Q: How can we help to turn around our struggling congregation? I fear we are too set in our ways to change.
A: This is a great question. Sometimes good faithful Christians lose sight of the important things about church—things like fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When it has been a while since participating in or observing a life-changing conversion, or when we’re more worried about worship styles, carpet, and the color of the walls, we have a problem. Stability becomes more important than spiritual vitality, and we don’t even notice the shift.
But before we answer your question, we need to ask a few preliminary ones.
- Are you willing to do whatever it takes to turn around the situation?
- Are you willing to stick around and see it through when it gets difficult?
- Do you have the credibility with your people to have them get on board for the turnaround?
- Are you ready spiritually for what will come—whether victories, mountains, or valleys?
Affirmative answers to these questions can determine if the turnaround is possible. Then, if you have confirmation that a turnaround is possible, you need to put into words exactly what you dream for your church.
What are some of the needs of your community? How do you think a visitor might feel about attending a worship service or outreach event? Would he or she feel welcomed?
When we’re more worried about worship styles, carpet, and the color of the walls, we have a problem.
As you discuss these topics with your congregation and leadership, remember to read between the lines. For example, someone may not want to say a visitor would not feel welcome, because that might sound personal. Or, another response might be that a visitor has a family, and there’s not much you can currently offer families. But don’t stop there. Follow up with questions such as, “What could we do to meet more of those needs to help someone feel welcome?”
Another part of the equation is about leadership. People are looking for leaders who will lead and provide vision with passion. The sign of a good leader is having followers who engage in the mission of the church. Otherwise, it’s frustrating.
Get the church leadership on board; make this turnaround effort a team approach to church growth. Remember the church is the Bride of Christ, and we are all called to equip saints for ministry. Look outside the box. Look outside your four walls. Look to God for guidance and wisdom. He will provide.
Doug Wyatt is superintendent of the denomination’s Eastern Kentucky District on the USA/Canada Region.