Getting Out of God’s Way

church decline

What is the church doing to prepare for the next season of ministry?

Coming out of one pandemic and seemingly sliding into another one, the church has a window of opportunity to unpack the God potential in her midst. The average church in North America today is less than 100 in attendance each Sunday, and far too many churches have less than 50 each week, and if they do not change, they will surely die. 

With that in mind, what is the church doing to prepare for the next season of ministry? Churches fighting to rebound from decline have begun to declutter the clutter that has held the church back. Churches use the downtime related to the pandemic to attain God’s promise for the church through evaluation, renovation, and motivation to move into the next season of life for the local church.

Evaluating the needs of the church.

With fewer people attending on a typical Sunday, the church’s needs have shifted from programmatic cafeteria-style offerings to practical service applications intended to streamline programs when the church sees fewer workers but more community needs. By evaluating all aspects of the church’s life, the leadership team can begin to see what indeed works and what has outlived its usefulness. Evaluating is not just a task to look inward, but an opportunity to look outward towards the community by matching the giftings of the church members to the needs within the community. While this can be a painful process to the entrenched longtime church member, it is necessary if the church is to grow under God’s leadership and anointing. Change, while not easy, will become rewarding when the church submits to God’s authority and realizes the plans God has for the local church.

Renovate the spirit of the church.

When you think of the word renovation, you may instantly think of knocking out walls, and maybe that is part of it.  In unpacking a churches potential, renovating has more to do with the church’s mind, body, and spirit to serve in the season they currently find themselves in. Think back to when pioneers planted your church. The planters saw a need and sought ways to meet that need through a church. Today the culture, community context, and conditions have changed, but far too many churches have not moved from the same programs, positions, and partnerships since they began. The renovation spirit is about reviewing all facility needs to meet the needs current and future.

An example of this was that my church moved classrooms two years ago to accommodate a more extensive teen program. Two years later, we are moving them again into a new wing to accommodate their needs and expanding children’s schedules. Adaptability is the central theme with a renovation mindset and, if done correctly, will be rewarded.

Motivate the willing, let go of the unwilling.

Losing people connected to the church for a long time is painful but necessary when God brings about a new thing in the church’s life. A church must ask themselves; what motivates our church to stay the same? Comfortableness and routine make up the primary reason churches do not move outside their current circumstances. But is that God’s plan for the local church? I think not. God has called the church to make Christ-like disciples, which becomes the central motivation for church leaders who move the church to unpack its potential. Churches have to stop chasing after the ones who want to leave and motivate those who choose to stay. When someone rejects my church, I always say, ‘I am thankful for what they did during the season they were here.’ I realize that not everyone is supposed to be here forever. Permit yourself to say goodbye to say hello to the new members and service opportunities that God has for the local church. 

I have no doubt God wants to bless the local church, but the church has to get out of God’s way to let it happen. Be a leader who evaluates, renovates, and motivates your local church to become the church God has called her to be.

Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky. He is the author of Revitalizing the Declining Church: From Death’s Door to Community Growth and has done extensive research in the area of church revitalization. 

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Desmond Barrett
Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky. He is the author of Addition through Subtraction: Revitalizing the Established Church (Wipf & Stock) and has done extensive research in the area of church revitalization and serves as church revitalizer, consultant, coach, podcast host and mentor to revitalizing pastors and churches.