After reading a recent article entitled “6 Ways to Reverse a Church Decline” from ChurchLeaders.com I felt compelled to share my thoughts. In my thirty six plus years of attending church regularly I have for the most part attended two small churches with about sixty people or so in attendance each. They at times struggle to find ways to reach the community that’s around them. I have also visited and had close personal friends pastor churches that started with a handful of people and have seen God grow them into churches with hundreds attending regularly.
I agree with the author of this article that there is rarely a quick fix to churches that have leveled off or are declining. However I think his thoughts and research offer some viable ideas. So this article offers six, “more common ways I have seen churches reverse a decline.” Here are my thoughts, and I invite you to share your thoughts on these six points.
1.They enter a time of corporate prayer and fasting.
We so under estimate the power of such work, and it can be work. To invest the time to earnestly slow ourselves down and enter into a place with God that we can earnest seek out His desires for our congregation can be work. Fasting is too often overlooked for it’s value in a willing abstinence that turns our face towards Him.
Such a devotion to prayer and fasting can and must be the beginning of the turning point. It doesn’t matter if it begins as the author suggest, with just a few or many. I was once part of a group that kept two members in prayer at the altar for twenty four hours of constantly seeking His will. We must fully understand that no matter what, it is only God that will ultimately bring about growth in our churches but that through prayer and fasting we can realize the part that He has for us each in His plan.
2.They start new groups.
Why start new groups, new Sunday School classes and such? I believe we become set in our ways, to complaisant and the need to shake things up is great. Break up current Sunday School classes by changing the leadership which offers new insight and styles of teaching. Change the participants by changing the age group providing again different insights from various perspectives. Sharing groups can be started that offer discussion starters to prompt talk about what God is doing in our lives. This builds a stronger, loving core group. Open up groups with friends, neighbors or co-workers. It doesn’t matter how small. Offer beginner groups for those who may have never read the Bible and are lost by our “church words” that create a sense of not fitting in. There are a plethora of possible groups as the author suggests that can begin the turn around.
3.They start new worship services.
I really like the idea of new services. Make our services more accessible by possibly offering multiple times, days and styles including new elements. We each worship and experience God in different ways, explore them. How about the great opportunities around our neighborhoods? Hold services at different locations like school auditoriums, movie theaters and outdoor sport locations.
4.They emphasize the power of inviting.
I recall reading once of a study done on why people first come to church. As a church we have web sites, social media, pod casts, radio and television, in fact we spend billions a year on such ministries yet the fact is that people first visit a church because someone they knew or a family member invited them. I’m not suggesting these ministries are not important but what has always worked in the greatest way is the simple invitation by a friend or loved one. If leaders of our congregations, from every possible avenue invite others we create a sense of openness to others. We put that thought into the minds and hearts of our hearers which leads them to follow the pattern and invite others. Inviting others must be a major part of our thought processes which will also affect all areas of our ministries.
5.They emphasize the importance of groups growing.
We are so quick to say that numbers don’t matter but I don’t agree. Stop trying to convince me that a church that is not on some scale increasing it’s numbers in attendance is still growing. If you don’t see an increase in the people in your classes, groups and worship services you are not growing. If the early church would have been satisfied with just maintaining itself, it’s own spiritual well being and not fulfilling the great commission, there would be no church today because they would have all died off. Is your church dyeing off or is it earnestly seeking and driving towards growth in all areas, are all goals steered towards growth? Is it’s over all motivation to grow or maintain and be comfortable? Is it stuck doing the same things, the same ways regardless of results? Is it willing to take the risk required to reach the lost, to grow?
6.They truly serve the community.
I have always believed that one of the greatest avenues of growth for a church is through service. I’ve seen and been a part of that working. Again you can sit back and be comfortable and content with your donation to a compassionate ministry, which is important, or you can pick up a paint brush and not only make a difference but meet the very people who need to see Christ in action through you. It can be as simple as cleaning someone’s yard, giving out free water at some community event or being a part of a ministry reaching the everyday needs of people in need within your community. It’s about as the author of the article says so well, become “ a force for mobilization to meet needs expressed.” In service you can help to meet the needs of those around us, share Christ, invite others and be fully blessed by God in doing it.
There are no quick or easy fixes to a declining or stuck church. There must be changes to our commitment, services, groups and outreach ministries but perhaps the greatest change must be to our mindset and attitudes. Think about it, seek Gods direction but most of all follow where God leads.
Sharing His Spirit, tRP