5 Questions for Churches that Are “Stuck in the Mud”

As a boy growing up in Eastern Kentucky, my brother and I rode bicycles and later motorcycles in the mountains a lot.  Occasionally we would get bogged down in a muddy area and get stuck.  Regardless of what we seemed to do, we weren’t going anywhere.  At that point, we had to try something different in order to get unstuck.  Sometimes a simple push would do the job, but one time we had to hook a rope to my motorcycle and pull it out with a truck.  The goal was always to get unstuck, so we could keep using the bicycles and motorcycles for their intended purpose–speeding along the trails.

Studies indicate that 75% of churches in Kentucky and 80-85% nationwide are “stuck” (plateaued) or “sinking” (declining).  Not surprisingly, 55,000 churches will close their doors between 2005-2020.

One of the things we are discovering as we visit churches across our state is that the churches that are “stuck in the mud” usually do not have a plan of ministry and those that have “traction” do have a ministry plan!  Here are some questions that will help as you think about a ministry plan.

5 Questions to Ask if Your Church is Stuck

1.  Does your church have a ministry plan?  You know the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”  Also, “if you aim at nothing, you’re probably going to hit it.”  A ministry plan does not have to be elaborate or complicated, but a Biblical plan that can be understood and followed can be the KEY to moving a church forward.

2.  Does your plan have a leader?  The senior or lead pastor is the key person in developing and communicating the ministry plan.  He is not the only person who is important to the process, but he is vital for success.  John C. Maxwell says that anyone can steer the boat, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

3.  Does the staff know the plan?  Many church staffs are working hard, but they’re not working together–not working in the same direction.  In order to move a church forward, the staff must be moving in the same direction.  The staff must plan the work and work the plan–the same plan!

4.  Do the members know the plan?  It is common for the ministry plan to be lost between the staff and the pew.  The plan must be communicated over and over, again and again.

5.  Does the plan shape our decisions and ministries?  Sometimes the most difficult question is not what do we do, it is what do we no longer do?  “Churches tend to function day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year doing pretty much the same things.  They assume that existing ministries continue to be sufficient for today’s needs and tomorrow’s opportunities”  (Gary L. McIntosh).  Being busy is not enough!  We must not just do good things; we must do God’s things, i.e., the ministries to which God has called us!

Let me know if I or one of my consultants can help you in any way as you strive to get your church unstuck!  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

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Revitalization Pastors – Part Two

Weights
In the post, Revitalization Pastors – Part One, we looked at the first 5 characteristics possessed by pastors who lead churches to experience significant revitalization and health.  In this post, we will look at 5 additional characteristics.  These 10 characteristics are listed in random order and all are equally important.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

6.  Revitalization pastors demonstrate dependence on God.  This should not surprise anyone!  The Scriptures clearly teach our need for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Revitalization pastors seem to understand this fully because they consistently spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, they often cry out to God for His blessing on the ministries of the church, and they lead the church to give God the glory when they experience a spiritual “win” as a congregation.

7.  Revitalization pastors are Lifetime Learners.  You’ve heard the saying “leaders are learners.”  We would add the saying “revitalization pastors are readers.”  Even those who are not avid readers find other ways to learn.  They often listen to other pastor’s sermons, attend conferences, participate in state convention growth opportunities, and meet with other pastors to learn best practices.

8.  Revitalization pastors develop leaders and laborers in the church.  Revitalization pastors agree with the Apostle Paul that one of the main roles of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).  As a result, they develop a leadership development strategy for the church, regularly delegate ministry responsibilities to trusted people, and personally mentor a group of men in the congregation.

9.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to celebrate wins.  They celebrate wins by showing appreciation to church volunteers who serve faithfully.  They sometimes ask for testimonies of where people recently saw God at work.  They regularly focus on positive things that happen in the life of the church.

10.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to implement change.  Revitalization pastors spent time thoroughly explaining the reason behind a needed change and invested extra time with people who were slow to accept a needed change.  They bathed proposed changes in significant prayer and resisted moving too quickly when making a major change.

We discovered that revitalization pastors come in all shapes and sizes, but they share these characteristics.  We also discovered that there is a desperate need for Godly leadership in the local church.  It is not enough for a pastor to develop a vision for revitalization, but he must LEAD the people to fulfill that vision.  In many cases, it takes years to see stagnant churches become vibrant and healthy, so revitalization pastors tend to have longer tenures.  Many studies show a relationship between pastoral tenure and church health.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor.

