Written by Larry Doornbos
July 10, 2024

Does Your Church Need a Restart?

Essential choices must be made when a church moves onto the downward slope of its lifecycle. There is hope for churches that need a restart.

Essential choices must be made when a church moves onto the downward slope of its lifecycle. This is especially true as the church moves from early to late aging.

  • When the church enters this stage of its lifecycle, simple renewal is rarely an option; more drastic measures need to take place. The church needs to look toward either completing and blessing (i.e., completing ministry and blessing other ministries with the church’s assets) or moving toward a restart.

There is hope for churches that need a restart! Gordon Penfold and Gary Taylor’s book, Restart Churches: A Proven Strategy to Restore Vibrant Ministry in Your Church, offers a pathway for restarting a church.

  • Penfold and Taylor note that the vast majority of restart churches actually succeed and see an increase in membership, giving, and ministry impact.
  • They lay out several essential moves for restart success, which I’ll highlight in this week’s newsletter.
Four Critical Moves of Restart Churches
  1. The Church Need to be willing to change and give up control
  • The present leadership must let go of the reins and allow new leaders to move the church into its next chapter. Letting go of the reins means putting new leaders in place and old leaders supporting the new board.
  • The church needs to be ready for change and actually willing to change. Penfold and Taylor’s book contains a helpful survey to help you evaluate your church’s willingness to change.
  1.  An Outside Mentor or Guide is Necessary for Churches on the restart journey
  • For the restart churches mentioned in the book, this was the first step most congregations took. They recognized this was a journey that called for wise counsel outside of themselves.
  • An outside coach gives perspective, guidance, and insight that the church cannot attain on their own. Church leaders are often too caught up in the present church systems and ways of doing things to see the big picture.
  1.  The Restart Process needs to follow a logical order of change
  • What you do first, second, and third matters in a restart. Following an intentionally planned order of change builds confidence in the restart process.
  1. Restart Pastors have a unique calling
  • The traits of a restart pastor are very specific. Successful restart pastors’ characteristics include being a visionary leader, communicating well, leading through change, and being a wise decision maker.
Discovering if your church needs a restart

Here are a few actions you can take to discern if your church is in need of a restart.

  • Engage in a church lifecycle seminar to discover where your church is in its lifecycle.
  • Do a quick mental survey of some of the critical signs that a church needs to restart, including low morale, survival mode, consolidated power, lack of vision, division, fewer than 50 people attending worship, and an average membership tenure of 10 years or more.
  • Take Center for Church Renewal’s CAT (Congregational Assessment Tool). The Center for Church Renewal also coaches churches in discerning whether to restart. For more information, contact us.

The good news for churches at the lower end of their lifecycle is that there are options and even new life. Be bold and courageous in naming your present reality and discovering where God is calling your congregation to go.

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