And by “new you” I mean “new congregation.”

With over 85 percent of all churches in North America either in decline or on a plateau (and those on a plateau are generally those on the precipice and about to go over the cliff of a decline), a makeover of your congregation is probably in order.

With the new year just behind us you’ve probably noticed the annual plethora of “new you” tips on the TV, online, and in virtually every magazine. Before we jump on that bandwagon, let’s get clear about one of the most common misconceptions in the church today: Whatever you (and your congregation) think your church is, it almost certainly isn’t. 

For instance, almost every church believes that it’s a friendly church, and most of them are… to each other. But rare is the church that a first-time, never-been-much-for-church visitor finds friendly. Even if your church is growing.

Case in point. My bride and I made a secret church shopping venture to an urban core church. This church has grown so much that it’s close to full (which brings up a host of hospitality issues to begin with). We were surprised to find greeters outside in the parking lot to greet and welcome us. Kudos! But the welcome turned to confusion when we stepped through the doors. We found ourselves in a hallway that led to… well, we didn’t know. There were no directional signs anywhere, and we were immediately lost.

Okay, you get the idea. The point is this: most churches see themselves as they perceive themselves to be, rather than as who they really are. Which gets us to the step of an effective church makeover. Before you can be made over, you have to know who you really are. In other words, you’ve got to get real about an evaluation of the following:

  • Your mission
  • Your values
  • Your vision
  • Your ministries
  • Your missions
  • Your accomplishments over the previous year

Once you have those down, you’ll have an idea about what needs to be made over… and you can set some concrete goals to get there. This Church-Talk episode walks through both the evaluation and the strategic planning processes, including an extensive handout with a complete retreat outline.

Question: How can you take on the perspective of a newcomer to reevaluate each item on the above list? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.