 

 

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3 Types of Planning Needed in the Church

PlanningIn my last post, When Your Church Is Stuck in the Mud, I began to talk about the importance of planning.  In a church, there are different kinds of planning, and all types are important. In his book, Here Today, There Tomorrow [1], Dr. Gary L. McIntosh provides a good overview of the 3 main types of planning in a church.

3 Types of Planning Needed in the Church

1.  Standing Plans.  Standing plans are sometimes referred to as policies.  Standing plans assist churches to handle issues that come up frequently, such as weddings, baptisms, and use of facilities.  They also provide direction in emergency situations, such as what to do in case of a fire or if someone is injured on the church campus.  Standing plans make allowance for unexpected situations such as when a decision must be made but those with authority to make decisions are not available.  I personally find that most churches have standing plans in place.  They may or may not be written, but they are understood.

2.  Routine Plans.  Routine plans are often referred to as schedules.  This type of plan predicts what will take place on a daily, a weekly, a monthly, or a yearly time frame.  Churches typically operate with master calendars for worship; adult, youth, and children’s activities; and a host of other ministry functions that take place in a routine manner.  Most churches have become too predictable in this area.  Improvements and changes are generally needed.

3.  New Plans.  This form of planning goes by several names–master planning, long-range planning, strategic-planning, or simply planning ahead.  This is the “engine” area of planning for churches that are STUCK or SINKING!  Years ago, long-range plans meant developing a 5-10 year plan, but in our fast changing world today, long-range is more like 2-3 years.  It is imperative that we make these types of plans, ESPECIALLY if we are a church in need of revitalization.

If you need help in this area, our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention specializes in this area.  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3471 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

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[1] Gary L. McIntosh. Here Today, There Tomorrow (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), 37-38.

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Churches Can Be Happy, Happy, Happy

Duck DynastyEvery time I watch Duck Dynasty I go away with a smile.  I’m encouraged, challenged, and sometimes emotionally moved.  In short, I go away happy, happy, happy.  Why can’t our churches be that way?  If our Baptist churches were a little more happy, I suspect that 75% of them wouldn’t be declining or on a long plateau.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about the heresy of prosperity theology that is expounded from so many mega pulpits today.  I’m simply talking about preaching the truth of the Bible in love and in the joy of the Lord.  Biblically, the Greek word for joy is the word chara.  The word occurs 59 times in the Word of God and is generally translated “joy” throughout.  Joy is not something that is derived from the world; joy comes from Jesus.

In a recent post at Thomrainer.com, Dr. Thom S. Rainer shared Nine Traits of Happy Churches.  Here’s Dr. Rainer’s list:

  1. The pastor was a strong leader, but not an autocratic leader. He was able to maintain that healthy balance of providing clarity of vision without imposing his will on every decision.
  2. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the congregation. In both his actions and his words, the pastor communicated clearly that he loved the members of the church. And he loved them regardless of their apparent feelings toward him, though most of the members genuinely loved the pastor as well.
  3. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the community where the church was located. Though he could not be omnipresent, the pastor made it a point to be involved in many of the affairs of the community. He genuinely loved people in the community and viewed the entire area as his mission field.
  4. The ministry staff liked each other, and they worked well together. If there are tensions among the staff, they cannot be hidden from the congregation. But if the staff is unified and banter in fun with one another, the members feed off that joy and unity.
  5. A high proportion of the membership was actively involved in ministry. When church members are doing the work of ministry, they have a sense of fulfillment and joy. When they aren’t, they often have extra time on their hands to be divisive.
  6. Business meetings were brief and friendly. These meetings were rarely a time of infighting and complaining. To the contrary, most of the members were too busy doing ministry to be negative (see #5).
  7. A high proportion of the members were in a small group or Sunday school class. Community grew in these small groups. People who are true members of a community tend to be happier people.
  8. The pastor’s time in the Word was protected. It is easy for a pastor to yield his time in the Word for the tyranny of the urgent. Thus he becomes frustrated, as he has to rush to complete a sermon, or as he does not have sufficient time to do the sermon well. The members likewise become frustrated because they don’t feel like the pastor is feeding them. A happy church makes certain that the pastor has adequate time every week to be in the Word.
  9. The pastor had a small informal or formal group to whom he was accountable. This group includes those members who clearly love the pastor. They offer both encouragement and accountability for him. The interchange between this group and the pastor is frank, transparent and, overall, healthy. And all communications take place on an unmistakable foundation of love.

If churches truly want to experience revitalization, this list should be reviewed from time to time.  Keep in mind, this IS NOT a formula for church revitalization, but let’s be honest, it sure couldn’t hurt!  People are much more likely to “tune in” to a church that is happy, happy, happy!

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