Seven Most Common Questions about Revitalization

We are encouraged in the midst of bad news.

I know. The statement sounds contradictory. Let me explain.

The bad news is that somewhere between 70% and 90% of churches need revitalization. That’s a wide range, but revitalization does not always have a precise definition. Regardless, there are a lot of churches needing revitalization.

The good news is there is a greater acceptance and a greater awareness of the need. With that acceptance and awareness comes a greater willingness to do something about it.

We are totally committed to helping churches revitalize. Through our two organizations, Church Answers and Revitalize Network, we are ready to help as many churches as possible. As the awareness of our resources has become widely disseminated, we get a lot of questions about revitalization. I thought you might enjoy seeing the seven most frequently asked questions. It will give you an idea where both the pain and hope reside.

  1. Is my church situation hopeless? Sure, we’ve seen many churches close their doors. But we’ve also seen God’s hand work in miraculous ways in many churches. I do not believe any situation has to be hopeless.
  2. What do I do if my members do not want to change? I have rarely known a church of any size that did not have a couple of members willing to walk alongside a pastor to move a church to revitalization. True revitalization often begins with the few, not the masses.
  3. Does revitalization cost a lot of money? The statement, “We don’t have enough money for revitalization” is one of the greatest fallacies in these efforts. Churches don’t need more money; they need members with greater obedience.
  4. What do I do if my pastor doesn’t want to lead our church in revitalization? Admittedly, revitalization is very difficult if the pastor is not leading the effort. But, before you assume your pastor is in that category, offer to walk alongside him to help reach the community. You might be surprised at his response.
  5. What do we do if our denomination doesn’t want to help our church revitalize? That question is a copout. It presumes a church needs the resources of a denomination to move forward. Humbug! God has given every church all the resources she needs. Don’t make the denomination the scapegoat.
  6. How will we know if our church is really revitalizing? You will know.
  7. Where do I begin to get help for revitalization? That question can be answered in a number of ways. There are plenty of resources available. We have a new resource noted below.

Church Answers is offering one of the best guides on revitalization available. It is called “Leading a Church to Start a Fresh Revitalization.” We will offer a five-month coaching cohort for leaders who want to see their churches revitalize, and for consultants, denominational leaders, and others who want to help them revitalize. Join Chuck Lawless, Mark Clifton, Sam Rainer, and me as we lead you on this five-month journey.

The Revitalization Cohort has a limited number of openings. Tune in to my webinar tomorrow for details on registration. It might just be the best five months you spend in ministry.

Posted on May 6, 2019

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • DeWayne Wyatt says on

    Each question is at the heart of a church failing to pursue revitalization. The answer to each question effectively dispels the doubt raised in each question. These answers will be helpful in convincing a church to move forward with revitalization efforts.

  • We have just started this process in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Churches of Ohio. Our church had seen a decline in the last year in a half. It was beginning to once again become an inward focused church. Our morning worship had slowly declined from around 120 to about 65. When we would do an outreach then we would have about 5 people show up. We have started with a 40 Days of Prayer with 35 people signed up to do this. We are 29 days in and here is what is happening now. We started planning for Easter with a mail blitz and door hangar that specifically targeted houses within 1 square mile and at our Easter egg event we had around 200 kids and adults where we generally have 60. Our church attendance on Easter Sunday doubled to 120. We are beginning to see excitement rebuild. Prayers for workers answered and new families coming in. The process is with the surveys and questions of Church Revitalization. I have been a part of Church Answers for over a year and I would recommend both of these processes for others that need to revitalize and focus on why God planted that church where it is.

    • The mail blitz with mailers with clarity & brevity seems like a great idea with follow door hangers and our 2 campus did this 2 years within 4 mile of each campus to residential only and it cost us over at $8k on direct mail campaign that sent out over 40k Mailers.
      Upon review of our turned in welcome guests card, staff after action reports that indicated THREE 2 or Single person house holds showed up that Easter and 5 showed up due to person to person invites in person and via social media.

      In 2019, I made an appeal to have a serous discussion around the budget for communications with preliminary limits per major event to mitigate over expenditure again as we had in2918.
      Thankfully I Knew & had be pending approval of my first draft of budgetary priorities to promote whole church events, etc.
      For the same Holiday ) “Easter”
      I spent less than ) $100 targeted over 3 weeks and we had 6 families respond with Facebook the reason they chose us to join us to join today!
      My advice; Prayerfully , set S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, Realistic and Time bound goals) with your outreach.

  • I have some copies of Andy Anderson’s Growth Spiral books that I would give away to folk who would use them. Andy (a former FL senior pastor) traveled 200,000 miles per year for 15 years on behalf of the SBC’s Sunday School Board how to revitalize–and how to sustain the results of those efforts year after year. Others agree: there was nothing else like the Growth Spiral approach before its introduction–or since it 🙂 Cf. the results of the congregations who used it and those who didn’t–not even close!

    Email for a copy. First requested, first served while supplies last!

  • I think #2 is critical for a discouraged pastor. We have to trust God’s Word, there is ALWAYS a remnant. This was a comfort both to Elijah and Isaiah, both great men who had very difficult assignments.

    I would like to ask, is there a clear working definition for church revitalization? Is there some sort of understood terminology that says – “this” IS revitalization while “this” is not – “this” what a church looks like in need of revitalization . . . .?

  • Judith Gotwald says on

    Vindicating denominations is a copout. They are key—especially when they themselves are struggling financially. Congregational property and endowments are a shiny apple waiting for them to pluck—and the only thing that can stop them is their own conscience—collective and individual. Surprising how the Bible can be quoted and misinterpreted to soothe the corporate conscience! Sometime their own corporate structure forbids them from plucking that fruit. There are no legal teeth behind denominational promises made with crossed fingers.

    I wonder if there is ever a study done ten years after a denomination forces a congregation into closure either by neglect or by strong-arming. What were the effects of these decisions, always made with claims of prayerful discernment? What happened to the members? What happened to the community? Perhaps most important, what happened to the denomination’s ability to serve in the neighborhoods they have walked away from? When these travesties are taking place, the denominations rely on member obedience (to them, not the Gospel).

    I agree that churches can be revitalized—and there must be an honest effort to do so without the apple’s poison of self-interest.

    • William Alan Secrest says on

      I am curious to know what denomination your are a part of or used to be a part of. I hear your point. I always find it humorous to listen to people within my congregation who feel as if the denomination were our savior. I am in the American Baptist tradition and we have plenty of work to do in our churches across the country. The denomination is not going to save us. We have to have a heart for the lost or our churches will not change and slowly die.