Bill Henard: How Churches Grow, Decline, and Experience Revitalization
How Churches Grow, Decline, and Experience Revitalization
WHO: Bill Henard, executive director-treasurer of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and adjunct professor of evangelism and church revitalization at Southern Seminary.
HE SAYS: “Churches, regardless of their history, mistakes, or poor decisions, can redirect themselves into growth. The task is not an easy one, but church leaders must be committed to revitalizing churches and getting them healthy.”
THE BIG IDEA: The key to reversing the current trend of churches shrinking and dying is for the local church to recognize where it is in the church life cycle, honestly evaluate its situation and embrace the necessary steps it needs to take to return to growth.
Section 1, “The Life Stages of the Church,” defines four distinct stages in order for a church to recognize where it is at: birth, infancy, adolescent and adult.
Section 2, “The Stages of Decline,” go into plateaus and death spirals, presenting an honest look at each before heading to Section 3, “Steps Toward Revitalization.”
In Section 4 the author offers practical steps churches can take no matter what life stage they are in. In addition, the author provides several appendices including assessment tools, visuals and space to record questions and action steps.
“Reestablish a clear, compelling vision and lead the church to create and implement a strategy that allows it to restart.”
A CONVERSATION WITH BILL HENARD
What is one key that pastors and church leaders must grasp if they want their churches to have new life?
Churches and leaders must be willing to embrace change in order to revitalize. The church does not exist to embrace culture but to engage culture. The church will never engage culture if it resists change.
What is the greatest challenge American churches face today? How can they overcome that challenge?
The greatest challenge is discovering the changes necessary to help the church engage culture and then embrace those changes congregationally. It is not about just changing methods, styles, or programs. It is about changing the mindset that the community exists for the church and redirecting the church to exist for the community. That one change in mindset will reclaim the church.
What inspired you to write ReClaimed Church?
As I studied church revitalization, one of the conflicts I discovered in many resources was that all of them approached revitalization or replanting with the idea that the church had experienced healthy beginnings. What I discovered (and knew from having pastored churches for decades) is that some churches did not begin out of a healthy vision, and others, even though they were growing, were not experiencing healthy growth. The resulting issue was that the church fell into decline even before the numbers proved it. I wrote the book to help churches evaluate not just their current situations but also their beginnings and their initial years of existence. Knowing the past helps interpret the present.
I still approach revitalization from the perspective that a dying church can live again. Some people want to say that a church’s life cycle demands death at some point, but I disagree with that assessment.
Sometimes a church needs to replant and start over. Sometimes they need to merge with another church. Revitalization is a possibility, in my opinion, for any church because of Matthew 16:18—they are Christ’s church.