The new buzz in church world is around re-planting. Should we do some of the above things and RENEW this congregation or should we RE-PLANT it? The natural follow-up is … What does it mean to re-plant?
Dictionary.com defines replanting: “To plant (something) again or in a new place”. In a church replant, a church avoids permanent death by recognizing it will no longer flourish unless conditions are drastically changed to facilitate growth.
Church denominations often have departments of both RENEWAL and NEW CONGREGATIONS that include re-planting as a part of their mandate. So the question is: As you look at your congregation and the desire to increase impact in your community and see people experience Christ, does your congregation need RENEWAL or does it need to be RE-PLANTED?
In 1996 our family returned to my home town to RE-PLANT a tiny congregation of 6 people. Why did we consider it a re-plant rather than a strategic process of renewal?
Renewal is characterized by a number of factors:
1. The congregation is in large part “healthy”. Perhaps it has plateaued. Possibly there is a lack of momentum. Maybe energy is drained, people are tired and things feel somewhat lackluster. But the foundation is healthy.
2. The congregation has a vision for its neighborhood. Perhaps it needs adjustment, recalibration and focus but there continues to be vision to impact the community and reach people.
3. There is a strong core of leadership. They might lack direction. They are looking for a leader with a plan. But when they find that person they are ALL IN!
4. Structures and governance models may be old and ineffective for the current day but they simply need to be rewritten to reflect an effective, current model. There is willingness to create a model that allows leaders to lead.
5. The congregation continues to be in a community where there is a neighborhood to reach. That is, some churches were “planted” in neighborhoods that no longer exist. (ie everyone has moved away!)
6. The facility itself continues to be an effective building. (ie Renovations and “re-facing” the facility would make more sense than re-locating to a new neighborhood.)
7. The reputation of the church continues to be good or at least neutral.
8. There is a “whatever it takes” attitude within the church to make whatever changes are necessary to RENEW and RECREATE this church family.
This list is not exhaustive, nor does every above box need to be “checked” but if the majority of these factors exist, there is a good chance RENEWAL is the best option.
Re-planting a congregation is characterized by the following:
1. There is NO vision or focus. The congregation has continued to shrink and there is hopelessness toward the future.
2. There are no leaders. The leaders have either become discouraged and left, become tired and frustrated or died!
3. The location is poor. The facility no longer is in a location to be effective.
4. The name is a hurdle. Reputation always precedes name in importance but a poor name can be an impediment.
5. The structure/governance is controlled by a few. Sadly, dying churches are often controlled by a small group that is exclusive, makes all the decisions and controls the purse strings. The future is clear in these congregations. Death!
6. The demographics have changed. “No one lives in our neighborhood anymore!” Communities change. Populations shift. New neighborhoods develop.
7. The church culture is unhealthy. ‘Nuff said. Culture trumps vision every time! If the vision is right but the culture, atmosphere and environment is unhealthy, it won’t matter how perfect your vision is!
8. The facility is outdated. Building new makes more sense than “patch-work”.
9. There is a sense of desperation and a “whatever it takes” attitude to achieve a preferred future!
Again, this list is not exhaustive but if you find yourself saying, YES! YES! YES as you read the list, chances are high your church needs more than a process of renewal but needs a process of a complete and fresh restart or RE-PLANT!
What kind of a leader is required in each situation? Great question! That’s for another day … but just to bait you: Renewal requires a more patient leader. Re-planting require a more entrepreneurial leader. Both require an intentional leaner.