I am on the “other side” so-to-speak of church revitalization. Our church has not only stabilized, we’ve been blessed with healthy growth again. The first few years were hard. I’ve told people, with over 35 years in leadership, these were some of the hardest years of my career.
Now, I have the opportunity to speak to dozens of pastors attempting revitalization every year. Some are successful. Some aren’t.
From my personal experience and walking with others, I have learned there may be a few secrets to lasting through the hard days of revitilization.
Here are 7 secrets to staying sane in church revitilization:
Dogmatically protect my time.
Established churches will eat your calendar quickly if you’re not intentional about it. I needed to focus my energies in the right places. There will always be interruptions, but I have to have sufficient time to plan, meditate on the Scriptures, and prepare for Sunday. Also I knew I needed to be strategically investing in our staff and key leaders of the church.
Someone else controls my calendar.
This helps protect the first one. Someone else has an easier time saying no. And, no is said a lot. In order to be strategic, frankly it can be several weeks sometimes before you could get on my calendar. This was simply a reality of being in a large church and trying to be strategic with my time. Thankfully, we have lots of pastors who can assist people in their moments of need, and again, they’re always interruptions even in my own schedule. I realize many pastors don’t have other pastors to rely on, but many of the requests I received could even be handled by a volunteer.
Don’t cower to the few bullies.
This one is huge. There are always a few people who will try to derail anything positive taking place. Some people don’t like change. Let me correct that – most people don’t like change, especially if it makes them personally uncomfortable. You can’t allow a few people to dictate the direction of the church. There were actually times I had to schedule a meeting just to confront someone who was stirring rumors or gossip about the church or my leadership.
I have a file where I save encouraging notes and emails. This was so incredibly helpful in the days where there seemed to be more negativity than there was positive encouragement. Reading through this file reminds me of the people who support what we are doing. And, in my experience, people complain faster and more fluently then they take the time to encourage.
Pick battles carefully.
Some things are simply not worth the fight. Plus, I didn’t want to steal the culture from the church in the process of revitalizing it. Not everything needed changing and some things I could live with even if they never did.
I can’t do everything in a day, month or even year. I tried to focus on no more than two or three objectives at a time. Usually these were major changes we needed to make and we took a year to make most of them. Church revitalization requires a long term approach.
Slip away frequently.
I knew going in I wanted to protect my marriage and my heart. During the busiest and most stressful seasons Cheryl and I took more time away not less. I was working plenty, but I knew we needed this time to ourselves even when it seemed I couldn’t possibly find time to be gone. These times refueled me to continue the journey.
Those are a few secrets I’ve learned. Are you attempting or have you attempted revitalization? Any suggestions?