8 Characteristics Of Successful Church Revitalizations
By: Thom Rainer
If you want to be encouraged about churches, this article may be just what you need. I am anecdotally seeing more successful church revitalizations than I can ever remember. While I am not ready to declare a clear trend, I am hopeful.
As I monitor the successful revitalizations, I am careful to note the characteristics of the turnarounds. Thus far, I’ve seen eight common traits in these churches. The following are not listed in any particular order.
1. An admission of a problem and a need
Most churches will not revitalize because leaders and members refuse to recognize their church has problems. Those who do acknowledge problems have taken a major first step. One recently revitalized church even had a commitment service where the members acknowledged their need to move in a new direction.
This characteristic is obviously related to the first. Members and leaders do not think they have all the answers. They have a humble spirit and teachable spirit. They are willing to bring outside persons in to help them view their situation more objectively.
3. A willingness to do things differently - sometimes radically differently
This trait acknowledges that the church cannot continue to do things the way they’ve always done them. I recently spoke with a group whose church had dwindled to fewer than 20 in attendance. Their primary concern about change was the possibility of looking at screens instead of a hymnal. That church will not survive.
4. New leadership or renewed leadership
A clear and pervasive key to revitalization is either new leadership or existing leaders willing to make significant changes in their own lives. The latter is not simply a greater level of commitment; it is a willingness to make paradigmatic changes.
5. Renewed focus on the community
Revitalized churches begin to love their communities with greater fervency. They seek to become a vital part of the community rather than an island isolated from the community. A recently revitalized church now has a one-minute “community focus” as a regular part of their worship services.
6. Members praying for revitalization
True revitalization is not human-powered. It is a total dependence on God evident by increased prayer and increased fervency in prayer. Many revitalized churches can point to specific groups gathered in prayer as the impetus behind their turnaround.
7. Change in membership attitudes from selfish to selfless
Many churches will not experience revitalization because the members are inwardly focused. They are more concerned about their needs and preferences. But revitalized churches have members who have become convicted about their me-first attitudes and have thus become true servants in the congregation.
8. A focus on evangelism
I am sadly amazed how few churches make evangelism an integral part of their ministries, programs, and activities. It is as if many churches do not think the Great Commission is a command for today. Revitalized churches have become serious about sharing the good news of Christ. One church member of such a church said, “It’s like our church received an infusion of evangelism DNA.”
Though the trends are not definitive, the anecdotal information is encouraging. I will continue to monitor other churches to see how God is working to send true revitalization, renewal, and revival.
In the meantime, share with us examples and stories you are seeing and hearing about church revitalization.
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