Each week, there are churches who close their doors for the last time. There are pastors who resign never to go back into full time paid ministry. There are those out there who love to dig in and help a failing church revive and become new. It seems in today’s world, most young bible students want to plant a church rather than revitalize one. I am not taking anything away from church planters, it is hard work! There are pros and cons to both. The person who attempts to revitalize a dying church likely has a paid for building, maybe a parsonage, often even some money in an account that isn’t doing much. All that sounds great to the church planter in a rented facility, no money and wondering if they will be able to pay rent next month. The church planter doesn’t have to deal with an entrenched power structure, 100 year old committees, deacons who think they own you and people who claim they actually do own that pew because their family bought it and it has a brass plaque on the end to prove it. So to put that in a nutshell, church planting is more popular than church revitalization because the church planter doesn’t have to mess with church people!
Archive for the 'Church Revitalization' Category
Whether you are the pastor, staff member, Sunday school teacher, deacon, board member or any other type of leader in your church, you need to ask yourself if your church is one that you love inviting people to come to? If you weren’t in leadership, especially if you are on staff, would you go to your church if that were no the case? If you can’t say, “Yes!, I Love My Church!”, then why are you there? IF you know that God led you to that church to help rebuild it or help it grow in a way that it wasn’t growing without you, then you are exactly where you should be. BUT if you are just there because you somehow ended up there, as a former youth pastor I can tell you that the quickest way to ensure that your children grow up to hate church is to drag them every week to a church that you don’t like going to and would never invite a friend to without first apologizing for the rules and explaining the “do and don’t” list. I am not telling you to leave, but I am saying that if you aren’t there to make a change, then maybe leaving would be good. Find somewhere you can be excited about, that you believe in and where you can take your unsaved friends knowing that they will be presented with the Gospel every service in a loving way.
Ok, this weekend, I was helping a friend load some horses into a pull behind two horse trailer. Horses are scared of these metal cages on wheels. Unfortunately, we hadn’t done the prep work to get them used to loading. So we used bribery and intimidation to get them in. For those of you who have never had that experience, it isn’t fun for the horse or the human. It takes time and patience to teach a horse to load up with just a motion or voice command. The church is much the same way. If you are a new pastor or church leader in an existing church, unlike a church plant, it takes time and patience to show the church body that trying new things to reach the lost isn’t going to send them into an uncontrollable tailspin. Little by little makes things go much more smoothly than trying to launch a whole new program with no trial exercises working up to the big event. Take time to do it right and the long term results will be worth it! …And you may save yourself a few sore muscles from wrestling with a horse!
Over the last few weeks, God has been challenging me to do what I can to help some of the small churches in my area. My own church is not small at all, but I know that there are tons of pastors out there struggling with churches with less than 30 people in them. Do I have an exact plan? No, I must admit, I don’t. If you have any suggestions, or are a pastor of one of those churches and would like to have lunch with me or have me come and speak at your church, feel free to contact me.
We have all had challenges in our lives, but my question is, what is God challenging you with LATELY? We can’t rest on what God took us through last year, or a decade ago, or when we were teenagers. (Unless you are a teen now…in which case, I hope God is challenging you to do great things for HIM!)
The Sunday School lessons about David always included a lesson on David and Goliath, but did you ever spend much time talking about David’s fight with the Lion or the Bear over the sheep? If he had backed down then, I wonder if he would have had the chance to fight Goliath? For more on that idea click here .
Here in SC, the landscape is dotted with churches. In the closest town to where I live, Pickens, there is one block in the center of town where one side of the block is taken up by the Baptist church and the other side by the Methodist church. One whole city block that is pure church property! There are churches of all kinds, contemporary, traditional, ultra-traditional, conservative, liberal, high church, low church, liturgical, friendly, cold, outreaching and inbreeding. So what makes a great church?
