Notes on Church Revitalization

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a conference on church revitalization. I would like to share with you my notes from the conference:

The only people who like change are babies when they need their diaper changed. Change is painful and it is easier to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own. No church ever died from a lack of opportunity. There will always be a shortage of helpers but take care of the laborers you have. Win people over to your vision instead of forcing them. The message cannot change but our methodology can. Everyone must know the vision of the church. We must be engaged in life-changing ministry, not just fixing the building. Simplify the church’s schedule to focus on ministry.

Take care of yourself before the day starts. Finish your sermon preparation early in the week so you can devote the rest of it to pastoral ministry and family. Get away for a week every few months. Meet with those who may oppose your ideas individually before meeting as a group. Do not build the church on your personality. There should be a holy discontent with the way things are. Discover and develop informal relationships by spending more time with the members of the church. Buy credibility and build trust. Trust is more powerful than disagreement.

You are going to make mistakes, but how you respond to them determines whether you live or die. You can’t die on every hill. Perseverance is key to pastoral ministry. Jesus did not come to them immediately because he wanted them to first strain at the oars to show them that they can’t do it on their own. Maintain the spiritual disciples of the Christian life. Work harder at winning over skeptics and pray for them. Make hires based on character, competency, and chemistry. Just because I love you doesn’t mean I won’t fire you. Place the strengths of your employees on a board outside their office.

You have to put coins in the bank before you can take them out. As a pastor, you have a relational account and an authority account. Draw from your relational account instead. Find things that you can be successful at. Lots of early successes builds credibility. Cast a vision for growth – a plan that others can get behind. It takes time to build credibility. The power of a defining moment. Call other pastors and ask to take them out for coffee. Find a person you can be honest with. Life change keeps pastors going. Fellowship is the most valuable commodity you have.

Every church has its own culture. The church is more than an organization, but it is not less than an organization. Is the organizational culture of your church sabotaging your vision? Vision is the seed; organization is the soil. The DNA of a church is fashioned by its values. The church must be outreach focused and expect to see new members join. A new members class is essential and creates an expectation that guests will visit. Inject the DNA of your church into new members at this class. Start new ministries to give new members opportunities for service. The DNA of a church is its purpose and passion. Make members partners in ministry. “Member” implies perks as opposed to a ministry partner. Small groups are places for ministry. These growth groups are where community happens.

Reallocate resources for the purpose of discipleship. Design the facility to reflect the mission of the church. There needs to be a clear front door and community room to hang out in. Use transparent glass whenever possible. Install massive windows to see outside. Tell stories about the church. Every church needs a creation story. It’s not about us, it’s about serving, it’s about reaching people.

Some people will not change. Pray and seek counsel before each decision. There is no such thing as too much counsel. Leave cow patties alone and don’t kick them or else they’ll stink. Some people should not be disturbed and the best thing that could happen is for them to leave the church. Meet with a mentor regularly. Ease into change, don’t force it. Don’t spin the merry-go-round faster when you want people to get off. Make sure people know you love them when trying to bring about change. Don’t keep changing your vision. Barking dogs don’t bite. Have a volunteer huddle once a month: feed them, do giveaways, birthday stickers, encourage two people not in your ministry. What you celebrate is what gets repeated. Celebrate the wins. We’re in a party inviting those on the outside to join us. Show them instead of telling them. No one likes a party pooper.

Tell compelling stories to build a new church culture. Make the preaching more conversational – like Jesus taught, instead of behind a pulpit. Use an illustration every 2-3 minutes to keep the attention of the audience. Allow people to download the slideshow to their smartphones. Create ministry apps and be connected through social media. Serve your volunteers every quarter. The cumulative effect of change will make some people change who once resisted.

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