I am an obnoxious optimist on congregations across our nation. And though I’ve been a purveyor of pretty dismal information about the state of our churches, I am seeing more reasons to be optimistic. Admittedly the information I have is more anecdotal than statistical; however there are still some key signs that give me hope.
One of the greatest signs of hope is the growing interest in the revitalization of churches. While I am encouraged to see the continued interest in church planting, I am also heartened to learn of an apparent upsurge in interest—even passion—for revitalizing churches.
I am hearing from Millennials who are telling me about their sense of calling to these churches. I am hearing from Boomers who plan to dedicate their fourth quarter of ministry to church revitalization. And I am among many researchers and resource providers who are dedicating more and more of their time to this endeavor. I am already in the process of finalizing the content of a multi-week video conference on the key practical steps of church revitalization.
So what type church revitalizations are taking place today? I see at least four major categories:
- Organic revitalization. This terminology refers to a church turnaround with existing resources and persons. The current pastor and key laypersons and/or staff are part of the revitalization. The church remains in its current location. This category of revitalization is likely the greatest need. It is certainly my greatest passion.
- Relocational revitalization. The church moves from one part of the community to another, or it moves to an entirely different community. Typically the new demographics are more conducive to growth, and the new facilities are better suited for a turnaround.
- Leadershift revitalization. A new leader, usually a new pastor, arrives at the church to provide leadership skills that play a significant part in the congregation’s turnaround. The new pastor’s skills and gifts are thus a better match for the church.
- Acquisitional revitalization. An existing congregation yields its property and leadership to another congregation. About ten percent of churches are on a clear path to death. Often the honorable path to take for those dying congregations is to allow another church to acquire it and give it new life.
These four approaches to revitalization need not be mutually exclusive. For example, I know of several churches that began the revitalization organically, but ended up relocating as well. The good news in all of them is that churches are seeing new life.
I know the present state of many churches is challenging, but my optimism and hope are increasing. I will be telling you more about my changing perspectives in the near future.
In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and perspectives on church revitalization.