Merry Christmas! The last few weeks we’ve been talking about Thom Rainer’s insight into church revitalization. Today we’ll consider a few different kinds of revitalization that he outlines and the ways BGW projects have carried out revitalization. I hope that as we near the new year, these ideas are especially helpful as you consider your goals for 2016.
In my first blog in this series, I discussed that every church needs to practice revitalization – I see it as a way of life, not a last resort when things get tough.
- Acquisitional Revitalization – In this model, a struggling church gives way to another one – asking them to come in and take over. It is also possible to look at this like a Partnership Revitalization, which would look like a few churches coming together and merging, in order to figure out what the future looks like together. BGW sees this model frequently and it makes so much sense.
- Covenantal Revitalization – Here, existing members and leaders all vow to make behavioral changes. It is unclear what changes will occur or how they will navigate these changes without any additional resources or leadership. But at least they are committed to something new. The only question in this model is what that is. I have not personally seen this model really create revitalization, but it is a starting point.
- Leadershift Revitalization – In those mode of revitalization, the leadership is what changes. Perhaps a new pastor comes on, with new vigor and ideas for what is next. If this is the model you choose, the question is if the congregation committed to the church and its future, even if the leadership isn’t exactly as they had hoped or envisioned. Most entrepreneurs do not want anything to do with leadership. Find ways to involve leaders at all levels without wearing them out with meetings.
- Relocational Revitalization – Some churches may decide that their location is what is holding them back. Perhaps it is and moving to a new community will provide space and opportunity for growth. Beware of abandoning a community just because it is challenging though. You must ask if you are leaving because you are called to leave or if you are just running away. We may need to circle these communities in prayer, reach out to people in these communities and start seeing people within our churches living in these communities with their light shining bright.
- Organic Revitalization – In this model, a church tries new methodologies and approaches with their existing resources and persons. Rainer believes this is the least successful model because the focus is often on fixing symptoms rather than root issues. I think the hardest thing about this type of revitalization is that it is hard to start. It’s not only an uphill battle since everyone is already used to another way of being, leaders may have a hard time finding time and money to create a new program and practice.
What if there were a sixth option though?
Sustainable Revitalization – Your church may be interested in doing some exciting forms of ministry and aren’t sure how to fund them, or perhaps you are trying to find a way to be invested in your community and think running a business might be a way to do it. Obviously, we have some bias to this model since it is paramount to the financial future of the church. This is called out in detail in my book 10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries.
Your building could bring significant return on investment to your ministry, if you allow outside groups to use it in a variety of forms. Whether you have a facility now or are interested in building one, there are many options on the horizon. We have guided churches through many different forms of this kind of revitalization, and you could be next. Let’s take a look at a few of their experiences:
A church of ours in Silver Spring, Maryland has had over 400 different public events and over 150 concerts since opening their new building four years ago. Another, in Escondido, California, has over $40,000 per month in income from non-church related rental of their facility!
In addition, we are working with a group in Portland, Oregon that is doing a women’s and children’s shelter. They are purchasing an older motel which will be renovated and used for the shelter. The State of Oregon will be the responsible party for paying the operating expenses which will give the ministry significant cash to fully reach this group of people while paying all of the expenses of their ministry.
We have another project in Rowlett, Texas that has taken excess land and developed two major soccer fields and 10 practice fields on it. Leases net out $120,000 per year and bring thousands to their site on evenings and weekends. The church already owned the infrastructure to make this project happen, they just needed to carry out the vision.
Imagine if you could cut your mortgage and reduce your overhead expenses by two thirds or more?
What if you could interact with more people, offer employment to some of your congregants, and gain sustainable income in the process?
Could this be the key that will unlock revitalization for your ministry?
Now’s the fun part – you get to dream up what this should look like for you. What vision is God putting on your heart?
Don’t let your resources determine your direction, let your direction determine your resources. Could getting involved in a for-profit model of sustainable ministry be a new and exciting form a revitalization that is right for you?
Next week I’ll offer a few more ideas for you, from my newly released book, 10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries. If you don’t have your copy yet, check out Amazon or iBooks, or get in touch with BGW to make an individual or bulk order.