The statistics are in. Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches continue to baptize fewer people each year. More than 80 percent of SBC churches are plateaued, declining or growing at a rate that is less than the growth of their communities. Nearly a thousand of those struggling churches will close their doors this year. Thousands more are only a few years from the same result unless something changes.
I am reminded of the Buck Owens and Roy Clark song from the old Hee-Haw television program. “Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.” But I am also reminded that Jesus brings life. He brings life to dead people. And he brings life to dead and dying churches.
Revitalization requires more than strategies and programs. It is a supernatural work of God. But revitalization also requires change and hard work. The degree of change and the intensity of the work depends on whether the church is stuck, struggling or spiraling towards death.
Stuck, Struggling and Spiraling Churches
Stuck churches feel like they are spinning their wheels. Attendance may be down. Growth may have slowed or even stopped. Members who were once passionate about serving seem to be going through the motions. Often a pastor or church member will recognize that something just does not feel right. Stuck churches may just need a nudge to get unstuck.
Struggling churches have been spinning their wheels for a while. The church is either plateaued or declining in attendance. There is little evangelistic fruit beyond the children of church members. Church members remember and long for a return to days gone by. They wish they could be like the “First Baptist Church of What’s Happening Now.” And almost everyone has an opinion about how to solve the problem. Struggling churches need to embrace change before it’s too late.
Spiraling churches have spun their wheels for so long they will need intervention in order to survive. They have dwindling resources and little energy. The church membership no longer reflects the community. Entire generations are missing from leadership. In many cases entire generations are missing from the membership as well. Often these churches are well acquainted with conflict. Powerful individuals or groups have their way. Without dramatic change suffering churches are heading for imminent death.
Hope for Struggling Churches
There is hope for churches that are stuck, struggling or spiraling towards death. The church is the body of Christ, and Jesus wants his body to reflect his glory. He wants his church to make disciples. And he wants his church to bless the community. Jesus wants to revive and revitalize his church. There is hope. Jesus will do his part. We must do ours.
Our part begins with accepting reality. I recently asked this question on social media: “Does the church you attend or lead need to experience revitalization?” 83 percent of the respondents said “Yes.” They recognize the need. They accept reality. Some churches do not accept reality. They are in denial. They think that if they just keep doing what they are doing, things will get better. If they get the right pastor, things will get better. They are in denial.
Resources for Struggling Churches
There are many resources available for churches that are ready to accept reality and do the hard work of revitalization. When I looked for help while serving a struggling church, I read books and blogs on church revitalization and listened to podcasts. I was desperate for resources.
Over the past year I have developed multiple resources for churches that are stuck, struggling or spiraling towards their death:
- The Revive and Revitalize Network Facebook Group is a forum for pastors to encourage and pray for one another . Participation in the Facebook Group is for those who need encouragement and for those who want to offer encouragement.
- The Revive and Revitalize Network is a subscription based coaching network that is ideal for church leaders in stuck and struggling churches. Network members have access to a revitalization strategist that includes a monthly video-based coaching session.
- The Revive and Revitalize Revival combines the traditional elements of an old-fashioned revival with the insights of a certified church consultant to help stuck and struggling churches experience revival that leads to revitalization.
- The Comprehensive Consultation is an extended process that offers a high-level view of the church’s overall health and results in a greater understanding of the community as well as the church and a ministry plan that leads to greater effectiveness.
If you are in a church that is stuck, struggling or spiraling towards death, I encourage you to get outside help. In my role as a revitalization strategist I have the privilege of helping a church to see its present reality with fresh eyes. As an outsider I can usually see things they have overlooked. I can also help them consider options they may not have known were possible.
If your church is stuck, struggling or struggling, help is available. There is hope.