I’ve been driving a lot more lately with the addition of a facilitator job to my weekly schedule, so I try to make the most of my life time. I used to use that time to make phone calls and often would make those calls to my wife, but she has enough on her plate to not have me yap in her ear for a few hours of my drive! So I decided to take on the task of reading, or in this case listening to books on audio. It’s been a pretty great experience. I dove into all sorts of books, but admittedly most of them are very churchy, go figure! Here’s a quick review of my latest read.
I recently finished a book titled ReClaimed Church that draws a picture of what the church looks like in the world today. Author Bill Henard does a nice job laying out the five major life-stages of churches in the world today. In his assessment those five stages are birth, growth, plateau, decline and death. He then continues with the assertion that the majority of churches in North America are in latter 3/5 of this list. That means that over 60% of the congregations in the U.S. are at best plateaued but more than likely declining or even on death row.
Now, if he would have left the book at this point and dropped the issue, I would have had a pretty significant problem. I live by two philosophies. One is don’t give me excuses, give me results. And the second is don’t bring a problem without offering a solution, or at a minimum being willing to work toward one!
Henard does a nice job describing what has to happen for churches to reinvigorate their life stage and start a new cycle. Unfortunately, he also shares that smaller churches die at a faster rate than larger churches simply because they have less of a pool to pull from both in regard to people and finances. Henard also offers a word of caution to our young seminarians who will one day be in these plateaued, declining or even dead churches. He encourages seminaries and their future pastors to start looking at revitalization as a course of study for all who will soon be ordained. A simple look around will show us that larger, growing and vibrant churches aren’t losing their pastors which means they’re not looking for new pastors. And if larger churches aren’t going to call (church word for hiring) new pastors from our seminaries, then the only places open are the smaller churches that are plateaued, declining or even dying.
So what do we do about it? Henard spends some time sharing how the young seminarian should familiarize himself with the ways of revitalization and growth strategies. But he also addresses at some length the congregations themselves. For churches to change course we need to be willing to look at life and ministry a little differently. Churches need to reevaluate their values, mission and vision. They need to be more intentional about how they approach ministry life and how they serve their communities.
If you’re in church leadership, are considering church leadership or associated with a church that you may fear is in one of these later stages, then this book is a good resource to consider. Not the most riveting read in the world but it does have some good content and helpful insights. Check it out!