Rather than thinking of turnaround as simply a reversal of numerical decline, the real turnaround for congregations that thrive in the next decade will be a move from irrelevance to relevance in the lives of their constituents and their communities.
We need more conversation about how to cull the role of the pastor from all that we layer on it. But the particular work of the pastor today includes the integral tasks of connecting, cohering and completing.
Borrowing from scripture and the U.S. Navy, I suggest a pastor’s role in today’s world should be like that of Jesus, who began his movement with the flexibility of a new type of vessel, a small crew and the vision of a new creation based on the pattern of heaven.
The American Church’s anxiety and desperation to survive – much like that of our nation’s reeling education system – frequently occludes its view of how to be helpful both to the world and to itself.
Traditional, established congregations that are more than 40 years old are in steady and persistent decline. Now is the time to speak the truth, reclaim our hope and launch a realistic and thoughtful plan for our future as God’s people.
I believe there has never been a better day to be the church. Indeed, I believe the 21st century will find the church of Jesus Christ emerging from decades of slow decline to rediscover authentic community, witness and vibrancy.
Out of my work at the Center for Healthy Churches, I have discovered four core leadership principles for pastors of congregations that are facing decline and longing for turnaround.
Only 8 percent of American churchgoers attend congregations of more than 1,000 in weekly attendance. Yet the churches attended by 8 percent of Christians are held up as the models for every other church to emulate in order not to die.
A Baptist seminary has closed. But every day churches are closing too. How might we respond to this reality now, rather than delaying decision-making until we are forced to permanently lock the church doors, shutter the windows and turn out the lights?