Revitalizing a church that is experiencing severe decline is a challenge. They must learn to use wisdom with their time and finances or close the doors.
Many churches that are now in decline were once thriving places of worship. The church began with a burden to reach people with the gospel. They may even have been blessed with good leaders and a growing congregation. Their dedication to the gospel mission was evident by their sacrifices and perseverance. The attendance was large enough to support the work of the ministry. But now, many of those same congregations face the effects of massive financial, cultural and technological changes from outside the church.
Turmoil, Transition or Gradual Slide
There are other factors that can cause a decline in a church’s health as well. These are the created from within the church itself. A major event in the life of a church can often affect every area of it’s ministry. Times of turmoil or major transitions can make pinpointing the onset of it’s decline easier. But, sometimes there are no incidents or individual ministries that are at fault. It’s decline was just a gradual slide. We can speculate about the causes, but, it doesn’t change these four facts.
- Attendance has dwindled
- Spiritual growth has been stunted
- Financial support has collapsed
- Mission has all but ceased
Soon major questions, accusations and speculations become the fuel for discussion. In this type of atmosphere, people leave and take their families elsewhere. This only decreases the ranks further.
Facing The Hard Questions
Congregations with large buildings and low attendance have to make difficult choices. Do they continue as a church or close the doors? Do they sell the building and relocate? Do they merge with another congregation? What major cuts can they make in the budget? Should they dismiss the current leadership and call someone else? The focus moves from it’s gospel mission to survival. As the inevitable result of their situation, the church becomes inwardly focused.
This type of introspection is necessary to a point. But, too much introspection can create fear, doubt, resentment and hopelessness. None of these things should characterize a church or it’s people.
Choose Your Church’s Focus
There are three areas of focus a church has to choose from in determining it’s future.
- They can focus on their past “glory days” and their victories. They emphasize how it “used to be” and live in the past. They have no vision for the future of their church’s ministry. Living in the past is unhealthy for individuals and as well as churches.
- They can play the “blame game”. They lay the responsibility on previous or current leadership, the culture or the economy. But, playing the “blame game” doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it is self-defeating, distracts the church and severely limits future progress.
- Or, they can focus on their future and where God may take them. It is good to look back and see how God has blessed the local congregation in the past. And, they should acknowledge the failures and cultural changes hindering the church at present. But, these should serve to encourage and instruct them toward future ministry.
Create A Plan
In order to survive a declining church must create a plan to be more efficient with their resources. This means seeking God through prayer, studying His Word, and implementing good stewardship.
In the days ahead, I’ll be sharing ways to help churches with limited resources. I hope that you will glean some insight and develop your own strategy. Most of all, I hope that it will encourage you toward making mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
Question: What is your church doing to create solutions and implement good stewardship to further the cause of the gospel?, Share your answer on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.