When You Need to Revitalize Your Church Revitalization Efforts

4 warning signs you may need to revive your efforts

Studies have shown that, on average, over 4,000 churches close each year, and many more are struggling to hang on. The pandemic has accelerated the death of many churches. Those churches already amid a turnaround have faced stronger headwinds that have either slowed progress or stopped it. So how do a church and her leadership know that it is time to revive the revitalization efforts in the local church?

Warning Sign No. 1: There Is an Absence of Vision for Kingdom Advancement.

The pandemic exposed the heart of churches for their communities. There have been churches that have advanced the kingdom by expanding or adding programs to help feed their neighbors and provide childcare. Still, many others went into a protective bubble, effectively closing off their outreach to the community around them. While the virus caused many unknown concerns, the cost to the local church was even more damaging. A regrowth inward has hindered vision advancement towards an inward focus that was hard-fought and won during the initial revitalization stages. The focus is now not on the health of the community but the health of the local church. Programs and people-focused outcomes become about serving self rather than serving the community around the church. The heart of living on mission and helping others has waned and, in some cases, stopped altogether.

Warning Sign No. 2: Spiritual Depth and Discipleship Are Lacking.

The idea of coming to church each Sunday had already begun to falter, with some studies suggesting that the average attendance of a church person will drop to one or at most twice a month. The rate of decline in attendance has quicken rather than slowed due to the pandemic. Two leading indicators of decline are the lack of spiritual growth and discipleship-making within the church. While the church turned inward to focus on their issues early in the pandemic, many have not budged from that posture. Making Christ-like disciples in others, including those around the church, has not happened. This lack of spiritual awareness is causing the church to become stunted in spiritual growth, which will in years ahead harm the church. The lack of spiritual depth and discipleship making could show up in the absence of new leaders, volunteers wanting to get involved, the lack of inviting others to church, or the desire to participate in outreach events that will deplete the spiritual bench future endeavors.

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Warning Sign No. 3: The Congregation Is Dysfunctional.

Stress has been heightened for families and for many churches as the pandemic has placed under a microscope the fault lines hidden just under the service of a ‘normal’ Sunday service. Stress causes those in the worst of times to react in an ungodly and harmful fashion. In the best of times, it is a reminder that a person must step back and sometimes step out of the leadership role to focus on self-healing. For many, the church has hidden her faults behind programs and prominent personalities. The hidden dysfunction has now been exposed and is causing great division within the church because of a lack of human resources and programs not returning to normal. Revitalization is already not easy, but when you add the stress of change to the focus of life outside the church, the reality is dysfunction takes over. Dysfunction creates a ‘me’ culture and not a ‘we’ culture, and nothing seems to get done. The comeback church appears as if it will never come back to her former greatness.

Warning Sign No. 4: Leadership Seems Inadequate.

The pandemic not only exposed dysfunction in the church but it exposed a lack of depth in leadership. Churches have relied far too much on programs and people to propel them forward, but many people chose not to come back when the pandemic shut down the church. Churches once filled are struggling to attain fifty to seventy-five percent capacity. The worth that leaders found in pews once filled has been deflated by the reality that they are preaching to far fewer people than fifteen months ago. The new fact is that leadership has now seen they have to do more with less, which has affected the leader’s mental health and, in return, is causing burnout. The ‘way it’s always been done’ has forced leaders to evaluate their own heart for ministry and what it means to be a leader during this post-pandemic age. Leadership for all intense and purposes was built around theological understanding and not around practical shepherding. The lack of training for practical shepherding hinders the church from adapting quickly to the shifting spiritual landscape that many pastors find themselves in.

These four warning signs are just that, a warning for the church to prepare the local body to fight on multiple fronts simultaneously. Prayer, training, and planning will become hallmarks of a revitalization revival from a post-pandemic culture that the church sees as the leading edge of breakdown today. For the church to be the church in this new reality, they will need to be flexible to the changing landscape while being nimble enough to be forward-looking in training leaders, reevaluating programs for effectiveness, and saturating the altars with prayer for direction. The days for revitalization have never been easy, but with the right outlook, they can be brighter.

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