Leading Turnaround Churches (Part 1)

Over the next few posts, I want to hit broadly the idea of leading turnaround churches, or ‘Comeback Churches‘ as Ed Stetzer put it in his excellent book on this subject.  From statistics I have seen, the American church is on a path that is not good.  Each year in American, between 3500-4000 churches will close their doors.  Half of the churches currently established will not report a single conversion in a year’s time. I am very passionate about planting churches and still feel it is the best means of evangelism, but we have thousands and thousands of churches already established.

What if these churches caught fire and started reaching their communities again?  What if the churches already established rivaled church plants for their innovation and creativity in reaching segments of people no one is reaching? Imagine what could happen!

With that idea in mind, let’s dive in to this idea of ‘Leading Turnaround Churches’.  To take a church from a path of death, to one of vibrant life the leadership must first identify what the end goal is for that specific church. What is that church’s win?  Yes, that is of course reaching the lost, but what does that mean for this specific church?

For one of our church plants, Element Church, this means providing a church experience with an edge in a rock concert venue to reach young adults and serve a hurting community.  What does it mean for your church?  Here are a few probing questions the lead pastor and key leaders can process to help discover what this end goal might be:

  • What is the burden & vision God has given the lead pastor for this community?  How do the leaders connect with this?
  • Why has God placed this church at this place at this time in history?
  • What unique doors for ministry has God opened that can be leveraged to reach more people for Christ?
  • Are there things the church is doing that would be missed by the community if the church wasn’t there?

To take this one step further, once the leadership identifies what the end goal is to be for this specific church, it needs to be written and communicated in a memorable way. Andy Stanley is one of the best at this idea of creating a memorable vision.  He says, “…if your vision is going to stick in people’s minds, it must be memorable.” (Making Vision Stick, 19)

To make it memorable, write the end goal, or vision out in a short, easy to remember sentence.  This may start as a paragraph, but people will not remember a paragraph.  This sentence does not need to be all-inclusive, but should grasp the spirit of what that end goal is.  Another one of our church plants, BridgePoint Church, states their purpose for existence this way: “Connecting Real People to a Real God.” It’s simple, memorable and easy to repeat.

So the first step to leading a turnaround church is identify the reason this specific church is in existence.  What is the end goal?

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