Designed to strengthen and revitalize a church whose continued existence or long term health may be in question.
Two basic choices a church facing revitalization has:
- Creatively redesign the structure and the program to permit and encourage growth.
- Perpetuate current existence. Such a course may not mean the immediate death of the organization, however–meaningful ministry will seldom occur.
- The capacity to care for the current participants and the ability to reach and disciple new people.
- A guideline for congregations that need revitalization:
- A congregation that is more than one generation old. (20 years or more)
- A congregation experiences a decline in worship attendance and/or income for three or more consecutive years.
- A congregation experiences a decline in worship attendance and/or income of ten percent or more in any single twelve month period or less.
- A church which has experienced division leaving a minority of its participants.
- The pastor of the given congregation requests the designation.
- The Administrative Council of the given congregation requests the designation.
- The Commission on Church Renewal requests the designation for a particular congregation.
- The Commission on Church and Pastor requests the designation for a particular congregation.
- The Administrative Council of the Eastern Regional Conference requests the designation for a particular congregation.
Introduction of the Program.
- The ideal time to introduce the program occurs at the point of a pastoral change. Should a pastor be currently assigned, wait until there is a change or effect a change before the program is introduced. Do not tie the introduction of the program to a pastoral change. This strategy could create enough resistance to destroy the effort.
- The prospective pastor must be introduced to the program and committed to it before appointment. That person must be willing to say without reservation, “I’m a part of the Revitalization Program. Without the program, I will not come nor will I stay!” And if not currently equipped he/she will seek training in the revitalization process.
- The program of Revitalization in a local Church must be endorsed and supported by the Director of Congregational Care. It will be difficult to make some of the tough decisions that are sometimes necessary if this is not the case.
- The Conference and pastor must come to a realization the long term future of the church is not with the people who are currently attending, but with those who will be reached in the near future.
- The term for the program of revitalization is four to ten years.
What kind of experience and training are required for the pastor in this process?
- The pastor must have a working understanding of the revitalization process. Therefore the Commission on Renewal will provide specialized training for Revitalization pastors.
- A pastor must have reasonable people skills. There must be the capacity to motivate, inspire, and relate to the persons who are targeted as future participants.
- In most instances they have been involved in part-time ministry.
- They must be highly motivated self-starters and a builder of teams.
Pre-requisite to the success of the program:
1. The program is presented to the current council for their approval. After a positive vote each aspect is carefully explained to the congregation.
2. A “Yes” vote means:
- Discontinuing the present church council.
- Suspension of the current constitution.
3. A “No” vote means:
- The program is not introduced.
- The congregation is sent back to the original referring body.
- The church is left to exist as best it can under normal procedures.
- The church is offered the option to close with dignity.
4. It is helpful if the facility has sufficient space to accommodate growth.
- The facility needs to be clean and freshly decorated.
- Worship attendance almost never exceeds 80% of the comfortable seating capacity of the sanctuary.
- The pastor must be able and willing to make creative use of the facility.
5. A neighboring church must be willing to be the sponsor.
- To be a prayer partner.
- To be an encouragement by having members visit on a regular basis.
- To supply a member for the leadership team.
- To supply families with skills not present in the worshiping church but needed for growth of the program. *Recruited persons are encouraged to make a minimum commitment of one year. A shorter term reduces impact substantially. They may be commissioned by the sponsoring church as missionaries and welcomed back at the end of their service. Some recruits may elect to stay with the mission work.
The process unfolds as follows:
1. The authority of the church is now transferred to a new leadership team which is constituted in the following manner:
- The pastor.
- A member appointed to represent the Renewal Commission.
- A member representing the sponsoring church.
- Two members from the worshiping church selected by the Renewal Commission. (This selection should be made by the pastor with the advice and counsel of the Renewal Commission representative selected to serve on the leadership team.)
There are no term limits.
1. Should there be a “controlling person” in the existing church, that person should not be appointed to the leadership team. That person may attempt to continue control through the new position and be disruptive.
2. Evaluation of needs in the discipleship program is imperative.
3. Ministries that meet the needs of the people living in the community must be developed and implemented.
- This may be done by a variety of outreach methods beginning with an intentional effort to make the community aware of the existence of the church.
- The pastor must be willing and able to give leadership and direction in this effort.
How much financial aid?
- In some very successful situations, no aid has been given.
- Assistance may be given but should be clearly prescribed amounts and for limited terms.
What is the time frame for the project?
1. The basic goal is for revitalization to occur within four to ten years.
2. Within the four to ten years:
- The revitalized church shall either revise its previous constitution or write a new one. It should then be approved by the Conference Constitution Committee.
- Then a new leadership team is selected.
- There must be no membership tenure requirements for election to the new council.
- The recommended new leadership team must be presented to Church Renewal Commission and then presented to the church.
- The new leadership team takes responsibility at the conclusion of the Revitalization process.
3. How will we know the Revitalization process has been completed? Before a church is released from the revitalization process it needs to be evaluated by the Renewal Commission:
- Does the church show signs of health?
- How much of our time, energy and resources are leveraged toward gathering as opposed to sending/blessing?
- How much of our growth has come from the unchurched or de-churched as opposed to just a shuffling of the sheep?
- Who are the names of those outside our fellowship that we are loving, serving and blessing in order to bear witness to the reality of Jesus and his kingdom?
- Who has been discipled here in the last year and who are those individuals discipling as a result?
- Are we seeing a rise in Biblical generosity?
- This list is not exhaustive other items may be considered.