This question generates a lot of discussion. There are some who say, no don’t bother, you’re wasting your time and resources. You could do much better by planting new churches and letting the dying church die off. New plants offer more opportunities, and people have fewer bad habits to unlearn. Of course, they also have no resources to speak with and a great deal of stress too.
And then then there are those who argue the opposite and say that new plants are costly and there is no guarantee of success. They say that it takes the right type of pastor, with certain traits, to plant a new church. They argue that changing direction in a church in the form of a redevelopment makes more sense – less stress, more resources available, you aren’t starting from scratch. Of course, redevelopments also have plenty of cultural issues, which can often be more difficult to deal with than resource issues.
Both sides are right and both are wrong. As with most things, context matters. I don’t believe there is one right answer to this. However, I do believe there is a right answer for any specific church. In other words, the right answer for a specific church will depend on that church and its leaders.
I have seen and been in churches that are not interested in doing what it takes to turn things around and thrive. They are in hospice care mode and will die out. They know it and that is the direction they are heading. That’s also a real shame too – I don’t believe these churches are being good stewards of their resources – using up everything until there is nothing left. It would be far better for a church to celebrate its life and then hand on its resources to a church or church body that can use the resources to further the mission of the church and the Good News.
I have also seen and been in church that understand what it takes to come alive again, and they do it, and they are thriving. I’m serving in one of these churches right now and am learning a great deal from the people and the pastor.
It can be done and is done in places all over the world.
Here’s a great article on this topic – 10 ways to revive a dying church. The 10 points are right on target. The first point may truly be the most important – Who are you? If you don’t know who you are, nothing else you do will matter. This is true for churches as an organization, but also true for any organization and any individual. The rest of the list is excellent. If you are part of a “dying” congregation that is interested in turning things around, then I encourage you to read this article, share it with others in the congregation and start to talk and pray about where God is calling the congregation.