Today’s guest blogger is John Ewart, a colleague who serves as Associate Vice-President for Global Theological Initiatives and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary. He is also the president and founder of A New Normal: Church and Denominational Consultation and Conferencing and the creator of R.E.A.C.H. (Reaching Every Available Community Household – a prayer, outreach, and discipleship strategy implemented through the open small group ministry in local churches). He has authored various book chapters, curriculums, and articles, including the e-book, A New Normal: Creating Understood Value for a Revitalized Church. I asked John to write this post because I wanted you to know about this book.
We know the church is more than a series of programs and quantitative measurements, but we still think this way and talk this way sometimes. In that case, church revitalization is just adjusting an organization. We must, however, embrace the idea that church revitalization is first the revitalization of individual church members. It is an individual discipleship and renewal process occurring in a corporate context.
Much church revitalization focuses on quantitative measurements. They’re important, but they’re also usually just symptoms of qualitative issues unless some major external factor is at play. If, for example, a factory that employs several people in a town shuts down, the church should expect quantitative decline.
Most church revitalization issues, however, are not quantitative. They’re qualitative. Not baptizing people is a symptom, not the disease. Why are you not baptizing people? Why don’t your members share their faith? The base spiritual issues must be revealed and addressed.
As I walk with churches in revitalization, I follow these phases to help churches return to health and stay healthy:
- Phase one is Assessment. Quantitative and qualitative assessments of the congregation and the community are needed. These help us to see who we really were, really are, and where we really are. The quantitative assessment helps to reveal qualitative issues.
- Phase two is Identification. Built on Assessment, this phase looks at who we need to become. Churches going through this phase create discipleship goals for their individual members. For revitalization to occur, we must embrace why and who we are supposed to be to fulfill the mission of God. This phase creates an understood value for church membership.
- Phase three is Vision Development. To become who we ought to be and to fulfill these goals, what plan do we need to follow? For example, how can the church’s schedule assist members in goal achievement and ministry engagement? In this phase, leaders work together to develop a comprehensive plan.
- Phase four is Adjustment. What must be started or stopped for this new plan to work and be healthy? Phases 1-3 create an understanding for why change is necessary and provide the foundation for change. Leaders working together build a coalition for adjustment.
- Phase five is Implementation. This phase means launching the new plan to aid members in goal achievement and ministry engagement. Revitalization occurs as each member is renewed by this growth and practice of faith. Then, the church must immediately begin to Assess what was Implemented—and the cycle begins again.
Remember, the church is just members. It’s us. Many of us, though, need revitalization. We need a new normal.