Consider this: What does it take to turn a church or a church group around from dead to alive? Churches all around America are dying, but with the pandemic, not only churches but also small groups and church groups of various types. Of course the church can continue to still be the church, but revitalization will happen in different ways. The question is, how can you be involved? No one wants to be a part of something dead, and more than ever, churches are dying.
The good news is however, that dying is different than getting smaller. The truth is when it comes to plants, they can get too big, and the same is true with churches. A church that is too big will never tell itself it is actually too big. What I’m saying is that a church that is getting smaller can be turning from death to life, and can be in fact…revitalized. A group that has lost some if its members can be growing in ways that can make it more healthy.
The difference between a dying church and a church that is alive is in both the perspective of its members and the competency and genuine spiritual care of its leadership.
Perspective of its members
Honestly members of any church that is alive or being revitalized need to be positive about the direction of the church or group. Dying attitudes can kill a church faster than any lack of resource or talent. I have been a part of two church revitalization’s, and each one has been threatened early on by poor attitudes. This is not theory, but it is probably the most factual thing this post will say. If you are small and a few people of influence have bad attitudes, it is only a matter of time before things turn and death will be upon you. The attitudes must be dealt with, and you can be a part of that with a straightforward, truth filled, and loving conversation. Every member doesn’t have to agree with everything, but every member must have the perspective that good things can happen when change happens, even if it is change that they don’t understand.
Competency and Spiritual Care of the church or group’s leadership
When I first came to the church I’m currently at, I spoke frankly to an outgoing secretary who was leaving as I was coming in as the lead pastor. I asked her what was the church’s problem and she told me in no uncertain terms that there was no leadership. I asked her about the board of the church and she said again, “there is no leadership”. She didn’t explain or gossip, but she only said that. Dying churches have lost all of their leadership, even if the current leadership won’t admit it. Leadership competency is a must and can easily be lost if the leadership isn’t invested in learning and growing as individuals as much as they want to grow as a church. Insecure and defensive leadership leaves little room for growth and people can see the way the tide is turning if that type of leadership rules the day. Some might stay because it’s the only church they’ve ever been to or because they are friends with the leaders, but where there is a lid, people will fight to get out of the pot.
Not only does your leadership need competency however, but they also need a genuine spiritual care for their community. There are plenty of used car salesmen posing as pastors or church leaders out there, but what an alive church needs is leadership that unites God’s people to do the work of the ministry and to mature into spiritual leaders themselves. A godly pastor or leader understands that people have lives outside of the organization of the church, but also keeps in mind that the church is important for godly discipleship. It’s difficult sometimes to manage this tension, but possible. Fighting through that tension is something that the godly shepherd will navigate.
So if you are a part of a church or a group where the members have a positive perspective on what can happen in the future, and the leadership is both competent and has genuine spiritual care for the community, then you’re ready to begin bringing life to your church, no matter how small and no matter what shape your situation is in.
I’ll write more later on what to do next, but if you’re in a place where your church or group is ripe to be revitalized, you’re in a good place. A hard place certainly, but a good place indeed. Keep going, talk to other people and pastors and get godly advice, and know that the church or group has possibility, and that is good news.
This article was written by Martin Holman and a part o church revitalization series. Martin is the author of two books, including the book, “Back to Acts: How to start a home church” which you can buy here.