TURNAROUND CHURCH & Don’t fall into these three newbie turnaround traps by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf.

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Don’t fall for these 3 newbie turnaround traps … Do this instead (and start out strong).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, May/June 2019.

As I prepare to teach my course titled “Turnaround Church” at Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, I thought it would be helpful to describe the most common traps into which inexperienced turnaround leaders fall (and ways to avoid each).

TRAP 1: Being hired to do the work of revitalization. 

Why this trap occurs:  

Hiring your way out of trouble is a standard practice in the for-profit world. However, because their business model operates on a for-profit basis, it allows them to plow profits into hiring their way out of adversity. Nonprofits run mostly on volunteers and small staffs. They have leaner budgets and usually cannot afford a hiring solution.

The lean-staff and “keep it simple” alternative has been immortalized in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 9:1-6 (MSG): 

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

Do this instead: Mentor & delegate. 

This is may be hard for trained church leaders, because they feel they have been hired to be the experts. Thus, they customarily attempt to do most of the work themselves. However, this usually leads to burnout. Instead, church shepherds should model Jesus’ example of giving his disciples responsibilities and then sending them out to minister to others (Luke 9:1-2). 

Mentoring is characterized by a back-and-forth dialogue with the mentee regarding how the processes going. We see such examples in Jesus’ dialogues with his disciples, for instance Matt. 17:18-20 (MSG):

He (Jesus) ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

Delegating is slightly different from mentoring. It means giving others something you could do yourself, but allowing them to learn as they fumble their way through. Jesus, as the omniscient Son of God, knew his disciples would be unable to cast out demons (Luke 17:19). But still he let them try. In His omniscience, Jesus knew an important lesson would be driven home if the disciples first had a chance to flounder and then learn from that experience.

TRAP 2: Giving (and requiring) 110% effort.

Why this trap occurs:  

People usually feel that if they overwork themselves (e.g. give 110%) they will succeed. This manifests when a leader works more hours during the week than for which one is paid. Such leaders may expect volunteers to increase their hours too. A trap occurs when burnout, neglected families and leadership turnover result. Billy Graham stated similar regrets:

“Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.” (billygraham.org)

Do this instead: Adjust everyone’s duties

Remind them that the church is going to need to do different things and that there are two ways to do this. One way is to ask everybody to give extra, e.g. 110%. But, you recognize this only leads to burnout. Remind them you don’t want to see them or yourself burned-out or families neglected.

The second, and more rewarding way, is to ask them to purge from their duties 20% of what they are currently doing. Ask them to use that 20% to become involved in new activities, e.g. involved in a new service or a new community outreach. The principle is that this requires, for the sake of spiritual health, to pull back and reduce their current volunteer efforts by 20% to open up 20% involvement in new activities. 

Exemplify this yourself. Acknowledge that you are unable to continue to do everything the previous pastor did while at the same time reaching out to new generations and cultures. Remind them that you don’t want them, or you, to sacrifice family or spiritual well being. Show them you have too much respect for  your and their spiritual health.  

As you ask them to readjustment their volunteer activities, suggest they write this down and submit their “readjustment” to the person overseeing their work.  

TRAP 3: Promising big changes too soon.

Why this trap occurs:  

Plateaued and dying churches have been dreaming about health for so long, that they often expect it to take place too fast. In addition, models they see of healthy churches are usually many years in the making. My experience and research has let me to believe that healthy church change is slow, but deliberate. In fact, one of the most knowledgeable researchers on organizational change, Harvard University’s John Kotter (Leading Change, Harvard Press), found that “celebrating small-term wins” leads to more change, more quickly.

Do this instead: Plan for & celebrate short-term wins

Meet with the church leaders and discuss what the church should look like in five years. Then ask them to describe what would it should look like in 2.5 years, one year and six months. Map out several goals for the next six months, asking yourselves which are most likely to be attained. Write these six month goals down and begin to create tactics to reach them.

