Five Characteristics Of A Church That Is Ready For Revitalization
By Jim Barber. November 1, 2020
Underlying the current context of COVID, the state of the Church in America is that somewhere between 65% and 85% or more need revitalization. For years, these churches have either been flat or declining in attendance. Although a lack of growth may be driven by other contextual factors such as socio-economic changes, the primary need is usually to improve various aspects of health.
So, how can we uncover and change the underlying health elements that are limiting growth? From my experience, there are five characteristics of a church that will allow it to become revitalized. Stated below, you will note that they are all prefaced by the phrase, “The leadership team”. The team referred to is some combination of the board, the lead pastor, and other ministry staff. The larger the church, the more the revitalization initiative will be staff-led. But in all cases, solutions that yield revitalization are a matter of leadership.
- The leadership team has consensus about the need for revitalization.
Leaders who address and solve their church’s need for revitalization have convictions about why a church should grow and why it is generally not acceptable that their church is not growing.
They believe that a lack of health is leading to a lack of growth. They talk openly about this with each other. They define what revitalization is in general in all churches. Then they foster that thinking by applying that definition to their church. True consensus is achieved when thinking and talking leads to action. At times, the majority perspective of the need for action will need to prevail over any minority positions of inaction.
- The leadership team manifests prayerful dependence on God for revitalization.
Leaders that pursue revitalization will likely turn to God before they reach consensus, but when consensus is reached, they will most certainly seek God’s will and His empowerment.
However, it must be said that a large barrier to revitalization is the false logic that action planning and execution for health and growth are somehow opposed to dependence on God. This kind of thinking stems from an immature understanding of church leadership. God chooses leaders to both depend on Him and to act.
- The leadership team is willing to seek and use outside help.
In most circumstances, if the leadership team had the capacity to bring about a turnaround, revitalization would already be underway. For this reason, they are willing to seek the help of a denominational leader or an independent consultant that has the necessary tools and experience for this. Humility will also produce a willingness to fund these outside services trusting that this investment will eventually more than pay for itself.
There may be two exceptions to the need for outside help. First is the transition to a new, lead pastor who has the proven capacity to lead revitalization. The second possible exception is the presence of one or more new Spirit-led board members who have experience with turnaround and revitalization from their participation in a for profit entity, a nonprofit, or in another church setting.
- The leadership team is open to an objective assessment of their church’s health.
Those capable of leading and facilitating revitalization have a strong, comprehensive conceptual framework of the components of church health. That framework is then manifested in tools that measure the health of a local church.
The leadership team that is ready for revitalization welcomes this kind of objective assessment with open arms. They will compare the assessment results to their Bibles, to their understanding of their church, and to their understanding of their community context.
- The leadership team is eager to plan for a healthier future.
An objective assessment of health provides the foundation for a vision (a preferable future) and an action plan for change. Revitalization comes first from facing into the unhealth of today’s reality and then taking steps to envision and seek something healthier. The leadership team ready for revitalization is eager to plan and to see that plan realized. They will often need outside help to do this.
If a church is going to become revitalized, it will come from a group of leaders who may need to prevail over some of their peers who lack motivation for change. These leaders will depend on God. But they will also usually seek outside help that has the capacity to assess health and facilitate movement toward greater health.