What is Church Revitalization?

Yesterday, I met with a group of pastors each of whom is in a challenging church revitalization situation.  We had a very fruitful conversation about the difficulties that usually accompany taking an existing church.  Although this idea is not nearly as popular as church planting, I would argue it is just as needed and important.  Yet, it is hard to have helpful discussions about church revitalization if we do not know what it is exactly.  What is church revitalization?  How is it different from church planting?  Here are 5 characteristics that help begin to define the work of church revitalization:

5 characteristics of church revitalization:

1)      It is an effort to revive an established, but struggling church.

2)      It mandates a change in direction.

3)      It requires patience and understanding with those there before you.

4)      Its goal is to become a healthy, diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-generational church.

5)      Its purpose is to display the glory of Christ to the world.

I wrote an article about the 5 unexpected lessons I learned from church revitalization on a 9 marks ejournal on church revitalization.  I commend them both to you as you think through this idea of church revitalization.

Other characteristics to these 5 you would add?

Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry
8 comments on “What is Church Revitalization?
  1. Many will favor the “blank slate” approach of church planting. A pastor can hand-pick his ministry team, strategically select a geographical area, and build each ministry up from scratch. Church planting may produce quick initial growth, but will often slow down unless it is a new and booming community.

    Church revitalization, on the other hand, tends to start out slow. It may even see shrinkage at first. But like a locomotive, it slowly picks up steam and gains momentum. I have been in a church revitalization work for 7 and a half years, and feel like we are just now seeing the full impact of our labors. What a joy it is!

    • PJ Tibayan says:

      Stephen, I’m trying to keep the 5+ years mentality before me. I’ve only been at this for 10 days and my heart and mind race with impatience and ideas. Thanks for coming to the installation, leading the congregation in prayer, and staying to share life with some of the people. I got to meet your 8 year old son and the mere interaction with him encouraged my heart. I attribute that to God’s grace in your parenting. I’ll be calling or emailing to pick your brain soon enough.

      In Christ,

  2. Guy says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily offer any other characteristics but might amend number 4 to simply say that it is an effort to reflect the diversity of its community (in areas like economics, race, culture, ext).

    Tough work and one that in the SBC’s current push of church planting is given a measure of attention but much less than that of planting.

  3. After 16 years as a DOM and now back to pastoring, I have found that it is extremely rare to see an existing church revitalized. Thank God for those that are! I found that trying to “turn churches around” usually devolves into “hospice care for dying churches.” If an existing church is going to be revitalized, the ideas and the plan must be agreed on before the new pastor is called to the church. It is my sincere prayer that our sovereign God will grant renewal and real revival to many more of our churches!

    • PJ Tibayan says:

      Lanny, I’m sorry you’ve seen it so rarely. I’m just starting a revitalization work in Southeast Los Angeles County at First Southern Baptist Church of Bellflower. We don’t have an agreed on plan as I’ve come in but I still think there’s plenty of hope! I covet your prayers brother. If we do well here, one of my goals is for us to be a church that raises up pastors to revitalize many of the churches in our Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association.

      Blessings on you and your pastorate brother!

  4. PJ Tibayan says:

    I would add: “It necessitates the supernatural regenerating and transforming work of the Holy Spirit through the Christ-focused Bible preaching (teaching).”

    What do you think about this characteristic Brian? I thought it might limit the definition to a particular view of ministry and theology, but since you included #5 I thought this should also be included.

  5. Ben Holland says:

    A big issue with revitalization is simply pointing out the need for revitalization. Leaders of churches that have been strong in the past are hesitant to admit that they are struggling now, that their ministries aren’t as effective as they used to be, and that changes are needed. In my experience, enacting change has been almost interpreted as a personal attack on the abilities and styles of other leaders. If “attacks” are perceived, then the church is drawn into finger-pointing, assigning blame for failure, and being defensive about why traditional ministries need to be maintained.

    To be honest, I’ve grown tired of the church’s in-fighting. However, I also know that God’s Spirit is gradually changing hearts, increasing the desire to evangelize, and developing a willingness to disciple a new generation of believers. Revitalization can be extremely slow and painful.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Yes it is. But it is a wonderful story of redemption and the power of the gospel when those churches turn around. Press on.

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