As soon as you reach any of your short-term goals, celebrate! The key is for people to see and celebrate progress. For effective change, people don’t have to see enormous changes, but they do need to see movement.

 

TURNAROUND CHURCH & 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Revitalizing a Church by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf #BestOfYear

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 6/12/18.

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Though the church began to grow again on my first turnaround effort, knowing the following would have made the journey more pleasurable for both myself and the congregation.

I wish I had known #1. Church revitalization will take 2 to 3 times longer than you expect. 

As my first church revitalization effort, I asked and received a one year contract. The church and I felt this would be sufficient time to turn the church into a new direction. But, at the end of one year I had only gained enough social capital for the congregation to start trusting me. It took another year, which the church graciously offered to finance, before the first signs of change emerged. However, when small fruit emerged at the end of the second year it provided a foundation for revitalization to actually emerge in the third year.

Here is a timeline that works in many congregations, yet it’s slower than the church or the shepherd usually desires.

Year 1: Fact gathering and building up the social capital needed for the congregants to trust you.

Year 2: Implementing small change in the organization. Small victories can begin to convince reticent members of the church the validity of the new direction. More on this in “ Things I wish I had known # 2.”

Year 3: Church systems begin to change. Often times church leaders think if they change the system, then the congregants will change. But because the church is an organic institution (1 Cor. 12:12-27) changes in the system must bubble up from changes in people, not from top-down changes dictated from the top. A three year process gave this time to happen.

I wish I had known # 2: the power of small victories.

In year two, initial but small goals were attained. One of our small goals was to see in both the spring and fall a “Newcomers Sunday School class” emerge. We publicized the date for the beginning of the class even when we didn’t yet have any visitors. But once we published the date, suddenly members in the congregation started inviting their friends to church. The newcomers’ class provided a tangible target. Thus, small victories in the second year convinced the congregants we were headed in the right direction.

I wish I had known #3: Don’t speed up too fast just because you have some small victories.

The small victories got the church excited and soon they were ready to launch a worship service oriented towards younger people. At this time I came under a lot of pressure to begin the service immediately before it was thoroughly mapped out, staffed and prepared. Many of the leaders had read books that discussed how a church can grow up to 15% by adding a new service. And because the church had limped along not meeting it’s monthly budget for about 18 months, the pressure of an added revenue stream push the leaders to decide a new service was necessary sooner rather than later. 

I advised and eventually convinced the leaders a slowed down approach was warranted, so that the new service could be better planned and developed. I fact, this new service did not begin until almost 11 months after we began planning it. The slower paced allowed new and younger leaders to be recruited and prepared. The extra planning time seemed excessive to me at first, but in hindsight it was just about right. It allowed the turnaround church to develop indigenous leaders who reached out in a well prepared worship expression.

I wish I had known #4. Don’t expect new people to support the church financially or physically for some time.

The newcomers kept our church at arms length for almost a year or more before they decided to become part of our membership. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the newcomers class, but when membership was mentioned they often stiffened.

In response I used the metaphor of dating. 

The first date: I said when new people visit a church, it’s like being on a date: you aren’t ready to commit to a long relationship but rather want to get to know the other.

The second date: Going to the newcomers class was like a second date: it was a time to get to know about the hopes, aspirations and purposes of one another.

Engagement: After completing the newcomers class I said they may want to pray and consider becoming a member. I encouraged them to consider more carefully their level of involvement, their spiritual gifts and how they would fit in. I also stressed that the engagement could be as long as they needed.

Marriage: Finally I explained that when they agreed to be part of a membership class, this was like marriage. They were not marrying to just a local congregation church but also to the body of Christ as present in His people.

I wish I had known #5. You must spend more time in leadership development than you think.

As the church began to turnaround, there was an influx of people excited about the church’s direction. But this sometimes draws people who did not fit well in their previous church, because they were not mature enough to take on leadership responsibilities. I learned the hard way that sometimes people who come to a revitalized church are often people who need revitalization themselves – because their involvement in another church has not been a healthy one. Therefore I developed leadership courses and a mentor/mentee system so that new leaders could be vetted and trained before they were put into volunteer roles.

