The Secret You Need to Know to Succeed at Church Revitalization

You have to decide if you are going to outlast the tension change naturally creates. (Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash)

There is a part of church revitalization we don't talk about much—if ever. Yet pastors think about it a lot.

I know this from personal experience and from talking to literally dozens of pastors attempting church revitalization.

Although it is a secret, I'm convinced it's the hardest thing any pastor will face who wants to see a declining established church ever thrive again.

I hate to pull the cover back on my pastor friends on this one, but often it is not until we admit a problem that we can really focus on some solutions.

So, here's the secret, hardest part I've observed about church revitalization:

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Deciding if you will stay long enough to see a turn.

That's it.

And this can honestly be said about many other changes we make as leaders. You have to decide if you are going to outlast the tension change naturally creates.

To test my assertion, if you are in the first couple of years of leading church revitalization, see if any of these apply:

—You wake up some days and don't know if you can do it anymore.

—You and your spouse dream about where you could work—maybe another church; perhaps even in the marketplace.

—Secretly you search job site boards looking for other positions for which you might qualify or be interested.

—You wonder if you are alone and if anyone else struggles this way.

—There are times you wonder if the problem is you—if you're doing something wrong and if maybe it is a sin to even be thinking as you do some days.

Any of those sound like your story?

Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with any of these. Those are raw human emotions. Change is not only hard for the congregation—it's hard for the one leading it. And some of it may simply be a way to cope and survive. You get little "mini mind breaks" that keep you going.

But here's what I know to be true: Until you decide if you're going to outlast the critics and weather the storms of change you will likely never realize the success you really came to achieve.

Of course, there is never an excuse to be arrogant, tyrannical or controlling. I always tried to be humble, but purposeful. God had sent me and the church had called me to do a job. Helping a church revive again requires change. And leading change is hard and the reactions to it are not always pretty.

The question in church revitalization is not if it is going to be difficult. Someone told me that the longer the church has been in decline, the longer it will take to revitalize. I know for sure it takes longer than we often hope it will. The question is if you are going to last through the difficult to get to the potential wonderful.

And I'm not even suggesting you have to or should. That's a much more personal matter with many different parameters that depend on your unique circumstances and the church. Some churches can't be revived. There are no guarantees and no perfect formulas to follow.

I'm simply pointing out something I have learned the hard way.

In an upcoming post I'll offer a few suggestions for staying through the hard seasons. In the meantime, I'm saying a prayer for all of you who will read this post and are in the middle of discerning whether to stay or go.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years' business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

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