The question I get asked the most by pastors in plateaued or declining churches is this, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” I would do a relaunch. Here are a few thoughts on what a relaunch might look like.
– You have to step back and make sure that the vision is God-given, focused, energizing, compelling, dangerous, and something that you as a leader will gladly give your life to.
– Do something new. You have to create new energy. You will never get new energy from tweaking something old. A name change, a new ministry, a new service, something radical.
– Brand it. Create new phrases that are simple, they resonate with people, and they give everything traction.
– Promote it. This is almost May. I would do the relaunch in September. If it was Sept, I’d say January. January, Easter. You get the idea. You have to blow torch this for several weeks and get people pumped. If this sounds like hype to you, go stick your head in the book of Acts. If we believe what we believe and that it saves lives from hell, we should be willing to create some enthusiasm around the greatest message of history. Promoting it for several weeks gives time for the right people to rally around you and the vision and it also gives time for the wrong people to make a lot of noise. If the vision is from God just keep going forward. The wrong people will either leave or see that God was in it all along.
– Pull the plug on mediocre programs. A relaunch is your best opportunity to change the way you’ve been operating. There might be a lot of history with those programs, you might have good people who love thos programs and they might not understand why things have to change. As a leader you have to help them understand that we just can’t keep doing what we’ve always done and expect something new. Making those tough decisions and having those tough conversations will elevate your leadership with people. If they know you care and that you genuinely want to see your church reach its full redemptive potential, they will follow you.
– Make sure that the changes you make are significant enough to create new energy. If the first Sunday of the relaunch feels like the last Sunday before the relaunch, you are toast. If your people spend months working on relationships and inviting people to the first service of the relaunch, it has to be a significant, if not radical, change. When you start painting a picture of what that might look like, expect push back. That’s normal. Doesn’t mean everyone hates you and your ideas. Give people time to process the ideas and to envision multiple changed lives on a weekly basis.
– You won’t be able to explain everything or guarantee the success of every idea. It’s not possible. Steven Furtick tells his church that he’s probably never more than 70% sure of an idea. It might work, it might not. But, if we stay where we are we’ll always be where we’ve been.
– Make sure that your communication reinforces your commitment to unity as a multi-generational congregation moving forward on the vision together. This means that you are asking the teens and young adults to lay down their personal preferences for the greater good. It also means you are asking your seniors to do the same. We all want what we want. We all have our preferences. It’s not possible to do church in a way that is perfect for everyone. At some point we all have to say, “I’d rather see lost people saved than have everything my way”.
– A relaunch will cost money. Don’t forget, people give to vision, not need. Finances follow fire.