I wish I had known #6. There’s more power in spiritual transformation than most people realize.

People began to share testimonies about how their lives were being changed by the Holy Spirit. An emphasis upon salvation began to refocus the church. Older members recalled how in the early days the church, they had also emphasized conversion accompanied by powerful testimonies of change. Older members began to see that a turnaround in spiritual climate mirrored those times in the past when the church had been happy and healthy.

As a result I train turnaround pastors in the importance of understanding a church’s history and to pinpoint when they had been alive in the past. Usually a church had been alive in the past when the church was involved in evangelism and conversion. Reminding a church about this part of their history, made it more palatable for their present… the salvation of individuals. 

7. Last, but not least, is the power of a praying congregation. I set a goal for the prayer ministries to grow at the same rate as the church. If the church grew 10% in six months, we then expected 10% more people involved in prayer ministries. It has always seemed to me a spiritual principle that vibrant prayer life in a church would lead to a vibrant church.

You can subscribe to Church Revitalizer Magazine and access the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_final_3b02554e558e8a

TURNAROUND CHURCH & The starting point for church revitalization is not prayer… it is focusing in the needs of others. Here’s why…  

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 3/1/20.8A3F2F62-0056-4157-8F4E-F7A52D034015.jpeg

The first inclination when writing on the starting place for church revitalization will be to focus on prayer. That is most likely (and rightly so) because we want to remind ourselves that we can’t do it without Christ’s help.

I’m not suggesting that prayer is not important for church growth or even that it should be postponed. It is!  But I’m suggesting we first must understand what we’re praying for. 

Therefore, the first question that must be asked before chruch revitalization is, “Whose needs is a revitalization effort intended to meet?” In fact, in church revitalizations there are three needs that often come into play. And after 30 years of consulting chruch revitalizations, I have come to believe if you pick one of them you’ll succeed. But, if you pick one of the others, you will usually experience failure.

Reason 1) Meeting the needs of a church’s congregation.

Often church revitalizations are launched because a church wants to survive. Members remember its illustrious history, the close bonds of friendships that were forged there and the many good things accomplished in their past. And they want to want to preserve these legacies for future generations. I’ve often heard leaders say, “We want to ensure this church lives on by younger generations coming to it.” And while this is laudable, this will be in adequate to successfully revitalize a church. That is because of two reasons. 

Reason A: Younger generations quickly pick up on a church’s desperation to survive. They’ve experienced and rejected churches that are not interested in meeting their needs, but rather interested in preserving the church’s aesthetics and culture, to which the younger generations may not relate.

Reason B: A church’s desire to retain a legacy, even a good legacy, can overshadowed the real purpose of revitalization: to introduce more people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 10:1-16).

Reason 2) The second misguided, but common, starting point for church revitalization is to focus on meeting the needs of the revitalizer.

The revitalizer may feel that they want to start anew with a new type of church. This is similar to what motivates many church planters, i.e. the leader wants to grow an organization that they can form over in the vision they reimagine. They want an organization that they believe will be easier to lead, more like they want and filled with people like them. But this focus will also usually fail. That is because revitalizing a church, like church planting, is a missional effort that usually requires us to be challenged and uncomfortable.  James states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (2:1-4 MSG).

We must expect and be satisfied with the pressures and pains that come from serving Christ in missional activities. Regrettably some people today don’t look upon leadership as a missionary might. Missionaries know that they are going to sacrifice what is comfortable and familiar, in order to bring the Good News to people in need of it. Missionaries I know are leading threadbare, uncomfortable lives in service. Yet, when it comes to a church revitalization, we often want the most comfortable and potentially successful neighborhood in which to revitalize a church or plant one. Rather we should be looking at those with the greatest needs, putting their needs first and putting ourself last.

Reason 3: Meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

This is the reason that leads to successful revitalization.  A revitalization effort by its very name focuses on revitalizing an organization. But perhaps instead we call it re-focusing an organization. We all know that it doesn’t take long after a church is planted or even revitalized, that it begins to focus inward and mainly on its own needs. When that happens the church increasingly becomes focused on programming, staffing and churchgoer activities that make its congregational life more comfortable.

But, a church that is revitalized must first become refocused. That happens when the focus is to turn our eyes to the harvest and seeing its need.  My father grew up on a farm. He knew that when the harvest was ripe you stopped everything else you were doing, even going to school, and went into the field until the harvest was complete. Jesus talking to a similar agricultural society, prepared them to endure hardships in mission by utilizing an agricultural metaphor:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12, MSG).

Thus, I’ve found that a church revitalization starts by a profound and persistent refocus on whose needs are you called to meet. Then your prayers can be focused.

Read the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_march_april_2020IMG_3147.jpeg

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MULTIPLICATION & “3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times”

Ed Stetzer, Twitter, 12/10/19.  
3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.  
You can follow Ed Stetzer on Twitter: @edstetzer

TURNAROUND CHURCH & My new article published: 3 Ways Turnaround Pastors Can Overcome A Negative Mindset … in Themselves!

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 7/1/19.

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Younger people today are discovering churches best grow when focused upon creating community.

So rather than trying to be as good a preacher as a famous mega-pastor, spend your time developing community and commonality within the church. Create church-wide unity building events. And create a vision that all segments of your church can embrace and get behind. Research has found (Bruno Dyck and Fredricks Stark, Administrative Science Quarterly) that pastors who held unity events that united church around a common purpose, created a “community” that was attractive rather than a program or a pastor. So work on finding that mission that everybody in the church can get behind. And, spend as much time working on it as you do your sermons.

I can’t turn around a church because I’ve never done it before. 

This may be the second most common negative mindset. And, this stands to reason, because we are always intimated by what we have not yet experienced. But Paul, who had his own series of challenges, states, “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.” (1 Corinthians 7:17 MSG).

Today there is a growing number of good resources that can equip the pastor to turn around a church, so that prior experience, while helpful, is not mandatory.

Magazines like “Church Revitalizer” magazine and resources like Renovate Conferences offer church leaders the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by successful church turnaround leaders.

I allow each year a handful of potential turnaround coaches to shadow me and learn the turnaround coaching insights I’ve gained from doing this for 30 years and earning two doctorates on the subject (Fuller Theological Seminary). The shadowing program is called MissionalCoaches.com and dozens have graduated from this program and gone on to help turn around churches.

So while prior experience is helpful, the proliferation of good resources like this magazine and other sources means that having experience turning around a church is not a requisite to doing an effective job.

I can’t turn around a church because I don’t like the traditional way of doing things; and I want to do things in a new way.  

There is nothing wrong with innovative and contemporary forms of worship and ministry. But traditional forms of worship and ministry are also valid for the people who connect through those aesthetic forms. Because you don’t like their styles doesn’t mean God doesn’t use their traditional liturgical aesthetics to connect them to God.

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I learned this firsthand, growing up in a mega-church with traditional Gospel Quartet music. The Bill Gaither Trio were often guests at our church meetings. I grew up to associate their country-influenced Gospel music with my parents’ church. But that wasn’t my style. My parents loved it. And I love my parents and the Good News they instilled in me. But I yearned for a younger musical style, to which I and my friends could relate. African-American rhythm and blues and the resultant rock ‘n’ roll music resonated with me. But it also led me to see the church as culturally different from the aesthetics I enjoyed. Subsequently, I found little relevance in the church and into the world of rock ‘n’ roll I journeyed. Yet in that world, I found other young people who loved rock ‘n’ roll and also loved Jesus even more. As a result of their culturally relevant presentation of the Good News to me, I gave my life to Jesus and set upon a path of writing and leading contemporary worship. 

