9 Reasons Young Seminarians are Interested in Church Revitalization

For years, seminary students were more interested in church planting than in working in a church that needs revitalization. That’s changing, though—and here are some reasons why:

  1. They have a new burden for churches where they grew up. I’m always concerned they’re simply wanting to “go back home,” but that’s not what I’m seeing. They’re thinking missiologically about reaching people they know and renewing churches they love.
  2. They welcome the challenge. They’re not interested in mundane ministry and easy Christianity. They want a challenge, even if it means the hard work of church revitalization.
  3. They’ve seen some of the struggles of church planting. They’ve learned from others that starting a new church isn’t as glamorous as they once thought. For example, that’s particularly become the case for plants that used to meet in schools or theaters prior to COVID.
  4. They see the value of having older people in their church. In fact, they deeply desire for their church to include multiple generations. They want to lead, but they also want the support and mentoring of veteran believers.
  5. They’ve seen what happens when churches don’t do evangelism or discipleship—and they want to make a difference. You might argue they’re idealistic in their goals, but their passion is nonetheless real. Whereas they may have once only judged unhealthy churches, more and more young leaders want to step into the mess.
  6. They understand that church plants and missionaries need healthy sending churches. While they may not be called to either of these tasks, they know their responsibility to be senders. Frankly, some churches in need of revitalization also still have resources they can contribute to this work.
  7. More seminaries are focusing on church revitalization. At a minimum, they’re offering at least one course (if not a degree) in this area. Thus, seminarians are getting exposure to revitalization they may not have gotten ten years ago.
  8. Some of their heroes actually revitalized churches long before “church revitalization” was popular. As young leaders learn these stories, they realize that revitalization is indeed possible. And, they learn the importance of pastoral tenure in turning a church around. 
  9. They’re more open to bi-vocational work than my generation has been. That truth makes them more open to church planting, too, but it also applies to unhealthy churches that cannot yet afford a full-time pastor.

What are your thoughts? 

Posted on December 8, 2020

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14 Comments

  • Dr. Lawless,
    Great article!. My church is going through revitalization and I am so glad our Pastor was looking to do that, when he came. We were at the time for positive results when we had to shut down for Covid-19. I believed His desire to revitalize our church prepared him for this year of shutdown, online only, regathering and shutdown again. On the other side, I complain about most new Church plants are in or near economically growing areas and reach out to mainly White or college- educated Professionals. Nothing in the inner-city. Prayerfully more “new” Pastor are seeking revitalization.

  • Jim Baughman says on

    I’d sure love to meet some of these young seminarians. I’m near a seminary and just haven’t seen much evidence of this trend. I praise God for all those who are called and trained and approved by the church and hope their flock increases.
    Interesting question? Is God calling fewer to serve Him in the ministry or are fewer prepared to hear His call?

    Jim

  • You are correct, Dr Chucks.
    Often in our seminary classes, we wonder why many churches are like they are despite the volume of wisdom available for ministry in churches.

    We want to see people become a responsible Christian who is a committed member of the church. Who carries spiritual gifts and seeks to bring many other souls to the body of Christ.

  • As a young person attending seminary, all of these points hit home with me, and I am very happy to know it is a greater trend than just myself and those I interact with.
    I recently heard it said that, “It’s easier to give birth than raise the dead,” when referring to church planting vs. revitalization, which I did not relate to at all. Something about the tradition and wisdom of those who have come before and are still keeping things running is inspirational to me, and, having attended multiple churches that embarked on the revitalization journey successfully is something that will always stay with me, driving me forward.
    The bi-vocational element seems interesting to me, because I hear more experienced people wish they could be full-time without need for outside income from working at their churches, but, as someone who is full-time at my church, I wish for an opportunity to have a side job to provide much of that income instead so that the church may use it bless others, and I have seen the impact the dependence upon financial security for those employed at the church hurt the mission, which is something I really want to avoid.

  • This is awesome news. God called me into ministry in 1990 as a senior in high school. My thoughts were that I would be a youth pastor all of my life. I became a youth pastor in a church that was being revitalized. So, you can say I cut my teeth on revitalizing a church. God moved me quickly from being a youth pastor to being a pastor who is resurrecting a dead church. (I mean there was no one left.) While pastoring this revitalized church, God led me to assume the reigns of another church that was dying. The church was located approximately 30 min from where I was pastoring. I placed one of my assistance in charge of it, and within a year, we launched it out as an independent church with my assistant as the new pastor. Now, God has me pastoring a different church that is currently on life support. I did not ask for this ministry, and certainly will never have sought it out. But God has used me over that past thirty years to be part of revitalizing churches. This is all I know. The only thing I wish I could have done differently is to gather missions support before launching into this ministry. I just did not know at the time this is what God was going to do with me.

  • Now this is interesting
    “They’re more open to bi-vocational work than my generation has been. That truth makes them more open to church planting, too, but it also applies to unhealthy churches that cannot yet afford a full-time pastor.”

    This means they are feeling called to be missionaries. They are reading their Bibles. Paul was a tent-maker. May their numbers increase. I did the same thing and was never disappointed.

  • Hi Dr. Chuck!
    Thank you for expressing thoughts pertaining to Church revitalization and seminary grads. Although I do not consider myself young at 44, I have recently finished a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and have recently put together a Recalibration document/plan for our congregation.

    I am actively serving as a lead pastor (my second congregation) and have been walking this revitalization road for the past number of years. Although this congregation is not my ‘home’ church, I do desire for them to reach out to the community in love and become an embodiment of God’s Kingdom here. I am in my eighth year here … and YES … there are some significant challenges to revitalization – especially for traditional congregations who have lived through the decline. Enough said.

    Thanks for writing this blog. I could see myself in much of what you were saying, and you have helped me understand the ‘why’ in many ways.

    Thank you.

  • Dr. Lawless,
    What an incredibly encouraging article. Excellent! Thank you, Doc.