Here is a recent Q&A with Laura Watts from PEAR USA with Winfield Bevins as he shares his thoughts about the important work of church revitalization.
Q: What is church revitalization all about? Why is everyone talking about it these days?
A: First, church revitalization is typically focused on bodies, buildings, and budgets. We have been using the term re-missioning to describe the process we use to help churches discover and live God’s mission to reach our nation for Christ. Over time, churches can experience what I call mission drift and mission theft for a number of reasons. Re-missioning helps churches get back on mission for God!
Second, people are talking about it because North America is the new mission field. There are over 130 million unchurched people in the United States making it the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere. With over 337 languages, the US has become the most multicultural and multilingual nation on earth.
Q: Why is revitalization just as crucial as church planting?
A: They are two sides of the same great commission coin. In fact, they are inseparably linked. Both are needed to reach the 130 million unchurched people in North America. Its not an either or we need both. Author and pastor Tim Keller links the two by saying, “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.”
Q: What are the key tasks in a process of church revitalization?
A: The key task is to come alongside church leaders and congregations to offer coaching, consulting, and church assessments for local congregations. It begins when a church recognizes their need to assess where they are and where they need to go.
Q: What else needs to be in place for a church to get unstuck, redirected in mission? What’s the role of the rector? the vestry?
A: Many churches in the United States have either stopped growing or are in decline. The rector and vestry are absolutely crucial to the re-missioning process. There is an important link between clergy health and longevity as it pertains to the mission of the church. I believe that a church will only be as healthy as its leaders.
Q: Can you estimate how many churches actually get unstuck, turned around?
A: Statistically, nearly 4000 churches close every year in North America and nearly 80 percent are stuck or in decline. Its hard to know exact numbers, but it is not impossible. I know from personal experience that churches can be renewed when they get back on mission. The first church I pastored was over 100 years old with only 20 members. It was located in a small town in mountains of Tennessee with a whopping population of 800 people and no red lights. In three years, the church grew to over 150 and we built a new building and an additional parking lot. This is one example of how God can remission a church. With God all things are possible!