I’ve been working in and around church revitalization for close to 20 years. The first church where I served as pastor, after entering vocational ministry, was a small, rural church that needed revitalization. I’m currently serving as an interim in another church needing some revitalization.
I have noticed a few things that seem to get in the way of a church making the turn. When these are present it becomes very difficult, in my opinion, for the church to ever recover and grow again.
Five common derailments in church revitalization:
Arrogance of the pastor.
I share this in love and respect for pastors, and believe it is sometimes done in enthusiasm more than in contempt, but when a pastor assumes nothing good has ever been done in the church, people rebel. It’s like pushing people into a corner to defend themselves. Most likely the church has tried things before. Certainly there have been good seasons in the past or the church wouldn’t still be open. Some of the people the pastor is attempting to lead have likely been leading for years. The more a pastor listens and learns, the more open people are to follow their leadership.
Power struggles and tired structures.
When the governance or structure gets in the way of moving the church forward it needs to be considered to help the church grow again. Changes needed in church revitalization often expose needless bureaucracy and power brokers. This often means shifting power away from some and giving power to others. This is not necessarily the pastor – or even the staff – but it does mean empowering others to lead.
Ignoring the past.
This includes the good and the bad. Some needs to be re-energized and some needs to be repented from, but until the past is acknowledged and either honored or dealt with appropriately momentum may never occur.
Making changes without changing the way changes are made.
This is when the church makes changes, often good and needed changes, but the structure of how decisions like this are made remain the same. If you have to battle the system or structure every time you make a change there will be very little long-term success. Do the hard work to write better rules and the church will be able to make needed changes in a timely and efficient manner – with less conflict.
Attempting too much too soon.
Change fatigue, the exhaustion that comes from excessive change, is one of the most common derailments of revitalization. People can only accept so much change at a time. Granted, you can also move too slowly, but as a rule we need to change a few things at a time, celebrate, then change some more. There’s a healthy rhythm to effective change management.
Those are few that I’ve observed. I’d love to hear from you if you have seen others.