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5 practical revitalization exercises

| by Jim Barber

If your church is either struggling deeply or just plain stagnant, it needs revitalization. But you may lack practical steps to ensure fruit from your efforts. Here are five practical exercises that have the potential to give you a return on your investment of time and energy. 

Approach this as a leadership team. Work hard at reaching consensus. Devote time to gather and engage these exercises. Pray over them. You may also want the help of a denominational leader or an independent consultant who can facilitate these exercises for you. 

Define church health 

Step way back and develop a biblical definition of health. What does a healthy church look like? What does it value? What does it do? How do nationally known authors define this? If your leadership team can reach consensus on this, you have a firm foundation to build on. 

When we train and certify consultants and pastors through the Society for Church Consulting, this type of thinking is at the core of our material. 

Assess the health of your church 

As important as defining church health is, you still need to make it useful by holding your church up in the mirror and assess your own health. In Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture, Aubrey Malphurs called this measuring—the difference between having aspirational values and actual values.

Using your health definition and various assessment tools you should come to consensus on those aspirational values that, if changed, have the potential to remove hindrances to the effectiveness of your church. 

Develop a reality-based vision 

Probably one of the more desperate attempts at revitalization that some pursue is to start by writing a catchy or inspiring vision statement, without doing the hard work of grounding their vision. Your definition of health and your health assessment are like a GPS system that can take you to a preferable future. But you must follow the route the GPS is giving you. 

The churches I have worked with on revitalization are willing to be honest about today’s reality from their health assessment and then they work on a vision and a plan that helps them improve their health. 

Create an annual strategic rhythm 

Grounding your vision is a huge step, but I can recommend another step that is equally important. Over 25 years ago in my church, we developed a practice of annually refreshing our vision, our strategic initiatives and the alignment of our programs, people and budgets. This discipline created a cultural norm of annual change, improvement, and the pursuit of health. 

After you develop your vision and path forward, put on your calendar three phases, each phase taking place within three-month increments. These phases are: vision and strategies; people and programs; and budgeting. One of the many benefits of this is that it prevents the tail of budgeting from wagging the dog of vision. The dog should wag the tail, not vice versa. 

Brainstorm a strengthen-stop-start path

Finally, one way to either establish your first strategic path or to refresh it, is to ask, “What do we need to strengthen, stop or start to make our church healthier?” Have someone facilitate this considering your health assessment. Have three separate brainstorming exercises where you make a list for each option of strengthen, stop, and start. Then narrow the list of actions from all three exercises to the five that have the most potential to improve your health.  

 I am currently consulting a church that realized that one thing they had to strengthen was the fit of their governance structure so that it did not get in the way of their vision and strategies. That was near the top of the list for them. What would be near the top of your list?

Photo source: istock 

Jim Barber

Jim Barber is the President of both the Society for Church Consulting and Barber Church Consulting. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the Society, facilitates training conferences, conducts webinar training, and coaches those aspiring to become consultants. In his consulting, he conducts various church assessments, facilitates strategic planning, and coaches churches through changes in leadership structure.

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