Help for Dying Churches

by Jeff Patton

What is a dying church?  Have you seen one lately?  Are you in one?  Would you know if you were? Dying congregations have these characteristics:

They all say “We are friendly, debt free, and full of great people.”

They all have under 50 in worship, and use their money to survive.

They all look for other congregations to merge with so they could survive longer.

They have no mission … no vision … no clues.

They are In denial regarding their current situation.

They are in denial about their future.

They are tired people who go to meetings to make decisions.

They are full of people who hate meetings.

They are short on disciples, but filled with people whose way is the only way.

They spend huge amounts of money to keep their buildings up.

They have no idea of their purpose, no idea of their gifts.

They are clueless about their basic operational principles (values and beliefs).

Walt Kallestad is fond of saying, “without a vision people go to another parish.”  Dying congregations send their people to other congregations, which initially are happy to get them, but soon recognize that the same death welcoming opinions are so firmly embedded that they often bring death to the new place.

So what to do if you are in a dying church?  Here is my top ten:

1.  Pray.  Find people who are willing to pray with you.  Pray a lot, often, frequently.

2.  Find ten people who don’t go to church.  Make them your discovery team.  Allow them to help you make God’s love more accessible.

3.  Start a new worship service.  Offer this service at a time when no one in your community is offering anything.  Make it a place where the transforming power of God’s unconditional love is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

4.  Take a sabbatical from meetings.  Let those who like the meetings go and run them.  Spend your time with the ten.

5.  Invest as much time as you can in your marriage and family or support system.  You need them and they need you.

6.  Move your office to the local coffee shop or hang out.  Spend at least three hours a day there, at least three days a week.  Don’t take anything but your phone.  Okay, your lap top if they have wireless.  But spend time hanging out with and praying for the people you will meet.

7.  Give people permission to do anything which isn’t illegal or immoral, as long as it accomplishes the mission of making disciples.

8.  Open your church to the community.  Invite them in, have a local restaurant make great desserts and offer these desserts to anyone with good coffee for free.

9.  Read. Read at least two books a week.

10.  Begin expecting Jesus to show up in your congregation, in your life, in the most unexpected and unusual ways.