What options do you have when your church has been spiraling downward for several years? Dr. Thom Rainer estimates 7,000 churches will close this year in the U.S. (2% of 350,000). Here are a few viable ways to turn a church funeral into a birthday party.
1. Merge With Another Church
I recently spoke to pastors who successfully merged three churches in California. While this merger gave some immediate relief to several problems such as attendance and giving, the staff is still working through other adjustments which are inevitable in a blended family (schedules, songs, staff, etc).
Dr. Rainer recently wrote about seven ways churches should die with dignity. He wisely recommends struggling churches consider merging with a healthy church, as opposed to another unhealthy church or a merger of equals.
2. Become a Satellite Campus
Another viable option is becoming a satellite campus of a healthy regional church. The primary difference between a satellite and a mission is that missions are usually expected to become independent from their sponsoring church. Satellite campuses, on the other hand, are much more than extensions of a regional church. They are the same church in different locations.
3. Start Over as a New Church
I have personally experienced the blessing of pastoring a successful restart from 1991-2001 near Kingsport, Tennessee. Prior to our moving there, the former church suffered the painful death of multiple implosions which left only eight weary members. These brave souls reached out to their original mother church for help. This much older, stronger church rallied to their aid and commissioned a handful of new families to re-start/plant in the same location. This new church re-planted with a new name, a new pastor, and a new vision. Today that church continues to thrive, thanks to the humility of that remnant, as well as the generosity of the mother church.
4. Donate Your Facilities
A struggling church in Conway, Arkansas, recently died with dignity by donating their facility to a thriving young satellite church. Initially, the new church was a tenant and both congregations shared the facility peacefully. Eventually the host church came to the conclusion, on their own, that their facility was fulfilling its greatest impact through this new church…so they gave it to them! No strings attached.
The pastor called me that week with the excitement of a new parent. It was indeed a good day for the kingdom.
Your church facilities are incredible assets which God has given you. Well, actually they never did belong to you in the first place. Many new churches are in desperate need of places to meet and worship. Consider giving your facilities to a new church who is hungry to fulfill the Great Commission in your city.
5. Close the Doors
Some may not agree, but I believe some churches do not need to be revitalized, restarted, or repurposed—they simply need to close their doors.
Whether through erosion or implosion – these churches, which are unwilling or unable to revitalize, are wasting kingdom time and money. Some dry bones do not want to live, so let them rest in peace. Some dead churches are doing more harm than good in their communities and they need to be formally closed.
I clearly don’t know God’s will for your church or your life, so prayerfully consider these options and bravely move into the direction He leads you.
What other radical revitalization options have you seen work?