We had the privilege recently to attend a conference where the focus was on churches who need to do everything they can to revitalize—by GROWING YOUNGER. This conference was hosted by a church that realized they were aging and on a downward spiral in attendance. In our society, there’s a increasing number of young adults leaving the church or who have no interest in church. The church is not attractional to them. The battle for the revitalization of the church is critical. Communities of faith can provide the necessary fabric to strengthen our country and the need is great.
Topics in the conference included self-examination by the church on a variety of levels. Two things stood out in this conference. The attitude of the older lead pastor and the humility of the younger staff. A few years ago, the lead pastor recognized that his congregation was growing older and less and less young people or young families were coming through the doors. He realized that intentional steps had to be taken to change what they were doing. All of the changes were focused on remaining committed to their core values and beliefs. Recognizing that their ultimate mission was to reach the lost, they analyzed every element of who they were, how they were receiving guests, how “comfortable” was their environment to a new person or what capability was there for creating connections, and what did their worship model communicate. These, along with examinations of their Next Gen offerings, were all on the redefining table. Some changes were basic and simple; others more complicated requiring “buy-in” from the leadership board and the aging congregation. There were challenges. But the greater realization was to accept the challenges and change, or die as a church within a few years. They’ve made the changes, and have multiplied to a few thousand.
Driven by a strong desire to reach people who need Jesus, this church engaged the best approaches. The added younger staff are enthusiastic and determined that the “future” is brighter than ever for their generation. Their passion and energy were inspiring. And they creatively work together to make people feel cared for when they visit, creating an opportunity for connections and commitment.
Having spent most of our adult lives on staff in the local church, we are more committed than ever to help encourage, inspire and motivate church growth. As ongoing learners, we want to help ministry leaders develop solutions to the issues they are wrestling with in their churches. We are having more conversations regularly around the topic of pivoting churches. Pivotal capacity is a skill. It is not learned in seminary or most church conferences. The ability to move a church forward that has been stuck, or worse declining requires grit and flexibility.
Even though we live in a time when answers come quickly on our smart phones, turning a church around can be a complex matter that takes much time. As we dialog with key leaders and apply concurrent strategies and innovative methods, dependent on the leading of the Spirit, we see churches beginning to make that pivotal and necessary turn.