The Day We Visited the Dying Church

The Day We Visited the Dying Church

Mar 23, 2017

by John J. Pethtel

Director of Church Development & Pastoral Services

It was about six or seven years ago. Our family sometimes visits other churches. We went to a service at a church that was very different than our church. Both of our children were under the age of ten.

Our children were used to being the center of attention — with someone spending time caring for them, listening to them, and teaching them the Bible in a way that they could understand.

The church we visited had been around for over 100 years. You could tell that at one time the church was very vibrant with many young families. By the time we visited, though, there were very few people our age. The facility was dated. The music was very traditional. The message was boring for my kids…and for me.

As we were walking out of the church together after the service, my son, Xavier, tugged on my sleeve to get my attention. Then he quietly said what everyone else in the family was thinking, “Dad, this church is never going to grow.”

The sad thing is my son was right. The church was dying. Rather than make some intentional changes to reach the next generations of families in the community, they were preserving the past. I am assuming it’s another example of people placing a higher value on personal preferences and comfort than on reaching people for Jesus.

What’s encouraging to me is that I see many churches unwilling to go there. The churches who make the transition successfully share some common traits.

They value having an outward focus. It’s an intentional part of their ministry strategy.

They value a clearly defined discipleship process. With that, they acknowledge keeping people busy is not the goal.

They value strong, healthy leadership. That includes the pastor, lay leadership team and staff leadership team.

They value a bold, clear vision for the future. At the same time, they have a clear action plan to see that vision accomplished.

They value simple systems and structures. Complexity always stalls progress. If you want to preserve the past, try to create systems and structures where everyone has a voice and a vote.

My son is now thirteen. Because of that, he’s a bit busy these days and not available to sit through your services. You can’t hire him, but I do have a solution to help your church get moving toward a pathway to growth and health. We’d love to serve your church.

Our new church revitalization process is just now beginning to take root in four pilot churches — but we would love to know if you would be interested in learning more. Please contact the Director of Church Development for more information.

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