Today concludes a three-day look at the book What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn. If you missed the two previous posts I recommend you go back and read them. This is an excellent resource book that can benefit almost any pastor. In these three posts I've only presented some teasers to give the reader a sense of what they will find in the book. Today I want to focus on what they have to say about church renewal or revitalization.
In my opinion, a high percentage of smaller churches are candidates for revitalization. How does a church know when it needs to be revitalized? The authors write that the churches with the greatest need are those who have declined by more than 5 percent over the past ten years and how have fewer than fifty members.
The longer a church is declining the more likely it will eventually close. In the United States between 3,000 to 5,000 churches close each year. Most of these will be smaller churches who, in my opinion, lost their vision for ministry and lacked the resources to remain open.
Sometimes people will ask if their church should merge with another church. My answer is that such mergers usually do not work. As the authors write, consolidating two sick churches does not bring life, it simply prolongs death. They go on to list ten reasons why most church mergers do not succeed. There are exceptions to this, which they also address, but a merger is usually not be best choice for declining churches. Revitalization is a better option.
It is important to recognize that revitalization is not a quick process. The authors point out it takes on average four to seven years to completely renew a church. This means that a pastor serious about leading such revitalization must be willing to commit to the church for at least seven years. It also means that both the pastor and congregation must be patient and not expect a quick turn-around.
Like the other topics covered in this series, renewing a church requires that the church take some intentional actions. It needs to identify what is causing the lack of growth in the church. The authors point to five common barriers that limit growth in most churches. After identifying which ones are creating problems in your church, you must then be willing to address them. Some of these barriers may have become sacred cows in your church and addressing them won't be easy. Again, the authors provide some recommendations that the reader can implement.
This concludes this brief look at this book and some of the topics it covers. Much of what you'll find here is applicable to churches of any size. I'm still reading through the book, but I've found so many things I wish I had known when I pastored our small church. We would have done some things differently that I believe would have greatly benefited our church and the community we served.