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.
Keep your new constituents from serving on the leadership and ministry organization
.New people want to belong and feel they are contributing towards something they believe in! If you keep them out of your ministry group or leadership group you will watch them come for about six weeks and then quietly disappear in search of something significant that is more inclusive. Put your new people to work. Even a brand new believer can give out a worship guide the following Sunday after his conversion!
Split up your affinity groups regularly.
There was a time when splitting up affinity groups helped a church continue to advance. People today are searching for significant relationships amidst their hectic schedules and churches that are keeping natural affinity groups together today are more successful. For a time it may appear that this is not so, but in a world where we are crunched with schedules finding a set of friends to do life together with is significant. I even know of couples that choose a church who are interested in keeping groups together instead of splitting them up.
Building undersized structures on small acreage.
It hurts your renewal efforts to saddle it with undersized facilities placed on small lots. It may appear logical, but if the church is going to grow, new property might not be available when you are ready to expand. You can always wait later to build a building, but you cannot always buy more acreage. Another challenge is when a new church builds its first phase, build it in the best place on the property. You have just handcuffed future leaders and budgets that will have to discover creative ways (expensive as well) to build around your mistake.
Do not send your Church Revitalizer to Church Revitalization and Church Renewal seminars.
Always try to display generosity towards your church revitalizer as a church renewal leadership group. If you have the resources to send your church revitalizer to a conference or seminar it will not only help your church, but it will encourage him as well. Try to budget at least one training event of his choice each year and pay for his wife to go along as well. Remember to give him a little spending money for purchasing resources so your church will also profit from his experience.
Do not encourage him to read church revitalization and renewal materials.
Give your church revitalizer a book allowance! His reading will aid the work by stretching him personally and advancing your church publically. The more you can afford the better opportunity you will have to watch him lead your work further and with greater affectivity.
Trying to win “every person in your community.”
When you try to win everyone you usually win no one! Churches working on renewal that view the whole population of an area as theirs is not realistic. Revitalizers who assimilate well gather in pockets and fishing pools desiring to catch those with whom there is already an affinity. As God continues to advance the work new opportunities will open up and then you can enlarge your scope.
Do not advertise your work in various media formats.
Most churches working in church revitalization are not known so anything they do to advertise is a plus. Just be careful not to waste funds on formats that bring you no return on investment.
Do not staff for expansion and do not make financial provisions for growth.
Failure to plan for growth is dangerous. While there is a time to add staff and a time to wait, you need to begin planning for additional staff right away. Caution should be given towards not bringing on staff in areas where volunteers can still function. Far too many church revitalizers are looking for a pal when they need a key contributor. While laity are serving in areas where one day a staff member will serve, begin saving towards that first two years of expenses. You will be glad you did and the church will not feel a crunch in services due to being broke.
Act like God does not want the church to grow!
God desires your church to grow. He blesses those churches with a heart for reaching the lost of this world. Healthy revitalizing churches work while there is still time to touch individuals with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.