I want the Church to be like my playground in the back yard:
3. A place to be a kid
You don't need a ton of proof to know that more and more churches are struggling to survive. It seems churches that are in this predicament have one of two options: revive or die. There are a lot of books, seminars, and workshops given on how to go about reviving a church. However, there is not one cookie cutter, full-proof, and effective strategy in reviving a church. Having said that, it doesn't mean that it is impossible. There are many examples of struggling churches that have successfully revived the congregation, increased the health of the church, and expanded their ministry.
Now, before you go and buy another book, or attend another conference, or start selling off your pews for coffee tables and chairs, let me make a few suggestions. These suggestions are for the people in the church because you are the church. Pastors come and go, but it is the congregants, parishioners, and members that make up the identity, flavor, and, ultimately, affect the future direction of a congregation.
1. Who are you? Figure out who you are as a congregation. As Rick Warren once said, "You will attract who you are, not who you want." There is some truth to this and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Visitors can tell if a church is not being authentic to who they really are. When I first started at my church, my job description focused heavily on attracting the growing population of young Chinese-American families in the neighborhood. The problem was that the make-up of the church was the exact opposite. Furthermore, the suggestions being made to attract such folk were evidence that this wasn't being authentic to who we were. One thought was that by hiring me, an Asian-American woman, these families would feel more comfortable and accepted at church. It wasn't until someone pointed out that I was Korean and not Chinese that there was willingness to abandon this direction and start all over.
2. Pick the right leader: Knowing who you are as a church and what the current needs of the congregation are is vital to searching and choosing the right leader and pastor. If your church is in conflict, it is wise to choose someone who has skills in conflict management. If you are at a loss for future direction, it is important to choose someone who can guide you in that process. If you are a church that is grieving, it is wise to choose a pastor who can provide stability. I have witnessed many churches who choose a leader based on what they want and not on what they need -- maybe the new pastor reminded the parishioners of the previous, most-beloved pastor in physique and looks, but lacked the same temperament and leadership style, or a small church of 50 relishing in their heyday of 500 choosing a pastor who is rooted in all the high church rituals.
3. Follow the leader: A good leader needs a good follower. In fact, it doesn't matter how good the leader is if there are no followers. There may be times when parishioners are uncomfortable with some of the new changes in worship, ministry, or vision, but at some point there needs to be a step of faith, trust, and willingness to allow the pastor and the leadership of the church to actually lead the church in a future direction. If I think back on my eight years at my church and all the changes that have happened, we wouldn't be where we are today without some faithful, trusting, and committed followers who trusted my suggestions and decisions even when they didn't fully comprehend what was going on. However, without them, we wouldn't have 85 children in a…