Do Your Homework: 9 Questions to Ask BEFORE Leading a Church Revitalization Effort

I am excited about the increased interest in church revitalization. I am heartened to hear from a number of Millennials who are sensing God’s call in this direction. As this emphasis grows alongside the great interest in church planting, I have more reasons to remain an obnoxious optimist about our congregations.

But let me state the obvious. Leading a church revitalization is difficult. Indeed, it can’t be done outside of God’s power. While I wish to discourage no one from moving forward in this direction, we must do so with our eyes wide open.

With that in mind I offer a checklist to consider. Here are nine questions you should ask before leading a church revitalization.

  1. Will I pray daily for my church and my leadership? I know. The question seems so obvious. But many leaders get so busy doing the work, they fail to take time to pray for God’s strength and wisdom to do the work.
  2. Will I see this opportunity as a mission field? In the recent past, leading an established church was typically leading a culture that aligned well with the leader. No more. Many churches in need of revitalization are acting like they live in the culture of 1985. Moving them to present realities is a culture shock to many of the congregants. Thus both the church and the community are mission fields. We need to approach these opportunities much like an international missionary in his or her new culture.
  3. Will I make a commitment for the long haul? While we can’t presume upon God’s timing in our lives, we do not need to enter the leadership of church revitalization as a stepping stone assignment. Change is often painfully slow, three steps forward and two steps backward. Some of the fruit of change often does not manifest until after the leader has been on the field for five years or more.
  4. Will I love my critics? Genuine leaders of churches in need of revitalization will have their critics. Let me say it again: you will be criticized. But how will you respond to those critics? Will you respond with the love of Christ? Will you pray for your critics?
  5. Will I be persistent? Leading a church to revitalization is difficult work. Sometimes, the only thing you know to do is to get out of bed and go to work each day. Because progress is not always noticeable on a day-by-day basis, it is easy to get discouraged. Stay with it. Stay the course. Be faithful.
  6. Will I be an incarnational example in my community? Will I be present and involved in the community where the church is located? Will I show my love to those in the community? Will I demonstrate Christ in deed and words in my community? Will I be an example for the church members to follow?
  7. Will I be a continuous learner about church revitalization? I am so encouraged about the new information coming forth about church revitalization every month. It reminds me of earlier years when we were getting good data and case studies of new church plants. You now have an opportunity to be a continuous learner in this field. Though I am certainly not the only source of information, I am committed to providing you ongoing information on church revitalization at this site.
  8. Will I be content? The Apostle Paul learned to be content in all situations, including shipwrecks and prisons. Will you be content in the Lord to move forward with church revitalization?
  9. Will I be a positive example and encourager for my family? If you are taking a family with you on this journey, they will need your support and encouragement too. Will you be there for them?

We may be entering a new era of church revitalization. Some of the signs are certainly positive.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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