Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Four Steps to Start the Process of Church Revitalization

Thousands of churches across America are struggling. Many of them are nearing a tipping point where if they do not take immediate action, they will close. In the early 1990’s the Lord used my wife and I to revitalize one church that was down to 19 people. I understand how much work is involved in such an endeavor. But because I was part of such a wonderful experience of church revitalization, I know it is possible. While the results of any of our efforts are ultimately in the hands of the Holy Spirit, since God often chooses to use us as the means to accomplish His work, our human actions are an important part of the process of revitalization.

In my experience, there are four steps to revitalizing a church.

1. Get out of the office and meet people in the community.

I believe in studying for sermons and staying in the Word. But a finely crafted sermon preached to an empty room will not produce a lot of results. I had to put down my books and get out of the office and meet people. I looked for natural gathering places where people were and then found many reasons to spend time in those places. While there I would work the crowd by speaking to as many people as I could. That often led to great conversations that eventually became ministry opportunities. Many of those people eventually came to hear my sermons, but they never would have done so if I had spent all my time in the office.

2. Capitalize on community events

I quickly learned that events organized by the church were mostly attended by people already in the church. To meet potential prospects, I had to participate in community events instead of filling my schedule with church events. I attended baseball games, football games, building dedications, auctions, school events and town meetings. When possible, I led our church to have a booth at these events where we offered games or other appropriate activities that made up part of the larger community. It let us connect with a lot of people we would not have previously known and was a lot of fun too.

3. Make the main worship experience the best it can be even if that means eliminating something else.

Our church was small and we had limited musical talent, but I worked hard to make the Sunday morning experience the best it could be. It was often little things I would do to make the service flow better, like making sure the sound system is turned on BEFORE the service started. I made frequent use of musical guests, who I would tell in advance that we could not pay them, and most came anyway because they wanted to help. I also tried to make my sermons practical, as well as biblical. As the quality of the service improved, so did the attendance.

4. Find ways to promote church events other than the church bulletin and the church newsletter

If you want your church to grow, the least effective promotional tool is the church bulletin. The reason is because those people will already be there. That does not mean we should not put announcements in the bulletin. Of course we should. But we must find ways to get that same announcement posted in other places. Social media is a good tool, as are community bulletin boards at the village store or recreation field. If we want outsiders to know what our church is doing, then we must get the info where outsiders will see it. That is rarely the church bulletin.

There is no magic wand you can wave to revitalize a church. But these four practical steps can help you start the process of turning things around.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: