Church revitalization is hard work. Pastors and ministry leaders must have a crystal clear understanding upfront that church revitalization is hard. When called to revitalization ministry it is essential from the beginning to determine the method you will use. The methodology may change through the course of the ministry but having a clear method is vital.
The following four methods—which are certainly not exhaustive—provide a launching point for church revitalization work.
- Retool. Some churches simply need to retool how they go about doing church. They may have a passion for the lost, they know their Bibles and they are living a life of holiness but for some reason they cannot seem to get ministry done. They need a leader to retool them in the way they function day-to-day and week-to-week. By clarifying the mission and the processes they may take off.
- Refocus. Many churches loose focus. The challenge for leadership is that the church that needs refocused is typically focused on good things. This was the problem with the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:4). When too much focus is on moving from one good thing to another, the great things of the Kingdom will be missed. Pastors and ministry leaders, even in healthy churches, must continuously refocus the church as to why they exist. A word of warning—the longer the churches sight has been out of focus the longer it will take to refocus them.
- Re-Start (or Legacy Planting). The best move that some churches can take for revitalization to happen is to start over. Celebrating the ministry history and legacy of years past, marking a clear end to that ministry and re-starting a new work in its shadow. When embracing a legacy plant the church revitalizer will, in most cases, inherit an aging and out-of-date facility, little or negative community reputation, and more bills than resources to pay. However growing regional and national interest in legacy planting is gaining ground with hopefully some resources to follow. Restarting may be exactly what is needed to birth a new ministry and new legacy.
- Release. Some churches will simply close never to be opened again. Membership will in many cases due to age, or in truth being unregenerate, fade off and stop attending any church. Some will move their membership to a church close to where they are. The property will be sold and history shelved. Understand that closure may not be due to sin in the camp alone. Closure may be to a massive economic change in the community. In more rural areas population continues to steadily decline. There simply may not be enough people to support the necessary leadership to generate enough momentum to sustain enough growth to simply maintain health. Church closure may be the life cycle that the Lord intends. Yet churches that close can still have Kingdom impact. In selling their property, those funds can go to new or legacy church plant work. A closing church can make on final act of worship and service by releasing themselves and their funds to another. The challenge for a pastor and ministry leaders in the middle of loving a church that is closing is to call them to have a greater vision in their last day for a people they do not know in a place they may never see than they do today.
Church revitalization is long, tenacious work. It is not for the faint of spirit. Having a method in mind before beginning will go a long way to press toward revitalization.