Our local association newsletter had a section recently that listed six secrets of a turnaround church. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, conducted a survey of churches that were in decline and experienced a great turnaround. From that survey these six things were evident in every church that made a turnaround:
- They became highly intentional about starting new groups.
- They developed a culture of inviting people.
- They began new member classes.
- They began a major community ministry.
- They began to pray for the lost and unchurched by name.
- The leaders began to focus less on negative people and circumstances and more on God’s possibilities.
As you consider this list, I would like to encourage you with this thought: IT WORKS!
The church were I pastor, First Baptist Church of Decherd, has seen these things play out over the past couple of years. What is interesting is that we never made a list or purposely set out to turn our church around. By the grace of God, it just happened. For example: we developed a children’s ministry and a youth ministry, we started a new young married couples Sunday School class, we started a prospective members class, we reached out to our local elementary school and started a Good News Club along with playing a leading role in establish the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship, we also had a theme this year of praying for the lost by name, and there is very little focus on negative things and there is more discussion happening concerning strategic planning and moving forward. You may ask, ‘has it worked?’ The answer is: YES!
We have added 16 new members in a six-month period. We have seen 12 baptisms in a seven-month period. We have seen some families start attending our church as a result of the outreach to our local school. Every Sunday we see new people visiting. Our new young married class as grown from 6 to around 30 in one year! We are currently on track to have a 30% increase in church attendance this year. With the type of growth we are seeing, there does not seem to be any signs of it slowing down any time soon. This brings a whole new set of exciting challenges that we must work through.
I share these things with you as a testimony of what God can do. Maybe your church is in decline. Maybe you are seeking solutions. The solution is simple: just be a church. Be what God intended the church to be. Call upon God for wisdom and direction. Let go of preconceived notions and your own ideas, and let God take control. Pray for the lost, reach out to your community, start new Sunday School classes. What you reap is what you sow. What you put in to it is what you will get out of it. If the church does its part to be the church that God desires it to be, then God will do His part by blessing the church and doing a work that is beyond anything you could ever imagine.
I would like to add one more thing to the list of what turnaround churches do: Pray specifically. Every day since I have served as pastor at FBC Decherd, I pray for three things. I pray for Spiritual Increase, Numerical Increase, and Financial Increase. Remarkably, all three of those things are happening in the life of our church. Not just because I prayed or because it’s my desire or something I have done. It is because it’s God’s will. By praying within the will of God, He will answer, and He will do amazing things. It is God’s will that every local church has increase. It is God’s will that we all grow in our walk with Him. It is God’s will that we reach people with the Gospel and, thus, the church increases in number. It is God’s will to bless us with the resources to carry out the mission of reaching the world for Jesus. Since it is God’s will, then don’t you think we should pray for those things? It is God’s will that people are saved. That is why we should pray for the lost by name. Good leadership along with fervent prayer is the key to seeing your church turnaround for the glory of God. What does your church need to start doing to see a major turnaround?
May I add one more thing? If you are new in our area and/or looking to get back in church, I personally invite you to join us at FBC Decherd. For more information you may visit our website: www.fbcdecherd.com. God is at work, come and get in on what God is doing!