How the Neighborhood Church Could Make a Comeback

Incredible potential is right around the corner. Imagine what could happen if neighborhood churches got healthy on a large scale.

I believe the neighborhood church movement is primed for a launch.

The neighborhood church is associated with a particular neighborhood. It is common for them to carry the name of the community. They were originally started in the community and for the community. They are built into the fabric of the community and are often landlocked, surrounded by residences. Neighborhood churches tend to be smaller or midsize and are established. For years, we have dismissed the potential for these churches. I believe they are primed for a comeback. They are numerous and in the heart of places with lots of people.

I wish I could write these churches will make a comeback, but it’s unknown at this juncture. If this comeback occurred, what might it look like?

The stigma becomes the advantage. Some have bemoaned the “on every street corner” nature of the established church. I get why. It seems churches are everywhere and doing nothing. But a shift is occurring. The megachurch movement is fading. The number of megachurches in the United States is no more than it was ten years ago. The younger generations do not prefer giant sanctuaries on sprawling campuses like their Boomer parents. The neighborhood church has a long way to go before having a movement of its own, but the stigma is fading. Smaller churches buried in neighborhoods have an appeal. If these churches step up, then the stigma will shift to an advantage.

Church fostering becomes more common. The term fostering is usually connected to a child with a family. But a new movement is emerging with the realm of church revitalization. Fostering is the process where a relatively healthy church provides people and other resources for a relatively unhealthy church over a specified time—usually six months to a year. A healthier church may provide someone to preach when an unhealthier church has no pastor. In many cases, the fostering relationship involves improving the worship ministry and restarting programming for children. The most successful fostering relationships occur when a healthier church helps an unhealthier church do outreach in the surrounding neighborhood.

Local pastors become less like islands and make friends. In too many communities, pastors treat their church campuses like islands instead of an interconnected network of kingdom outposts. Pastors need to get off their islands and go make friends with other pastors. When pastors are friends with each other, tenure becomes longer and churches compete less. Neighborhood churches will start to make a comeback when they spend more energy working together and less energy competing.

Community revitalization becomes part of the mission. Church revitalization should include community revitalization. The way to better church health is an outward movement, not an inward focus. You cannot revitalize a church without also leading that church to help revitalize the community. Imagine a movement of neighborhood churches each revitalizing a one-mile radius around their campuses. It would change the nation!

It’s time for the neighborhood church to make a comeback. The stigma of small churches is fading. Fostering is becoming more common. Pastors should feel free to leave the islands of their campuses and make friends. The opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods is as big as ever. The neighborhood church movement is primed for a launch.

Originally published at Idea Network.


Posted on October 13, 2021

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Greg Fine says on

    I agree with most of what is written in the article. I struggle with balancing how to support and encourage and partner with other churches in our community, some that hold doctrinal positions that we do not support. Does our support and association with such churches give our acceptance of their views on some issues that I feel are unbiblical and supporting ungodly lifestyles? Does that send a confusing message to our community? Or does unity override the differences that exist theologically?

    • Vanessa Jones says on

      The church is the body of Christ and Christ stated it is by our love for one another that the world will know we are his disciples. Therefore, I believe we should not let our theological differences separate us. Dr MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail spoke to me as he reached out to his fellow brothers and sisters in ministry in love despite very opposing views.