How can we revitalize a church that is struggling financially and physically?

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I am looking for ideas to help a church that is struggling financially & physically to be revitalized. Our pastor is leaving & when that was announced, everyone started talking about leaving. A number have left already & it makes the burden for those staying even greater. Thanks for your input.

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Hi Ted, thanks for  your question.  I think it would help to give a little more detail about your story.   I am sure others are experiencing or have experienced something similar and would love to give you encouragement.  Let us know more.  Neil

Neil,

I really don't want to say much because I feel kind of like I'm hanging out the dirty laundry as the phrase used to go. I will give these numbers though. If I just count couples (husband & wife) we have around 50 families. I the past year roughly 7 have died. In the past 4 months we have seen 23 members leave, not families but adults & children. We have 13 members in nursing homes or not well enough to make it to church or be involved. We also have roughly 12 members, some which make up the family count that you may see once a month in church.

We had so few attending the evening service (about 35) that it was decided not to have a Sunday evening service anymore.

We have a Cadet & GEMS program which seems to be doing well. They have a number of outside members attending the meetings. There has been a mid week evening Bible Study for the past few years as well as an afternoon Women's Bible Study.

Various members volunteer once a month to help with a local soup supper as well as provide meals for a place that offers showers & computer assistance to look for work.

Several members also volunteer for Kid's Hope U.S.A.

We have one full time organist & one part time. There are other programs going on each week or month as well. 

Ted,

I pray that the Lord would encourage you as you seek the revitalization of your church and bless your efforts to discover what steps to take next.  I would love to hear how those with more experience than myself would counsel you, Ted, but I thought the least I could do was pass on to you the titles of two books that I have found especially helpful in this area as a pastor:

Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, by C. John Miller (Zondervan, 1986)

Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson (B&H, 2007)

Both these books agree that at the heart of church revitalization is a recapturing of the missionary spirit of the church, rooted in a vision of the gospel's power, and a desire to see the gospel spread through evangelism.  Leadership is key.  One practical piece of advice might be to take the time as a Council and a congregation to reflect on where your church is going as you seek the next pastor.  Reading books like the above together might help that process.

Blessings,

Jim

Hi Ted,  here are some suggestions:

First, if there is dirty laundry to deal with, it is usually a good idea to engage in some process to deal with these matters.  Often times a good interim pastor can serve very well. A good interim will not only deal with past issues, they are often skilled in bringing some focus and positive sense of self-identity to the congregation.  

Second, it sound like some transitions are happening in congregational life.  One of the best things that especially senior members can do is to bless and encourage those who are seeking to lead the congregation.   That sometimes takes some teaching.  It does not help to complain about the change in culture or change in the experience of church life.  The evening service is changing. Complaining about it won't help.  Having 35 there means you have 35 people who can receive a blessing of church ministry.  Do what blesses them.  It is only when they speak with joy about their experience that others might say it is a good idea to join.  The culture does not support organ music.  We might be disappointed, frustrated by this change.  But so it is.  So I would think that our children will have another language of worship which is more of their native "musical" tongue.   Transitions happen.  There is a process that we can engage in that recognizes these changes and how the church can deepen the faith and life of the congregation along the way.  Sometimes we call it visioning.  

Third, you have ministries that are working. Celebrate them.  Build on them.

Fourth, smaller congregations can not be what a large congregation is.  But smaller congregations can do what is most needed: build community and love deeply.  Most people - when they get out of themselves and their needs - discover that community and love is more important than "services to meet my needs".  Because you are able to be "a people of God" in your community, there is every opportunity to thrive in the life of ministry and grace. A process like a vision process or "Holy Conversations"(Rundle & Mann) can be helpful in discerning your way with Christ.  

Fifth, people don't leave when they are engaged with some hopefulness.  The more quickly some process is adopted, the more people that can be involved, the more the council opens itself up to change, the more likely those considering leaving will become open to staying.  They are asking Why Stay?  Guilt is not an adequate reason.  A new future is.  

Sixth, finances trail the rest.  

Because of the number of issues before you, it will take time.  But regardless of the time it might take, adopting a process that will raise and engage the issues is critical.  Council should engage some person to lead them through it.  In interim pastor with such skills, or another person more like a consultant can go along way. 

these are some things that have come to mind over the past week.  I sure others have had some thoughts.  Lets share.  

Neil

I like your comments they show wisdom and care. You are a doing a good job representing Christ. I'm not trying to butter you up, but Jesus has placed on my heart to encourage leaders who recieve a lot injuries on the spiritual battlefield. God bless You Thanks Neil

I appreciate the input here. We will have to wait awhile to see which direction the council decides to go. Please keep us in your prayers.

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