re working towards together.
Not implementing changes.
Working the plan through to success is everything. There are two similar, but distinct mistakes churches make when implementing a revitalization plan, though.
First, they may make plans, but not follow through. There can be many reasons for this, and you can avoid them by making sure that responsibility is assigned and accountability established.
A second mistake is in backsliding into the old ways. It takes endurance, perseverance, and leadership to hold fast to the plan. You have to work through the tough conversations along the way when people start questioning the value of moving outside the comfort zone of the ways things were.
We believe in you, and we’re here to help you find success. We’d love to speak with you about coming alongside your ministry one-on-one or through Church Revitalization University, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.