However, because I saw the church as captive to traditional and Gospel music, I developed an unhealthy aversion for older forms of music. That was until I met a beautiful Lutheran girl, who was much more spiritual than me. Yet to her the Lutheran hymns of her church had provided a spiritual strength and wisdom during her youth. She showed me that her music was just a different style than mine, but which for her was still relevant. She gave me an appreciation and love for classical music to this day. Subsequently I became a connoisseur of Charles Wesley and his great hymns.

Our family appreciates a healthy mix of both traditional music and contemporary music. My wife’s loving example of aesthetic flexibility led me to a more holistic life and allowed me to write several books on how to have both traditional and contemporary music in the same church.

Turnaround church leaders learn how to bring unity out of diversity.

Often a dying church will have one form of music and worship aesthetic. It may be a traditional form, it could be a gospel music form, or it could even be a contemporary form. What happens is a church offers only one liturgical aesthetic. And because people have come to connect with God through that particular style, they strongly resist any changes. Change means interfering with their communication with God.

But usually another generation or demographic will emerge that has a different musical appreciation and aesthetic style. And, they will usually go to a new church down the street that offers their liturgical aesthetic. The problem is that this new church down the street usually winds up being as homogeneous as the church that was left behind. What results is that our churches tend to focus on one liturgical aesthetic. Then they rise and die with that aesthetic.

Many turnaround church pastors undertake a strategy I call “1+1 +1 = 1” (“A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church” Abingdon Press). This means allowing traditional congregants to keep their historical way of worship while adding a new worship opportunity. This can be done by hosting a 20-minute pre-glow (pre-service) with a different style of music. Or it can be accomplished by hosting a post-glow (post-service) with 20 minutes of a different style of music. Eventually this can emerge into two worship opportunities. I’ve helped churches do this even when they were small, just a couple dozen people. 

The key is to move toward offering two or more liturgical expressions that can relate to both the existing church culture and the emerging culture of a neighborhood or community. Yet people often say, “You’re spitting the church part.” But you’re only allowing them to self-select the cultural expression of worship that they enjoy. And, the running of the church (e.g. its administration, mission, focus and health) should still be conducted by committees and boards made up of people from different cultures. I’ve often said, you learn more about a different culture by working on a committee with them, than by warming a pew next to them. It has been my experience as a missiologist that you gain more cultural understanding by strategizing, compromising, sharing and dialoguing in a committee setting than you do by simply sitting adjacent to them in chruch. 

So though a turnaround church leader will usually prefer their own worship style, they must be careful to not inadvertently prioritize their preferences over those of others. Instead, multiple worship expressions can be valid means to connect the different cultures in a church to God.  Even if you don’t enjoy their music, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn about it, understand it and help others connect with God through it. Subsequently, alongside a traditional worship expression you can create a second culturally distinct liturgical expression, that another generation or culture can connect with as well. Though everyone has their own preferred style of worship, a church turnaround leader will usually be the principle connector between the the different cultures God is sending to a church.

Download the entire article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Church Revitalizer Magazine July:Aug 2019 Overcome a Negative Mindset

You will find more about Church Revitalizer Magazine and how to subscribe here: http://renovateconference.org/magazine

BIO: Bob Whitesel DMIN PhD teaches “Church Revitalization” for Fuller Theo. Seminary’s DMin, which can be audited this fall (see the ad in this issue). Bob is an award-winning author/consultant on church health and growth. He been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine, co-founded an accredited seminary and leads one of the nation’s most respected church health consulting/coaching firms: www.ChurchHealth.net

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TURNAROUND & They Are About Direction And Consistency, Not Speed Or Size

It’s called a turnaround for a reason. It’s more about the direction you’re heading than the speed you’re going.

By Karl Vaters, Christianity Today, 8/25/17.

…Almost 25 years ago, I was called to help a church turn around from a decade of numerical, emotional, spiritual and missional decline.

