5 Ways to Incentivize Church Revitalization

We need some sharp people to move from one Kingdom-building opportunity to another Kingdom-building opportunity.

We need some sharp church planters to become church revitalizers.

I’ve been in some conversations recently concerning the need to get younger leaders interested in church revitalization. The need is huge.

The fact is it is “cooler” to be in church planting. Having been in both worlds, (Just for clarity, I was cool in neither world) I could make the case that church planting is easier. You get to make the rules rather than wrestle through rules which make no sense or man-made traditions which have no clear Biblical basis but people will fight to keep. 

But, we need church revitalization. 

And, we need young, bright, the “best of the best” people to enter church revitalization just as much as we need them in church planting.

I have continually said there are more kingdom dollars in plateaued of declining churches than in all the church planting efforts we are making. We must restore or even close some of these established churches if we expect to be good stewards of the resources in which God has entrusted us

How do we get leaders to consider revitalization?

Here are 5 ways to incentivize church planters to do church revitalization:

Paint the need.

I don’t have the statistics, but I’m convinced there are far more Kingdom dollars tied up in plateaued or declining churches than is being invested in all the church plants combined. If we want to be good stewards of what God has given, then we must revitalize some established churches — and maybe even make some hard decisions to close some and spread the resources elsewhere. Denominations and church leaders will need to become passionate about church revitalization and cast vision to younger leaders as we have in church planting.

Coach them.

One of the concerns I have heard from those who consider revitalizing an established church is the fear of the unknown. It’s true in church planting too, but church planting is “all the buzz”. You can find lots of resources for a plant. There are fewer resources available for church revitalization — and fewer success stories. Partner the one entering revitalization with someone who has experienced church revitalization and been successful at it.

Provide care for them and their spouse.

Church revitalization is hard on a pastor’s family. Again, I’ve lived in both worlds. Church planting can be very difficult, but when you enter the role of trying to change an established church prepare for the onslaught of personal attacks, criticism and opposition. Church planting struggles typically come from external pressures. Church revitalization struggles are usually more personal — from inside pressures.There needs to be some plans to periodically care for the church revitalizer and the spouse.

Assure them the church is ready.

There should be some sort of assessment made before the pastor arrives which indicates the level or openness there will be to change. It’s not always a popular topic with established churches — most don’t want to admit there is a problem — but it is incredibly helpful in starting the revitalization process. This will never be foolproof, but you cannot revitalize without change. Change will always face resistance — it’s human nature — but some churches can and will adapt — some never will. The pastor can waste a lot of time “testing” the culture of the church only to find out some things will never change. The more a pastor knows about the church — it’s reaction to and history with change — on the front end the more strategic the pastor can be implementing change and the more successful revitalization will be.

Provide adequate resources.

There needs to be some better resources available for church revitalization. Every denomination and national church planting group has, for example, a church planter assessment. We need similar assessments in revitalization to help discern if the pastor’s temperament is suited for revitalization. Conferences do a great job focusing on the church planter — few focus as much on revitalization. Many established churches will not need the level of funding a church plant needs, but there are other resources needed to be successful. If we recognize the need for revitalization, then let’s develop and fund the resources.

It’s a work which must be done. Too much is at stake.

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9 thoughts on “5 Ways to Incentivize Church Revitalization

  1. The very thought is totally intimidating. I completely agree with your post and am certainly not making any assumptions about being a "best of the best", but that's my perspective. Young leaders need to know that you successful veterans will both believe in us and coach us through the process.

    Great post. Great thoughts.

  2. Many churches that should have died are hanging on by a thread for no other reason than the members of the church have their family buried in the back yard. Many of the crazy rules that are on the books have as their foundation the preservation of the back yard, either directly or indirectly. "That's the way Momma woulda wanted it" is a factor in the minds of many. Today's young adults in those churches want to get away from the back yard and today's aging adults in those churches wonder who will be there to bury them in the back yard.

    That's a tough nut to crack in church revitalization. People dying to keep the church a good place to die haven't done the things necessary to keep the church alive. When your building projects primarily involve burying dead people instead of making people alive with the gospel ministry, you have a problem.

    There are other big issues with church revitalization, but I've seen too many boulders in too many church yards not to mention this one. I don't have a quick and easy solution, but it's got to be one we're thinking about.