Church Turnaround: An Example

turnaroundRick McKinley, Director of Congregational Development for the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, recently shared an example of church turnaround.  While I encourage you to read his entire account, I want to focus on one significant shift: the role of pastor.

Based on what they’d learned about themselves and their community, a strategic change in pastoral leadership was made. They were told that the new pastor wasn’t going to hold their hand. Pastoral leadership as they knew it was over. There was a new commitment to an outward focused life. The pastor’s priority was primarily to those not already part of the congregation.

So What?

In dying congregations pastors often spend more and more time with fewer and fewer members (and in the upkeep of buildings wherein such members gather for worship and meetings).  Such congregations should find this account and others like it to inspire them to look beyond those already committed to participating in the life of the congregation within its walls by freeing their pastor to focus on outreach, and by allowing that model to impact how others within the faith community function.

Church turnaround is as much art as it is science.  At its best it is a Spirit-directed endeavor that enables growth for those already involved and growth through welcoming those who had no prior involvement.

Think of your congregation if it is declining or of any congregation you know somewhat well that has been experiencing decline for several years:

  • Is the congregation more internally focused or externally focused?
  • What percentage of the pastor’s time is spent caring for members vs. reaching out into the community?

While stories of church closures are common, it is important that we tell stories of churches that are turning around from decline to growth.  Share one example, including a few reasons why you believe the turnaround is happening.

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