There were about 30 very discouraged people when I arrived and, while I wasn’t expecting to go “from 30 to 3,000 in three years!” I did expect a lot more than we got. The church is situated on a busy street in a very populated area, after all. Onward and upward, right?

If you had told me that the church would still be under 100 and worshiping in the same small building after ten years of pastoring, I probably would not have taken the assignment.

And if you’d told me that we’d be under 200 and in the same building 25 years later (as in, today) I’d have been out the door so fast there’d be a Roadrunner cartoon trail of smoke behind me.

But here I am. In exactly that spot. And I’m so profoundly grateful to be here…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2017/august/church-turnarounds-direction-consistency-not-speed-size.html

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SYSTEM 1 of 7Systems.church: COMMUNICATION & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

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This is first (1st) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

You can read the original article in The Church Revitalizer magazine here. Or scroll down further for the entire updated article.

Download the article here … ARTICLE Church Revitalizer Magazine – Turning Around An Invisible Church 16.4

ARTICLE ©Whitesel Ch. Revitalizer April May 2016 Church Visibility (part 1) copy.jpg

COMMUNICATION SYSTEM & How It Results in Visibility (The 1st in the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” Series)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/1/16 (words 1,100)

Before we begin to turnaround or grow into a healthy church, we need to know what we are turning or growing it toward.

The best source for what a healthy and growing church looks like is Hartford Seminary’s exhaustive and reliable: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). I will explain how to address each of what I call “The 7Systems.church of a Growing Church” in this series.

The First is Visibility – The Result of a healthy COMMUNICATION SYSTEM.

We must first understand how to overcome the average church’s invisibility. Plateaued churches don’t change very much and as a result they often get ignored and overlooked by non-churchgoers. I found that even newly planted churches start becoming invisible to the community after about 18 months. Visibility can be remedied by being in a visible location in a growing community. But, what if you aren’t in a growing community? What if you aren’t in a visible location?

I have helped hundreds of churches become visible again, even when they were not in a growing community. To make a church visible again in any community involves three areas: physical visibility, social media visibility, member visibility.

Physical Visibility

Physical visibility means the community sees the physical assets and structures of the church. We have long known that churches in visible locations grow faster and larger than churches in less visible locales. When people over and over again notice a church structure, signage, steeple, etc. it can remind them of their spiritual need. And, when a spiritual need pulls them towards a church, they are most likely to attend the one they’ve noticed. This can be challenging in a turnaround scenario. However, I have helped many, many churches increase their physical visibility and here are some options to consider.

Merging with a more visible church. By joining together with a church in a more visible location you can address the invisibility threat. Read Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird’s book “Better Together” to see how to make mergers work. Moving to a different location and selling your current facility. My experience has been that this often results in the church having a less usable facility. There may be fewer Sunday School rooms, less sanctuary space and even less parking. But if the trade-off is that the church has a greater visibility in the community, then the church can begin to grow toward health.

Building a new facility. Though challenging in revitalization situations, new facilities are cheaper to build than their traditional and Medieval-looking forerunners. When turnaround churches have money to build they usually consider erecting a gymnasium or a fellowship hall to reach out. But, it may be better to build a smaller multipurpose facility in a more visible location.

Social Media Visibility.

In 25+ years consulting churches, I have found that in all churches there are positive things going on that only people going to the church know about. Thus, you want to create social media opportunities for congregants to share with their friends, acquaintances and non-churchgoers some of the exciting things going on.

In the past, churches advertised largely in the Yellow Pages and newspapers. Though Yellow Pages have disappeared (and newspapers may not be far behind) in their place have risen other media channels through which you should be advertising.

Website: It doesn’t need to be professional, but it does need to be informative and geared toward non-churchgoers. WordPress and others offer free templates through which an inexperienced creator can make an informative website. Previously the church secretary was in charge of the weekly bulletins and perhaps a regular newsletter. In the turnaround church, that person learns new skills to communicate via a web presence.

