Renewal is an elusive quality in most congregations. It’s also widely misunderstood.
Congregational renewal is not created by more people in pews, more bible studies or more outreach. It’s not a function of working harder or even smarter. It doesn’t come by getting younger people or expanding the ranks of young adults. It’s not caused by more money in the offering plates or even setting up online giving. It’s not about better preaching, or better trained people, or higher quality programs.
These may be outcomes of renewal, but they are not its cause.
So, if renewal isn’t caused by any of the signs we normally associate it with, what is it caused by? In this post, I want to share with you the underlying practices that give rise to renewal. And how to know if your congregation is practicing them or not.
In my work with churches, I have identified 7 areas that are consistently present in churches that experience renewal. These include Clear Mission, Bold Vision, Aligned Ministries, Flexible Culture, Courageous Demonstrations of Faith, Life-giving Spirituality, and Engaged Leadership. They seem to hold true whether your church is progressive or conservative, rural or urban, small or large.
To see where your church falls, take the self-scoring assessment, and then let’s talk.
If you scored 1-40 POINTS, your congregation is on LIFE SUPPORT. Your church is gasping for air. It’s in need of a strong infusion of faith, vision, and passion. Or perhaps a funeral. Either way, it’s time to put the old patterns and old ways of doing things on permanent pause.
Your next steps: Consider your options. Is it time to close? Become a legacy congregation? Or a resurrection site from which something new can arise? Find ways to honor the past, then make way for a very different future.
If you scored 41-80 POINTS: it’s time to ask yourselves, CAN THESE BONES LIVE? Your congregation has likely slipped from serving God and serving others to a fear-based inertia. Sentimentality and longing are frequent topics of conversation while vision and passion are things of the past. Risky faith is but a memory. Spiritual practices and ministries focus only on comfort. Conflict, or the threat of it, is ever-present.
Your next steps: Gather a vision team and begin to pray for God’s next vision for you. Do not let the fear of conflict or time-honored tradition waylay you from sensing God’s new promptings. Pay special attention to cultivating Life-Giving Spirituality, Engaged Leadership and Flexible Culture.
If you scored 81-120 POINTS: discover FRESH WINDS OF THE SPIRIT. One of two things is happening. Either your congregation is leaning into best practices, and discovering new ways to respond to the Gospel. Or your congregation is slipping away from its former glory days, and just doesn’t know it yet. You likely have a sense of Clear Mission, even if Bold Vision is tenuous. You have some strength in Aligned Ministries and Life-Giving Spirituality.
Your next steps: Cast a Bold Vision. Look beyond yourself and your own survival to the needs and resources of the community. The more you do this, the more fear will fall away and faith will take its place. Partner with God to launch new ministries aligned with your vision, to rotate leadership and practice more courageous demonstrations of faith. Ensure that you are practicing high accountability, and mentoring new leaders to get to the next step.
If you scored 121-160 POINTS: celebrate that you are RENEWED AND REFRESHED. Your congregation is leading the way with inspiring vision, life-giving passion, and fear-defying faith. You know who you are and what you’re about. You are on the leading edge of each of the 7 areas of best practice. Most of all, you are expanding assumptions about what is possible and deeply connected to the Source and Spirit of your faith.
Your next steps: Celebrate and freely communicate your successes! Mentor other churches, grounding them in the best practices you have discovered. Make sure leadership is revived, and that you do not rest on your laurels for too long. Cast the next life-giving Bold Vision.
No matter what stage your congregation is in, once you start on the path of renewal, keep the lines of communication open. Treat each other with respect and patience. As exciting as renewal is, there will be some push-back as things change.
Ready to dig in or have questions? Please contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to map out your next steps. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call 307-320-6779.
Finally, let us empower you to read your congregational culture, grow in leadership smarts and shift the culture of your congregation. Creating a Culture of Renewal Groups are forming for 2017-2018. Join the one that’s closest to you.