Friday, November 02, 2007

Comeback, turnaround, transformed congregations

In mainline circiles we hear a lot about dieing churches....dieing congregations.

Unfortunately some are resigned to the fact that this will continue to happen.

However is this the case, do churches and congregations need to resign themselves to the inevitable that decline is the only option?

In some situations the answer is yes, but only in some....especially where the population is dwindling at a vast rate. However in many cases the population continues to why can't the church and congregations grow in these situations?

Now the following resources are introduction to the topic comeback churches, to help you explore the process of ressurecting congregations, dealing with existing congregations and helping their pastors, themselves and the community be involved in a transformation process....

One of the common threads that constantly appear is that restarting a congregation is not for the joy rider, it is hard work, even harder than getting a new congregation off the ground, because the dynamics of the past are present and always waiting to interfere.

From the BIBLE
A number of people have suggested reading and studying Nehemiah, Haggai and a way for anyone to prepare to be involved in congregation transformation.

Restart a new option in Ministry
A short article from the Baptist convention of Maryland/Delaware, that highlights the examples of 2 congregations that restarted from the debry of 2 dieing congregations. They suggest seven requirements for restarting:
1) The original congregation must be willing to “die;”
2) The restart has to have new leadership;
3) It has to have a new identity, which includes a change in name;
4) It needs to meet in a new location, at least temporarily;
5) The restart must have new guiding principles, including its vision and values for the future;
6) It has to be focused on reaching a different “slice” of the population than before, based upon an understanding of the dynamic nature of the community where they are located.
7) The congregation must not be in operation beyond the home Bible study level for a minimum of three months before it “restarts” public worship services and proceeds to serve the community in ministry
read the entire article at

Easum Bandy articles on restarting a church

Article: The turnaround from decline to growth: a committed core

Restarting a dead Church from Joyful Heart
Suggests; Make sure there is growth potential in the facilities location, celebrate the church's past, close the church doors for a time, transfer control from local power brokers to a steering committee mainly of outsiders, develop a fresh vision for the faith community, change the church's name, call a new pastor with energy and faith

A process for transformational ministry by Dave Daubert
Transformational ministry is a way of life, that sees God is always on the move and that there is no end point...After some initial disappointment the ELCA reworked their approach to transformational ministry and now suggest the keys are;
Missional identity being at the core (what is God up to and what is my/our role in it?)
Discovery and Diagnose (What is really going on?): honesty needed
Planning (Decide to act!)
Implementation (Do something!)
Learning and Assessing (How is it going.)

ELCA's renewing congregations
topics include:
Change Factors
Program Purpose and Guiding Principles
TurnAround Congregations
Transformational Ministry
Other Resources for Transformation
Stories of Transformation

Northern Great Lakes Synod (ELCA) transformational ministry

Ten Steps To Introduce Transformational Ministry In Your Congregation
Intensify Discipleship awareness
Foster a climate of trust and permission giving
Persistently cast the congregation's vision
Establish Spirituality Consciousness
Provide Intentional Leadership Training (for all leaders )
Proactively measure all aspects of the ministry against the mission and vision of the congregation
Carefully Plan and Implement a Transition From Committees To Teams
Initiate a Specific Discipleship Identity to Replace the Membership Identity
Replace the Mechanical Organization of the Congregation with an Organic System
Write a New Congregational Constitution to Replace your Old One

Celebrate Church (Reformed): a story of a restart congregation can be found at:
Living waters (ELCA): a story of a restart congregation, that started, stopped and restarted
Summerhill Australian (Anglican): An Anglican church that was once thriving and now decling, but now doing something more than surviving

Our first book is not specifically written for churches, however a number of churches have been using it as it introduces the concept and process of change into a team, committee or congregation in a way that many more people understand...

Our iceberg is melting: stories of changing and succeeding under any conditions by John Kotter
Most of the denizens of the Antarctic penguin colony sneer at Fred, the quiet but observant scout who detects worrying signs that their home, an iceberg, is melting. Fred must cleverly convince and enlist key players, such as Louis, the head penguin; Alice, the number two bird; the intractable NoNo the weather expert; and a passle of school-age penguins if he is to save the colony.
Their delightfully told journey illuminates in an unforgettable way how to manage the necessary change that surrounds us all. Simple explanatory material following the fable enhances the lasting value of these lessons.
Our Iceberg Is Melting is at once charming, accessible and profound; a treat for virtually any reader.

Hope for the Church: Contemporary Strategies for Growth by Bob Jackson
Chapters include; Facing the truth, Bums on seats why they matter, Church growth mission possible, bringing growth out of decline, Why should the future be different?, The Church after Christendom, using figures, nurturing faith, welcoming all, taking riskes, acting small (no matter how big you are), planting churches, growing younger, supporting the clergy, the vital role of the diocese/district, renewing the spiritual heart

Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

Chapters include

  • foundations
  • Why consider becoming a comeback church?
  • Rising with leadership
  • Three faith factors
  • Worship and preaching matters
  • Intentional and strategic church evangelism
  • Connecting people to Spiritual maturity
  • Motivating and mobilizing people out of the pews
  • Connecting people through small groups
  • Other comeback factors
  • Comeback change agents: new or renewed leaders
  • Top ten most common transformations for Comeback Churches
  • Making a comeback- top factors and biggest challenges

Leading the comeback church by David F Nixon
’In this excellent book, Dr. David F. Nixon has captured the heart and story of most local churches. With a real sense of eloquence and yet no holds barred, he has expressed what most pastors deal with in difficult pastoral assignments.’ -- Dr. Stan Toler, Author, Speaker and Pastor Six times, David F. Nixon led struggling churches to viability after major decline, crisis, or plateau. Six times, he overcame impossibilities in churches where others shook their heads and walked away. In Leading the Comeback Church , you’ll discover survival skills essential to anticipating, experiencing, leading, and surviving the turnaround church experience. You will learn how to: Lead their church off of a plateau. Develop a strategy for growth. Overcome financial challenges. Break attendance barriers. Focus on spiritual growth. And much more!

Turn-around church: How to overcome barriers to growth and bring new life to a established church by George Barna
Chapters include:
  • Reshapting the life cycle
  • Symptoms of decline
  • From dream to reality
  • Attributes of turn around leaders
  • Strategies for growth
  • Potholes on the road to recovery
  • Avoiding the downward spiral
  • the last hurrah

If it could happen here: turning the small membership church around by Jeff Patton

Chapters include:

  • then and now
  • Light for those in the darkness and safety for those in storms
  • the end of Pastor Fetch and the Beginning of people go
  • Lever 1: Prayer
  • Lever 2: Discerning a clear mission
  • Lever 3: Indigenous worship
  • Lever 4: Growth groups
  • Lever 5: Membership that means something
  • Lever 6: Lay pastoring
  • The drive for quality and the difference excellence can make
  • If it could happen here, it could happen where you are!!

and don't forget the Reclaiming Series(as mentioned in an earlier blog) was actually a turned around congregation that turned around because of taking seriously 'what it means to be Lutheran in the 21st Century' that was germ for the books...see

Now this is only a small section of material on this subject, if you have something to suggest please feel free to comment

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