Three Must-Haves of Every Church Revitalization

Sam Rainer

June 17, 2018


“Some churches just need to die.” I’ve heard some variation of this quote several times. It’s false. Certain congregations may indeed die but not because they need to die. If God can save any person, then He can save any church. I believe any church, no matter how far gone, has the potential to be saved.

Many established churches are in need of revitalization. There are degrees of revitalization, of course. In some cases, revitalization is needed in parts of the church while other areas remain healthy. Other churches could use a complete overhaul.

Regardless of the amount of work required, whether it’s one ministry area or the entire congregation, there are three must-haves of every church revitalization. These three must-haves apply to churches of any size or denominational background. Most churches will require more work beyond these three items, but the vast majority of revitalizations will include them.

  1. Proper expectations. Congregants must have a realistic view of the future. The glory days may not return, at least in the way people remember them. Poor attitudes often arise when unrealistic expectations are present. One of the main responsibilities of those leading the revitalization effort is to align the expectations of the church with a realistic objective for the next five years
  2. Outward focus. A stationary church is a disobedient church. No church can be revitalized without reclaiming an outward focus. An inward focus almost always produces disunity. An outward focus always produces unity. All successful church revitalizations involve an intentional, ongoing effort to reach and minister to those beyond the physical walls of the facility. In almost every case, the outward focus begins with the lead pastor. Evangelistic churches have evangelistic pastors.
  3. Relational skills. Church revitalization often fails because the pastor has poor relational skills. The converse is true as well. Successful revitalization is often led by a church leader with good relational skills. Poor relational skills are driven by either an unwillingness to be held accountable or a lack of self-awareness, or both. A pastor lacking in relational skills will not foster the culture necessary for revitalization.

There are three must-haves of every church revitalization: proper expectations, outward focus, and relational skills. Without them, revitalization efforts will likely fizzle.


7 comments on “Three Must-Haves of Every Church Revitalization”

  1. Sam
    Though we’ve never met I have known your dad for over 20 years (I know – you hear that all the time). I appreciate your thoughts. Recenlty I heard your dad speak about your passion for neighborhood churches. As a rural church pastor for nearly 27 years in the same church I’d be interested in some of the resources you’ve relied on for information and so on about neighborhood churches. Though I am full time our regional network of Southern Baptist Churches fin Southern Oregon have asked me to take some leadership in helping to strengthen churches and to assist in starting a sustainable church planting movement.
    Thanks for all you do in advancing Kingdom causes
    Steve Schenewerk

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Steve – Thank you! Unfortunately, the sources on neighborhood churches are thin. A search on Amazon reveals few options. I’ve found Clifton’s book “Reclaiming Glory” to be one of the better works, even though it’s on revitalization generally and not neighborhood churches specifically. I’m beginning to write a book on the neighborhood church, so keep an eye out for it!

  3. Kenny Rains says:

    Thank you for your comments. I am pastor of a small town FBC that is in revitalization mode. Our church family is regaining momentum through establishing various community ministries and events with an evangelistic focus . Our church family like many others in similar circumstances are willing but not always able due to age. In regard to
    in regard to expectations how do I know when I pushed our church family too much/far? I am pacing myself to avoid personal burnout but my energy level is higher than the greater percentage of our members. I am
    Afraid I will burn them out if we attempt to do too much at once.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Kenny – You’ve brought up and excellent point, and also showing you have high relational skills! You–as the lead pastor–will always be more passionate and energetic about new endeavors than anyone else in the church. It’s the nature of leadership. The best way to understand pace is to stay at ground level with your people. Listen more and give less directives. Ask them questions. Likely, you will have an intuitive sense of when to slow down and when to speed up by the way people talk. If you can find two or three people in the church who will give you honest answers “off the record,” then even better. I even phrase the question in that way, “Hey, I need to ask a question off the record, and I trust you. How is everyone in the church? They ok with the latest round of changes?” It’s my way of understanding where people are right in the moment.

    2. Jim Hodge says:

      Kenny Rains,

      Not sure if this reply will get to you off this blog but here goes! I am a pastor of a church being revitalized too. I’m curious what various community ministries and events with a evangelistic focus you have led with your church. Ideas along those lines would be greatly appreciated.


      Jim Hodge

      1. Sam Rainer says:

        Jim – We are working through how to be more evangelistic. It’s something we can improve! We’ve gone door-to-door. We’ve done evangelism training. We help serve the homeless daily and monthly do local mission work as a church family, all with some efforts at evangelism. Every event we do has an evangelistic element to it. We still lack a culture of evangelism, but it’s building. Next year we’ll be doing the Invite Your One program. We’re praying for more opportunities!

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