If you are a member of a typical church in North American, your church is either in decline or at least plateaued. The struggles of the established church are real, regardless of what denomination you serve. In the last decade, I have served as a pastor in the established church, and, in my research and service, I have found five steps to moving the local church forward.
Step 1: Becoming a praying church
A church that is going to renew itself for the future and to move from decline to growth is a church that needs to have a prayer life that shows it is trusting God with all. That means “churches need to pray with a purpose.” One of the useful models I have used is Big Group – Small Group – Prayer Group, which is done weekly for one hour.
Big Group – Gather together for a purpose in a dedicated group to cry out to God for direction, vision, and others.
Small-Group – Divide into smaller groups of three to five people to pray over a list of prayer needs (community, denominational leaders, schools, etc.).
Prayer Group – In the same small group, have members pray for the needs of each member in that group.
Step 2: Know the churches mission
When the leadership is trusting God for the increase, they begin to move from an inward-focused posture to an outward-looking stance that prioritizes others over self, and it is at that moment the church starts to turn from survival to service. The church has to ask, what has God called the church to do? As they reflect, they begin to look locally and globally to expand the kingdom, and the mission field moves from the church property to the larger realm. The goal of the missional church is not to duplicate services but to fill the void in the community, through sowing generously of their time, talent, and treasure.
Step 3: Focus on what God can do
When the heart of the church becomes the eyes to love others who are hurting, the church becomes the community by reaching outside instead of focusing within. The church begins to rebound from decline to vitality, by reestablishing the real mission of God in the local context.
The church has to ask, is God in control of us? Sure, numbers matter, but do not let that control the church. Value as a church should not be in worship attendance. Value is in people (inside and outside) of the church. When the church connects outside with the community, value is built and felt.
Step 4: The Word is the word to follow
As churches face decline, the leadership is forced to evaluate all aspects of the church (programs, positions, and power) by inspecting what is working, what is not working, and what needs to be added or subtracted.
Throughout this process, the Bible should be the church’s guide. The Word of God is elevated and not programs. Churches that revitalize from decline are churches that read the Word, hear the Word preached, taught the Word in small/large groups, and see the Word lived out.
Step 5: In all, you do serve God with glory
The fact that a church has plateaued or is declining should be seen as an opportunity to redirect the church from self to Savior and from Savior to others over a period of time. The people who make up the local church have to do a self-evaluation by reflecting on; whose church is it? Once the members realize that it is God’s church and God’s design, the church can begin to reflect on four areas of service.
Serve with excellence in every way. Every program, everything done, should be done to God’s glory.
Serve with passion. Passion for finding, reaching, and winning the lost.
Serve with commitment. To be in the King’s service until he calls the church home, and never give up when the field becomes hard to plow.
Serve for others. The church is designed for the neighborhood and those who live in the community, and not just for members.
These five practical steps can help your church begin to move out of a rut and onto the road of renewal.
Rob Beckett is pastor at Shepherdsville Church of the Nazarene Shepherdsville, Kentucky.