What do you do when your church no longer looks like the community that surrounds it?
Focus on what your church does well. Don’t try to be something you’re not. If your church is primarily made up of elderly folks, decide to become the most effective ministry to senior citizens in your community that you can possibly be.
Don’t try to be a church for young families. Strengthen what you’re already doing and don’t worry about what you can’t do. Keep doing what you’ve been doing—just do it better. Chances are that there’s an unchurched pocket of people in your community that only your church can reach. Find those people—and reach them.
Add a worship service. Start a new worship service that better matches the people around you. If you have an older congregation, try a worship service with music that’ll attract younger people in your neighborhood. Encourage the younger people in your congregation to attend and invite their unchurched friends. Try using a more modern translation (or translations) of the Bible. In time it’s likely this service will become your larger service.
Plant a church. Or you can start an entirely new church that will eventually become self-supporting. I’m convinced that starting new churches is the most effective way to fulfill the Great Commission in the 21st century. Saddleback started its first church when it was a year old. You don’t have to be a big church to start a church.
Reinvent your Congregation. This is your last and most difficult possibility. It’s where you intentionally change the makeup of your church in order to match a new target by replacing the old programs, structures and worship styles with new ones. This is painful and will take many years. If your church averages more than 100 in attendance, I wouldn’t even attempt it unless you heard a direct word from God.
No one cares about your community more than God. He wants to help your church reach people nearby—and around the world. It may not be easy.
But it’s what the Lord has called us to do, and he will see you through.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
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