Getting revitalization right 
Your client’s church is in a slump. Whether it’s just a feeling or a steadying decline in attendance the word that is in the back of your head is revitalization. It’s clearly time to do something new. Here are 4 revitalization strategies to help your client make the right changes.

Written By Gary Reinecke

ICF Master Certified Coach, Resource Designer, Mission Strategist : InFocus
When you hear the phrase “church revitalization,” different ideas may come to mind. You might imagine new events to bolster church attendance or new programs to reinvigorate the spiritual lives of the congregation. Often, this is what is done when a church is stagnant or in decline. Events and programs are wonderful, and certainly can help reignite passion within a congregation, But they are often band-aid solutions and rarely will save a church that is truly in decline. You need a revitalization strategy that provides long term change. 

Approximately 80% of congregations in the US are in need of revitalization. These churches will require more energy, are more complex, and demand more time in contrast to events or programs; but in the long run, this will serve the local congregation and its members as they pursue the mission to love God, love neighbor, and make disciples.

The Church Life Cycle

church life cycle

Before we look at what these strategies entail, however, it’s important to know where your church is in its life cycle. The life cycle of a church can be identified in 5 stages as follows:

  • Birth: years 1-5
  • Maturity: years 6-15
  • Plateau or Refocus to new birth and growth: years 15-50
  • Decline and Drop Out: years 60-80
  • Death or Restart: years 80+

A church life-cycle assessment you might find helpful is found in the book “Legacy Churches” in Appendix III – CLICK HERE.

Wherever a church finds itself in the life cycle stage, one constant remains: the longer a church exists, preparing for the next stage is increasingly important. If, for instance, your church is in its “maturing years” you will want to anticipate the inertia of plateaus and stimulate new ministries to reach more people, or potentially consider launching a ministry, a second worship service, a new campus, or church plant. This is easier said than done! The reality is, the vast majority of congregations have not navigated this transition well, as indicated by the statistic above.

4 Mission Critical Church Revitalization Strategies

1. Reverse the Non-Growth trend

The longer the downward trend, the more complicated the solution, and the more courage, grit and perseverance are required. If a church has been in decline for a year, it will be easier to reverse the non-growth trend versus reversing the damage of a church that has been in decline for ten years. Taking action as early as possible is always preferred. 

2. Interim

This option may be especially necessary if a separation is needed between the founder and the next lead pastor(s), or if the current pastor has been in the role for a decade or more. An interim pastor can greatly assist with church transition, helping the congregation  process the grief that comes with change before looking ahead to find a new lead pastor.  Trained interims fulfill a strategic role in the life of a church by setting a vision for the future, establishing a culture of openness and restructuring the organization for greater fruitfulness.. 

3. Legacy

The most difficult part of revitalization is when a church has the honesty and humility to see that their church is in decline and recognizes that it’s time to let go. This is often true with older churches. However, this is an opportunity to gift the remaining assets to a new campus or a new church plant, paying it forward for the next generation.

4. Replant to Multiply

This is an aggressive mission but offers great hope. A replant is a total overhaul of a church and requires shutting the doors to focus on revitalization before reopening. Changes will require a new pastor with a vision to replant to multiply new churches.  

Gather the Leadership Team

Before launching into a decision of this magnitude, the leadership team would benefit from seeking Christ-inspired wisdom to discern what the Holy Spirit wants them to do.

Three simple steps to understanding which revitalization strategy is right for you 

  1. Invite the key leaders into a time of focused prayer.
  2. Process some of the questions listed below. 
  3. Discern the best option and create an action plan. 

Questions for coaching decision-makers:

  • How long has the church been stagnant or in decline?
  • What do you discern are the contributing factors causing the decline?
  • What do you sense God is preparing to do in this church in the near future?
  • Who else needs to be part of the leadership team to discern the future?
  • What are the risks if nothing is done?

If you are coaching a church that is considering one of the four strategies above you might find the Transition Church Coaching Guide with Storyboard a useful tool – CLICK HERE.

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Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

Cover Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash 

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