Facebook page: Another requisite media presence, your members can share about the positive things going on in the church. Twitter, etc: Telling about positive things going on in a church via a Twitter account with “hash tags” (#) identifying your church, allows people to easily find postings about the life of a congregation. A church Instagram account can give opportunities for members to share pictures about the positive things happening at congregational life. Other media avenues are sure to arise and mature Christian leaders should pray about and discuss the usefulness of each.

Email: Because there’s so much spam filling email boxes today, it’s best to steer away from emailing people in the community. Emailing congregants to keep them aware of what is going on is fine, but a general blast to the community doesn’t work.

Get the Church a Personalized Web Address, _____(church

name)_____.church: A little-known fact is that you can purchase the extension “.church” and add your church name for an easy to remember web address. The extension “.church” can be purchased through any online Domain Service (but once they’re gone, it’s forever gone so check today).

Member Visibility: Encourage congregants to be proud of what God has accomplished through their church and let people know they are a member. When your congregants are cited in community events, awards, etc. be sure to ask them to include that they are a member of the church. Explain that this is a way to let their light shine, because the community of Christ is a part of their spiritual formation and community impact. Shirts with the church’s name on them, bumper stickers, vinyl

decals, etc. have always been a way to increase congregant visibility. However, it’s always important to remind congregants they should at all times be Christlike, forgiving and humble (and never more so than when displaying something that boldly mentions Christ’s family).

Let the community see the church in worship, praise and service. A YouTube channel of church events can help non-churchgoers see the community of Christ in action. And, a video of worship and ministry should be a primary feature on your website, giving a 30-second glimpse of the excitement of being part of Christ’s community.

Invite the community to participate in praise/worship and food in a neutral location. This can be in a park or in a neutral auditorium. When we take our worship and praise to neutral locations, we give non-churchgoers an opportunity to see the life and anointing of Christ’s body in a familiar environment. While being careful not to invade their space, we also foster communication when a meal is open to all. Jesus’ example of table fellowship broke down walls between his detractors and his disciples, and serves as a model for increasing church visibility today.

Yes, there are ways to help make a church visible again. And, these suggestions are just the tip-of-the-iceberg. For more on the “7Systems.church of a Growing Church” and how to make churches visible again, attend my once-a-year consultant training at the Nov. 1, Renovate ‘16 Pre-conference in Orlando.

In the next article in this series, I will delve into ideas that foster the second mark of a growing church as revealed in Hartford Seminary’s “American Congregations 2015” survey.

Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., is a award-winning writer and sought-after consultant on church growth. Founding professor of Wesley Seminary at IWU, he has held his “Annual 1-Day Church Consultant Training” as a Pre-Conference to Renovate in Orlando.

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology  #Renovate16  #StLiz  #Renovate16 #7Systems.church

SMALL GROUPS & Why A Growing Church Stays as Small As Possible #Video

QUOTE: “Small groups are one of the most important structures in the church for discipleship.” Bob Whitesel.

VIDEO of Bob Whitesel Ph.D., Oct. 2012 at the Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN. Published by ChurchCentral.com. For more info see Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).

http://www.churchcentral.com/videos/PZwsvnDJ/A-growing-church-stays-as-small-as-possible

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #DWC

TURNAROUND & Dying Churches, Revived in a Flash Mob

Mass mobs fill pews, lift prayers at NY churches
by Carolyn Thompson, 2/1/14

Maybe not the way to permanently turn around a church, but perhaps a step towards reconciling emerging and exodus cultures. Email the curator bob1 if you have application ideas to include in this wiki.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/mass-mobs-fill-pews-lift-prayers-ny-churches

A video of Bob Whitesel: OUTREACH & Get Radical by Asking Your Community About Their Needs

Bob Whitesel, Oct. 2012, Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN

Professor Whitesel summarizes a simple “need-based” strategy for growing your church through outreach. (From Church Central’s Turnaround 20/20 summit in 2012.)

http://www.churchcentral.com/videos/Z3gySDt2/Get-radical-ask-your-community-what-it-needs