What Does it Take to Lead a Turn-Around Church? (Part 1)

As you might imagine, I get a lot of questions from pastors who are facing all sorts of ministry situations.  That’s one of the reasons I write this blog – to provide some answers when you’re not sure of your next steps.

However, there are some issues that I haven’t faced personally or otherwise don’t feel as well-equipped to write about, and for those I like to connect you with guest bloggers who can speak to those issues.

Today’s issue is Church Revitalization (or Turn-Around Churches), and I’ve asked Don Ross to share a series of posts about the topic.  Don is a Coaching Alum and the Lead Pastor of Creekside Church in the Seattle, Washington Area.

(Part 1 of 4)
by Dr. Donald E. Ross

What is a Turn-Around Church?
Turn-Around Churches experience a decline nearly impossible to reverse, but they do.  Most churches in similar situations simply go out of business.  What are the critical aspects of a church and pastor that see terminal decline turned into growth?

Let’s define a turn-around church.  A turn-around church has recognized that, due to consistent decline, within a decade it will be out of business.  This church has courageously decided to face the truth and make a series of extremely difficult and painful decisions to reverse that trend.

Issue #1: Mission.
I’d like to say that “Everything rises or falls on mission” but I think someone has already captured that sentiment.  Regardless, mission is critical.  Knowing that the leader and church are part of the Christ’s mission helps them embrace a turn-around.

Mission says, “This is not about me, it’s about Jesus”.  In America, nearly 4000 churches each year go out of business, and we are not planting nearly enough churches to replace them.  Now we can see why turning around declining churches, and planting new ones are all a part of Christ’s mission.

In many ways, the challenge of a turn-around church was written for us 2000 years ago in Revelation, 3:1-3.

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Most declining churches once had a reputation of being alive, but it is not alive now.  It’s on life support and needs help.

Both the pastor and church leaders need to work together to “Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”  This is hard work, but possible and needed, if the leaders and church are willing to pay the price to not only survive, but also learn to thrive.

Issue #2: Vision.
This turn-around is usually lead by a visionary leader, often brought in from outside the church’s current culture.  The value of bringing in a new leader is that they are not stuck in the current thinking trends or bogged down by the church’s history.

The challenge of a new visionary leader is they must earn the right to lead a group of people, almost all of whom are stuck in current thinking trends and severely bogged by down the church’s history.

As one pastor put it, “God has called you to lead people to a place they don’t want to go, in a way they are uncomfortable with, following a leader they barely know.”  Who would sign up for that job?  You?

If you’re already living this scenario, Jesus will not leave you alone.  It’s His church and you’re His servant.  You can count on him to lead you through.

Click Here to Read Part 2.

For information on Don’s Turn Around Church Coaching Network,
see www.TurnAroundChurch.Org

P.S. For a package of resources to help you evaluate and improve the Systems of your church, check out The Systems Seminars Package.

Posted On: October 18, 2010
Posted as: Growth Barriers

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