A Thriving Church Can Save a Failing Church

American churches are in trouble. Even before the pandemic, thousands of them were closing every year. Only 47% of Americans said they ...

American churches are in trouble. Even before the pandemic, thousands of them were closing every year. Only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, according to a 2021 Gallup investigationdown from 70% in 1999. Last year, only 28% of Americans attended church regularly. an overwhelming majority of churches think they have plateaued or are in decline.

Why is this happening and can more church closures be avoided? Many churches are declining for lack of leadership. There may be an older pastor who has a good heart and has served for a long time but who has trouble connecting with the younger generation. Some long-established churches struggle to change even though the community around them has changed. Combined with the pandemic, it’s no wonder so many young Christians have left the churches they were raised in.

If that sounds too simplistic, visit a few churches, especially the smaller local churches that are found in the middle of residential neighborhoods across the country. The sad but indisputable truth is that this is the reality of most Christian churches.

The good news is that there is a way to save a failing church: a partnership, or merger, with a thriving church. More often than not, this means a full revival for the struggling congregation – renaming the church and giving it a new vision, new staff, programming, facilities and training.

One of the reasons mergers of this nature are so successful is that thriving churches simply have better resources. They have more people, which means more money to invest. But money alone cannot change a bad culture or end outdated departmental programming.

Larger and more successful churches have much more to offer than money. They can provide talented, forward-thinking leadership and other systems and tools that the struggling church probably does not have and cannot create on its own. Many successful churches, for example, have systems for identifying and developing young leaders essential to the future of a congregation. They also have a movement of the Holy Spirit, an intangible element that provides the impetus that makes them thrive.

These churches are also making efforts to stay relevant. If the church is called to make disciples and help connect people to the community of Christ, it is extremely difficult to do so if the church has not created an environment where people want to be. Churches need to ask themselves: does this look and feel like a place where people, and especially those who don’t yet know Jesus, could engage? Is the music current or have we been singing the same songs since the early 70s? Does the physical space look outdated and neglected? Is the church using the same Bible school content for children as 30 years ago?

These churches are thinking about these questions and are willing to take risks and experiment. They are ready to look at ministry with fresh eyes and, for the sake of the gospel, to change the way ministry is delivered. This does not mean that they are willing to compromise the word of God, but a church must be willing to let go of things that may now be obstacles to the advancement of that word.

Excellence matters. A successful church aims to create moments so awesome that people want to share the experience. For a church to determine whether it offers excellence, it must be a thriving community. This means friendly, smiling faces and engaged members. These churches sing; members are excited to come back and want to invite their friends. The church serves an excellent God, and it must provide excellence in return.

Here in California, we have witnessed what can happen when churches on a downward trajectory open up to change. We have seen many struggling local churches grow, including Palm Avenue Baptist in Riverside, now Sandals Church Palm Avenue, which has grown from less than 40 to over 1,000 weekly attendees.

For believers, the hope of the world remains the church. God uses churches to tell others about himself and to share the love of Jesus with the world. To save ourselves, we, the body of the church, must be willing to be challenged by difficult realities. We must be willing to be open-minded and to make church more engaging, exciting, and relevant to everyone.

Mr. McCoy is Executive Director of the ROGO Foundation.

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Newsrust - US Top News: A Thriving Church Can Save a Failing Church
A Thriving Church Can Save a Failing Church
Newsrust - US Top News
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