Is Your Church Alive?

There’s a church I drive by occasionally. Each time I do, it makes me sad. I drove by it just the other day and noticed how dilapidated it was. You see, I attended that church a few times many years ago. I remember how excited the people were. The building was new, and still in the process of being completed. The congregation was already meeting there in the fellowship hall even though the sanctuary was not yet completed. They were looking ahead with excitement and anticipation. There was laughter and the noise of young children. While I was only a visitor, I could tell there was a sense of expectation as they had raised enough money to get to where they were now. They had outgrown a smaller, older building and were in good spirits.

Now, as I drive by and remember that excitement, instead of giving me a sense of hope, I feel sad. The building looks run down. The gravel parking lot now has twelve-foot-tall trees growing in it. I didn’t see a cross on the building anywhere. And I wondered what happened. What happened to the excitement of that forward-looking congregation? Did they finish the building? Did people move away? Why did they not continue to grow?

I think back to the church where I first started as a young pastor. I was on staff as the youth pastor. That church no longer exists either, and it makes me sad. I know some of what happened there, but that doesn’t make it any better. I know the great history they had of sending and supporting missionaries. They were part of planting other churches, but they lost their way. Over time, more and more people left. Eventually the denomination shut down the church. While that church experienced a lot of loss, one good thing is that the building is still being used for ministry purposes, but that church of people no longer exists. What a sad ending for a church that had prospered over the years.

Just this week, as part of a class I am taking, we were given a handout by George Bullard entitled: Will Your Congregation Still Exist Ten Years From Now? His research has led him to this list of 25 Factors That May Impact Your Survivability, Vitality, and Vibrancy. Bullard invites churches and church leaders to evaluate their church by a set of 25 categories such as: vision, true relationships, high expectations of members, and a well-maintained facility . His research has concluded that there are at least 25 different things that can impact a church’s life expectancy.

Most of us never consider that our church may die. We just go on with our activities as if it will go on forever. But we need to do some serious evaluation from time to time. We need to look at the church with critical eyes – not to criticize but to evaluate boldly. And then we need to decide to correct what needs correcting. When this is done regularly and early in your church’s life, the changes made to correct occasionally may be small, but if your leadership has not evaluated your church and made adjustments over the years, there will come a time when you will need to make drastic changes. Some pruning will be required as you prayerfully cut out what is diseased and a distraction from what God has called your church to be.

If the evaluation and correction process is not something you are familiar with or equipped to handle, then call in someone who can. There may be resources available through your denomination, or call in a church coach or consultant. We are trained to walk a church through this process in a meaningful way. Whichever path you choose,  do not just give up and hope the church will correct itself without the necessary work needed.

Churches and organizations need regular evaluation and appropriate action to correct where things are not going as they should. Don’t be scared to tackle this important yet painful process. Be more afraid that not doing anything will lead to the death of your church!

So call in someone to help. Contact someone like me to help you.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

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