Five Often-Missed Questions in Church Revitalization

Sam Rainer

September 30, 2018


A new movement is beginning to take shape in North America. More pastors and church leaders are focusing on church revitalization. People are starting to do something with these churches that are on every street corner.

I’m excited.

While it’s too early to tell how widespread a revitalization movement will become, I have high hopes. For the last several decades, we’ve written off too many churches, assuming they are destined to die. We don’t write off individuals in this way, so why would we do the same for a congregation of people?

As a pastor and consultant, I’ve been helping revitalize churches for almost twenty years. Through two new endeavors with my father, we hope to provide resources and pathways to expand current efforts in church revitalization. Revitalize Network is a newly formed non-profit organization created with the single purpose of revitalizing churches. Church Answers is a new organization with the purpose of equipping and growing leaders in the local church.

There are some clear warning signs in churches pointing to a need for revitalization. A lack of evangelism, inward focus, obsession over facilities, and short-term pastor tenures are obvious indicators a church is in trouble.

But what are some items that are often missed? What questions can you ask to pick up on cues that otherwise may go unnoticed?

  1. What is the reputation of the church? Ask people in the community, not those in the church. The community may know nothing about the church. Or people may have a specific view of the church that is attached to a particular event or former leader. Whether good, bad, or ugly, you need to know.
  2. What is in the governing documents? Some churches put these documents on the level of Scripture while others have not read them in decades. All church revitalizations need spiritual help, but many of them also need to update the legal documents governing the church. Don’t attempt to revitalize a church until you understand the constitution, covenant, and bylaws.
  3. What can you learn about the physical property? Many revitalization projects involve updating the facility and campus. Before jumping into renovations and updates, make sure you understand where property lines begin and end, what zoning and code restrictions are in place, and if previous projects had any issues.
  4. What is in the designated accounts? In my years of consulting and pastoring, I’ve often been surprised at what funds are designated and where. These funds can total well into the six figures in some established churches, if not more. And they can sit there, year-after-year, without being put to use.
  5. What history can you learn from previous pastors? If a church is considering you as a lead pastor, then contact previous pastors and talk with them. They will give you a perspective that no one else can give.

The revitalization movement is just beginning. Much work is needed. But don’t miss these questions before accepting the responsibility to revitalize a church.


4 comments on “Five Often-Missed Questions in Church Revitalization”

  1. Rob Paul says:

    Sam, I’m about to begin consulting with a church that thinks they are financially broke. Their budget giving has drastically declined, but they have over $750,000 in designated funds – more than three times their annual budget!

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Wow. It’s more common than most realize.

  2. Roberta Jones says:

    I notice many rural areas with dying or abandoned churches. In earlier years, Methodists faithfully scattered churches every two or three miles. Many of those congregations still exist, but few thrive. This revitilization topic gives me hope. Thanks!

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      So true. The Methodists were pioneers in many ways. I’ve got hope too!

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