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7 Vital Components Needed for Church Revitalization to be Effective

My first church after entering vocational ministry needed revitalization. Since then I have been a part of church planting and several revitalization efforts. Just as planting comes with unique challenges, I have learned to be successful there are some vital and necessary components in church revitalization.

I fell in love with the energy of starting something new in church planting. At the same time, I continued to be concerned for churches which have seen better days. I became more convinced we need new energy in both.

This experience of church revitalization has given me the tremendous blessing and opportunity, fueled by this blog platform, to speak not only to church planters, but also those who are attempting church revitalization.

Granted, the Holy Spirit must show up and God must be glorified, but I n general terms, there are components in church revitalization, which I believe need to be in place to be effective.

7 vital components in church revitalization:

Admitting you need to revitalize

This is hard for many churches. I remember shortly after I arrived at one church an older member of the church visited another church which had undergone revitalization. She saw the excitement and came back with a new understanding. Her comment to one of our staff members was, “We have to change some things, don’t we? We don’t have a choice!” The church as a whole must come to this level of understanding.

Letting go of right to control

This is what makes or breaks revitalization in many churches. If the “No Change Allowed” sign is hung – or even the “but not that change” – on issues which aren’t even Biblical, then revitalizing the church will be very difficult.

A vision of something better

What’s next for this church? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? There must be a compelling vision, such as loving a community for Christ and clear avenues for people to be involved in reaching the vision.

A history worth revitalizing

This will be the toughest part of this post. There are some toxic churches which seem to have never been healthy. They’ve run off every pastor they’ve called. Many of these churches wouldn’t follow Jesus well either. They are stuck in systems and personal agendas – usually run by a few people – and aren’t going to budge. (I realize this is a cruel statement, but it is sadly a very repeated reality.)

Leadership willing to lead change

This is more than the pastor. In many cases, the pastor is only the figure head of vision and change. Change is hard. It requires trusted leaders within the church willing to step up and lead along side the pastor.

Sometimes the pastor may be popular, but hasn’t earned the level of trust longer term members have. The pastor needs these people to help guide change and stand up to the naysayers. Collective leadership is so important – always – but especially in the early days of revitalization.

The tenacity to weather storms

It won’t be easy. It’s far easier to start something than to try to grow again after a period of decline. The longer the decline the longer it will take to see revitalization. Some pastors, leaders and churches have the patience. Some don’t.

A few committed people

You need some people already established in the church – not just leadership – who love the church more than their personal agenda. These might be leaders or might not. The church needs people willing to embrace a new future. These people have to support the pastor, speak up for the changes and create an atmosphere conducive for growth again. (It might be helpful to think like the core group of a church plant here. You’re rebuilding.)

Well, those are my candid observations. They aren’t based solely on opinion, but they certainly aren’t a product of extensive research either. They are derived from my experience and hundreds of conversations with other pastors and my own personal experience.

Check out my leadership podcast where we hopefully help limit bad decisions and discuss issues of leadership in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • John Bratton says:

    I have taken over a small and gradually declining church and a very rural area. I started 3 weeks ago. I have a clear vision I believe from the Bible for what at church should be, but need to clarify the specific vision for this church, which I have just begun to get to know. Any suggestions on the process of formulating the correct revitalization vision?suggestions on how to assess the needs in the community and ourrenewed focus as a church?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Questions are your friend. Ask lots of them. Study the recent and the long-term history of the church. Try to learn what they value most. What triggers their energy most. You want to build from and strengthen those. Out of this knowledge, which will probably take months to acquire adequately, you can form your vision.But, be inclusive of people. Maybe assign some focus groups to look at broad areas you discover, such as missions, community outreach, discipleship, etc.Hope this helps some

  • Michael Collins says:

    Right. On. Target. I am 4 1/2 years into pastoring a small church bi-vocationally in a small rural Southern Indiana town. This is an older church that was "board" driven. We are transitioning to being Elder led. That in itself has taken a lot of prayer, time and energy. Some folks have left, others have come, and we've begun serving our community. We have a reputation as a church with an outward focus; that hasn't come easy, and it's still a work in progress. All I can say is that I'd sure love to have a cup of coffee with you sometime. 🙂 Thanks for the wisdom of your posts, and the encouragement you offer people like me.

  • jonstallings says:

    This is very timely for me Ron. I may have mentioned this before in a previous comment but my Wife an I took on the lead role at our current church back in April. We are the 3rd Lead Pastors in 3 years. Needless to say, the church has not fared well through all the transitions. I appreciate your comment, "Granted, the Holy Spirit must show up and God must be glorified." So many "church consultants" reduce everything down to a formula and rarely include prayer and God's involvement.