Plow Horses & Dogs?

I agree with Dr. Gary L. McIntosh, that every church and every church leader needs to refocus from time to time! Every church needs to ask, “What sets us apart from other churches? What can our church offer to the community that is uniquely us?”

The truth is, that may be easier said than done. How can a church refocus? How can a church determine which ministries are unique to them? McIntosh says that it is helpful to categorize all the ministries of your church into one of four areas.

4 Ministry Categories

STARS: Stars refers to the most fruitful ministries–that is, the ministries that are responsible for bringing in the most new people or reaching the most people for Christ.

PUZZLES: This category includes the ministries that appear to be good but are not producing the results you think they should.

PLOW HORSES: The most popular ministries that do not result in many new people coming to Christ or to your church but which you must keep go in this category.

DOGS: The ministries that are draining your church of resources and produce almost no results go here. The church must deal with these ministries by retooling them, reinventing them, or by replacing them with stars.

McIntosh says that some churches find that they have zero stars. If that is the case, the church should focus on starting one new ministry each year for the next 5 years because new ministries tend to reach new people. Programs and ministries become less effective with age. New ministries are the most fruitful.

For more information about Church Revitalization, see the following posts:

Please contact the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention if we can help your church in any way.

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The KEY to Revitalization

I am currently posting highlights from Dr. Gary L. McIntosh’s recently published book aimed at Church Revitalization called There’s Hope for Your Church.  In the last post, we looked at 3 Reasons There Is Hope for Your Church. In this post, we’re going to examine the irreplaceable role that pastoral leadership plays when it comes to church revitalization. I agree with Dr. McIntosh when he says….

“In order for a church to be revitalized, the pastor is the key!”

In chapter two, McIntosh discusses consultant Ken Priddy’s belief that two types of pastors exist: a revitalization pastor and a revitalization leader. A revitalization pastor sees the church as his client while the revitalization leader sees God as his client. A revitalization pastor views himself as an employee of the church while a revitalization leader sees himself as being called by God to lead the church where God wants it to go. Revitalization leaders expect to encounter resistance and are willing to lead without affirmation and often with pain.

“For churches to transition into a new era of ministry, courageous, godly leadership is paramount.”  Terry Walling

One of the reasons that most pastors are not successful in bringing about revitalization is that they simply don’t stay long enough. The average tenure of a senior or solo pastor in the United States in 3.8 years. McIntosh says that it takes 5-7 years to revitalize a church in the city and 10-12 years to revitalize a rural church. The bottom line is that revitalization leaders stay!

McIntosh warns that it is possible for a pastor to stay too long. In his experience, if the church has not experienced revitalization within 10-12 years of the pastor’s tenure, it is not going to happen. Although there are exceptions, the average pastor’s ministry tends to lose momentum after 10 years. After 10 years, the original vision the pastor had for the church has most likely been accomplished, and then the church flounders, searching for a new direction. Some pastors are able to re-envision their life and ministry for another 10 years in the same church, but some cannot and find it best to move to another ministry.

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There’s Hope for Your Church

Gary L. McIntosh recently published a helpful book aimed at Church Revitalization called There’s Hope for Your Church. In his usual style, Dr. McIntosh provides practical, realistic coaching advice for pastors who are embracing the difficult task of helping one of the 75% of American churches that are plateaued or declining. In the next few posts, I’m going to share some of the key teachings from the Dr. McIntosh’s book.

Chapter 1 – See the Potential

If you are currently serving as a pastor in one of the 75% of churches that is on a long-term plateau or declining, THERE IS HOPE! There is hope for renewal, hope for growth, hope for new life! Dr. McIntosh says that there are at least three key reasons for such hope.

3 Reasons There is Hope for Your Church

1.  God wants your church to grow. The first mention of the church in the Bible contains God’s promise that his church will grow: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Today there are approximately two billion Christians in the world. Compared to the small band of believers that met together in the upper room in Acts 1, the world-wide church makes it clear that Christ’s church has grown. God has kept his promise. God wants your church to be fruitful and multiply as well. Acts 12:24 reports that “the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.” God wants his church to grow and multiply across the world as new believers accept the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

2.  God revitalizes & restores churches. The New Testament records several beautiful pictures of restoration, such as the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and the call to the church in Revelation 2 & 3. The implication in Revelation is that God will restore churches that hear and repent.

3.  God is revitalizing churches right now. Dr. McIntosh points out that for the last three decades he has observed churches throughout the United States and Canada being renewed and revitalized. As a Kentucky Baptist pastor for over 23 years, I have been privileged to lead three churches to varying levels of revitalization. I have also been amazed to observe other pastors do so as well.

In a recent Western Recorder article, I read the amazing revitalization story of the Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky where Dr. Steve Ayers serves as Senior Pastor. When he came to the church, only a handful of people remained. Under his 21 years of leadership, the church has baptized over 7,000 new believers and grown to an average weekly attendance of 4,000. Although Hillvue’s story is not typical, it is a vivid testimony that THERE IS HOPE FOR YOUR CHURCH!

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