Focus on these things to move your church forward out of a rut.
If you lead a typical church in North America, your church is either in decline or has at least plateaued. The struggles of the established church are real regardless of which denomination you serve. For the last decade, I have served as a pastor in the established church, and in my experience, have found these five steps help to move the local church forward.
1. Become a Praying Church.
A church that is going to renew itself for the future and move from decline to growth is a church that needs to have a prayer life that shows it trusts God with all. That means churches need to pray with a purpose. One of the useful models I have used is Big Group, Small Group, Prayer Group, which is done weekly for one hour.
Big Group: Gather together in a dedicated group to cry out to God for direction, vision and other people.
Small Group: Divide into smaller groups of three to five people to pray over a list of prayer needs (community, denominational leaders, schools, etc.).
Prayer Group: In the same small group, pray for the needs of each member in that group.
2. Understand the Church’s Mission.
When the leadership is trusting God for the increase, it begins to move from an inward-focused posture to an outward-looking stance that prioritizes others over self. It it is at that moment the church starts to turn from survival to service. The church has to ask, “What has God called the church to do?”
As church members reflect, they begin to look locally and globally to expand the kingdom, and the mission field moves from the church property to the larger realm. The goal of the missional church is not to duplicate services but to fill the void in the community through sowing generously of their time, talent and treasure.
3. Focus on What God Can Do.
When the heart of the church becomes the eyes to love those who are hurting, the church becomes the community by reaching outside instead of focusing within. The church begins to rebound from decline to vitality by reestablishing the real mission of God in the local context.
Sure, numbers matter, but do not let that control the church. Value as a church should not be in worship attendance. Value is in people (inside and outside) of the church. When the church connects outside with the community, value is built and felt.
4. The Word Is the Word to Follow.
As churches face decline, leadership must evaluate all aspects of the church (programs, positions, power) by inspecting what is working, what is not working and what needs to be added or subtracted.
Throughout this process, the Bible should be the church’s guide. The Word of God needs to be elevated, not programs. Churches that revitalize from decline are churches that read the Word, hear the Word preached, teach the Word in small/large groups and see the Word lived out.
5. Serve God With Glory.
The fact that a church has plateaued or is declining should be seen as an opportunity to redirect from self to Savior and from Savior to others over a period of time. The people who make up the local church have to do a self-evaluation by reflecting on whose church it really is. Once the members realize that it is God’s church and God’s design, the church can begin to reflect on four areas of service.
• Serve with excellence in every way. Everything should be done to God’s glory.
• Serve with passion for finding, reaching and winning the lost.
• Serve with commitment to be in the King’s service until he calls the church home, and never give up when the field becomes hard to plow.
• Serve for those who live in the community, not just church members.
These five practical steps can help your church begin to move out of a rut and onto the road of renewal.