1. It is concerned about the lost people outside the walls of its sanctuary.
2. It helps those who have come to the Lord grow in their faith and in turn share it with others…see #1.
Take a look at your budget. If your church is spending more on the cemetery fund than it is on reaching out to the lost in the community, than your church is probably described as sick and dying and in need of some CPR. There is hope! Seek God for what HE would have the ministry of your church be. Then don’t argue with HIM, do it. If you are saying, well, I have been praying and HE hasn’t told me yet. Then unless HE has specifically told you not to do anything, get up and get to work. If you are in the leadership of your church, get involved in something outside the church with the specific purpose of reaching people who don’t know Jesus. Become a Boy Scout leader, run for school board, join the PTA, join a fishing club…whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might!
Just read a neat blog post by Michael McKinley on mistakes that are often made by pastors, especially young pastors, trying to revitalize a church. It is a great reminder! If you aren’t familiar with the 9Marks website, it is worth taking a look at!
I am proposing to my college a “new” idea to make us a Kindle Campus. All books, or at least all general education class books would be available as Kindle Downloads that way students wouldn’t have to carry around a backpack full of books anymore. (Sorry to The North Face company and other backpack makers.) This involves a change in the way teachers think about a text book. Can we now embed video in the middle of a text book? Can we make it so that students can click on difficult words and it gives them a definition? I know this isn’t a “churchy” post, but as a church, are we looking for new and innovative ways to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people or are we like many professors who want to keep teaching the way they have always taught. If you haven’t made creativity and innovation a part of your gospel presentation, then you are missing the boat! If you sit back and wonder why people are falling asleep in the service, maybe it is because nothing is there to get their attention. No, I am not saying you have to have lights and smoke just to keep people entertained. I am saying that to bring people to the Lord, the same methods that worked in 1950, might no longer be the most effective. Try something new!
For more ideas, don’t forget to check out the “In Search of the Great Pastor Conference” coming up in February!
I just had one of my advisees, Jarrick Lee, stop by my office. He is studying to be a pastor and feels that God is calling him to plant a church. It is incredible to spend time with young leaders who are so full of passion for our Savior! If you have been hanging out with a bunch of Christians who were Christians when Kennedy was shot or even when the Challenger blew up, it is time to make a conscious effort to get out of your box and spend time with some baby Christians and young leaders who are challenging the status quo! I love teaching on a college campus where there are so many young people who are on fire for God!
The semester here at NGU starts tomorrow and so students are arriving in droves, moving into their dorms and greeting each other with smiles, laughter, hugs and a few screams of joy. The classes haven’t started yet. Joy is in the air because of relationships. Soon, things will get hard, and they won’t be quite as happy as they are now. Church plants can be like that. In the beginning, there is a great passion to reach the community for Jesus Christ, and then something happens as things begin to get hard. There is a struggle to pay the rent on the building or a deacon or staff member you thought would be there forever leaves. Starting something new takes work, but it can be just the thing to revive a dead environment too. Like our campus which seems lonely without the students, the church can be brought back to life through doing something new…anything new short of sin. Getting the membership to grab a hold of a new passion can ignite a fire in your church that will cause people to once again be excited about being a part of it like they were back when it was first planted.
This morning, I am a little sore…no, not upset or miffed, just physically, some of my muscles are complaining. Two days ago, a friend wanted some help moving a piano. Now, for those of you who move pianos all the time, this is no big deal, but to myself who am a teacher for a living, lifting a 1/2 ton piano was more than I am used to lifting in the average day. Are we like that as a church? Are we so not used to doing the “heavy lifting” in this world that when it does happen, it causes pain? When we have to reach out to others in our community, is that so out of the ordinary that it makes the church groan a bit? If so, there is a solution, just like my own situation. Just like I can decide to either stay out of shape or hit the gym so that I won’t feel this weak next time someone needs my arms to help move a piano, the church can sit back and say “We won’t do that again.” or get the congregation used to stepping out of the comfort zone until it becomes natural and normal…then you have to up the workout!