Recent surveys on the spiritual landscape in North America reveal both good and bad news. The good news is that the situation for churches is not as bleak as some people thought it would be. The bad news is that there are a lot churches out there that are struggling.
If a church is struggling, it is essential to do an honest evaluation of the causes. As a doctor who diagnoses and prescribes, an outside consultant or pastor can be helpful in diagnosing not only what is unhealthy in the church, but also help provide viable solutions. A church health assessment is available through the BCNE Church Growth team.
Struggling churches need to make tough decisions in order to not only survive, but also thrive. Maybe the toughest decision to make is letting go of personal preferences and behaviors that have contributed to the unhealthy state of the church. Church members must embrace the premise of dying to self for the sake of the Kingdom. Following Christ requires denying self and sacrificing on behalf of others.
Many churches have been able to implement change and find the path to healthy growth once again, but it is never an easy process. A growing trend is revitalization, which has different forms. One of the ways of revitalizing a church can be through partnering with a healthier church for a period of time, during which staff and leaders of the healthier church train and mentor leaders of the other church until it is functioning well.
Another approach is merging with another church altogether. This is especially beneficial when a church plant is invited to join forces with an older, stagnated church. When done right, this brings renewed energy for both groups, which results in a stronger, multi-generational church. This may include a shared facility or multiple facilities, with one church membership and budget.
Replanting is also a possibility to be considered, mainly when the existing church recognizes it has reached a point where the best Kingdom decision is to die away so that something new can be created in its place. This is the implementation of John 12:24, where the kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, but in that process, produces many seeds.
Whatever the situation of your church, we at BCNE are here to walk alongside you as you discern God’s will for your ministry.
Joe Souza coordinates pastoral leadership development at the Baptist Convention of New England.