There are all types of seminars informing us how to grow a new church. There are a very few designed to assist the church in the area of revitalization and renewal. Often, we attend general feel good conferences hoping that something that is shared will help our churches! It is high time the other side of the issue is considered. While I don’t guarantee these easy-to-apply steps for church revitalization will always keep your local church from advancing and keep growing, they will with proper application, certainly increase the chances for it to either plateau or perhaps even die. In the field of church revitalization and renewal here are some successful ways to keep your church stalled, lacking any real vision, and not growing:
Trying to reach out only to people in secure situations and established churches.
Many a church revitalizer wants what another church revitalizer or pastor already has! The idea of a stable relaunch is something we all as church revitalizers desire. Yet nothing could be more dangerous than relaunching a work with people who have not bought into your vision as a revitalizer, but actually have a vision of their own and seek to make you fit into their former ideal of a renewed church.
Emphasizing “quality not capacity”.
Revitalizing churches that are just beginning to emerge from the dead soil need to have such a desire to reach new people for the cause of Christ, that quality is developed as you go and during the relaunch time, perhaps your best is not going to be the final quality you would expect once your renewed work gets back up and re-running. Gathering is your highest priority and reaching some level of gathering capacity is essential for your church to once more become healthy. If you as a revitalizer spend all of your time trying to develop materials that are the equivalent of your model church, you are wasting valuable time that could be used for developing relationships with those who need Christ! Great resources and nice handouts come later!
Insist on using only evangelistic methods that were used in the past.
If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten is the old adage. Today we have certainly the tried and true methodologies of the past that have worked for decades. Yet we are still in great need for new methodologies for reaching the various generations and people groups within our land! Wise church revitalizers know that it is essential to continue to reach a lost world for Christ. New methodologies are coming on the scene everyday and it is vital that church revitalizers keep current when it comes to giving an evangelistic witness for Jesus Christ.
Try not to be friendly to visitors and your returning guests!
If you want to remain in a state of stuckness and declining participation, just keep making your guests feel like they are intruding on your close-knit family! I am always amazed when I see a church revitalizer that is blind to his inability to build a crowd. If you personally as a minister are in need of a small close-knit group you might not be able to keep your church renewal effort growing and constantly expanding. Revitalizers who need a small group of people gathered around them often are not able to stretch their group to include new people coming on a weekly basis.
Never invite new people to join the church.
All of us at one time or another have failed to invite an individual to church! When a church revitalizer does this on a regular bases it is a quick road map towards failure. Inviting and telling people about your renewal story and the exciting things that are happening in your revitalization effort is key to re-growing a church.
Make growth entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit.
I believe the Holy Spirit goes ahead of you as a witness and as a church revitalizer to prepare the field. Yet it is amazing to me today that there is a growing number of church revitalizers who do not believe that being an active witness brings results anymore. They just sit back and forget that they need to do their part for the growing of a church. Church revitalizers who can grow a work understand that they have a part in this effort of growth and that they should actively be seeking how to reach their communities for Jesus’ sake.
Do not set goals for growth.
One way to remain the same is to not set a goal for tomorrow today! I agree that most of us who have regrown a church are not totally sure how it happened short of God’s anointing, yet a clear vision for a preferred future is vital. I use to say this little ditty all the time: “Always more than the year before!” Some revitalizers do not like that phrase, but it is a good one to remind us of the need to set goals for growth. Declare it. Declare it early. Declare these goals often! Set a personal goal and set a goal for you and your leadership. Then get moving.
Do not pray for growth.
It is sad that many pastors and church revitalizers do not pray for real renewal growth. I always did. As I journeyed along it was critical that I prayed individually for growth. It is critical that others on your staff as a revitalizer pray for growth. Furthermore, you ought to keep this before your people to pray for growth daily. In a time with church revitalizers a while ago, one pastor who was attending shared he was scared to tell his church that he was praying for a certain number of new believers to be baptized and join the church. He voiced fear of what the church would think. I told my story of how when we were serious about reaching people, God would show up and more often than not do even greater things than we had set as a goal and began to display His power. Much of that I still feel would not have happened if it were not for us first praying for growth and then publicly declaring it! Keep it regularly before you and your people.
Change the Church Revitalizer or the pastor every few years.
You will not have to worry about where you are going to put new people if you keep switching out the church revitalizer every two or three years. People will not stay around a renewal effort long enough for you to change out the parts. You usually only get one chance as a revitalizer to regrow a work so take it seriously, stay in place, and wait on the Lord to pour out His blessing in His time once more. My personal testimony is that if I had run when I wanted to, I would have missed God’s miraculous blessings in my life and ministry. Your victory is just around the corner so enjoy the ride.
Let’s think about that and begin doing something about it! If you would like to have conversations related to this blog post, why not drop me a line so we can begin your journey and conversation.
You can connect with Dr. Tom Cheyney and the RENOVATE Church Revitalization Coaching Network additionally via Facebook at RENOVATE Conference. Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization. Tom’s latest book is going to press entitled Ninety Church Revitalization Lessons Learned the Hard Way: A Primer Before You Jump Into Church Renewal. Also, be looking for The Biblical Foundations for Church Revitalization by Tom Cheyney and Terry Rials later this year. If you or your church would like more information about how to be considered for the next series of RENOVATE Church Revitalization Applicants you may contact him at Tom@renovateconference.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.