6 Issues To Consider Before Pastoring A Church That Needs A Turnaround

Leading a church that needs a turnaround is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding callings a pastor can receive.

I’ve pastored three churches, all of which needed a turnaround, with varying degrees of success. From both my failures and successes, I’ve discovered some universal principals that I think every pastor should consider before deciding to pastor a church that needs a turnaround.

These can also be helpful points to consider if you’re currently pastoring a church that is in a rut and needs a turnaround.

Church Turnarounds Are About Direction And Consistency, Not Speed Or Size

Church turnarounds are hard, but so rewarding.

When a church that was sick and dying goes through a revitalization that puts them back on the path of effective mission, it’s something we ought to celebrate and learn from.

And it can act as a huge encouragement to other churches that are struggling, because it’s evidence that they can turn around, too.

Because we love stories told in big, broad strokes, the turnarounds we usually hear about are the ones that went “from 30 to 3,000 in three years!” But it’s important to guard ourselves against the expectation that such spectacular stories are the usual way church turnarounds happen.

Church Turnaround Is An Attitude, Not An Event

You can’t program a church from unhealthy to healthy.

No amount of special events, Big Days or new ideas can cause a broken church to become whole.

There is no book, no conference, no blog post or podcast that will give you the key to church renewal or revival.

Sure, those things might give you the tools to attract a bigger crowd, or generate more buzz, but church health isn’t about more people or greater enthusiasm.

It’s about more of Jesus. His Great Commandment and Great Commission.

Your Struggling Church Can Turn Around Today – But Greatness Takes Time

Your struggling church can turn around this year.

This month.

This weekend.

Because turnarounds can happen in an instant.

If you’re in a church that needs a turnaround, that’s the good news.

Now here’s some hard news. Good, but hard.

Turnarounds can happen fast. But greatness – the kind of greatness that comes from community- and kingdom-shaking impact – takes time.

Expanding the Sweet Spot for a Healthy Church Turnaround

There are three primary participants in a local church. God, the pastor and the congregation.

Trying to turn a church from unhealthy to healthy without all three in full cooperation, will lead to frustration, failure and heartache.

Knowing and expanding the zone where the hearts of the pastor and congregation meet up with God’s heart is essential for a successful church turnaround.

3 Surprising Misunderstandings About Church Turnarounds

What one person means by a church turnaround might be completely different from what another person means.

So here are three things I don’t mean when I talk about a church turnaround.

(Today is the first post in Turnaround Week at the Pivot blog.)

Bigger Fixes Nothing (Seven Unexpected Steps Towards Church Health)

On their TV shows, Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant: Impossible, Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine turn struggling restaurants into thriving businesses. The principles they use are time-tested and valid, even if the theatrics are staged (allegedly). But I’ve noticed one thing missing from every episode:

They never tell a struggling restaurant owner that their restaurant needs to be bigger.

Instead, they apply a set of principles to help small, struggling restaurants become small, successful restaurants. These restaurant experts have figured out something that church leaders often forget.

Bigger fixes nothing.

Bringing Innovative Strategies to an Established Small Church

Why bother trying to resurrect an old, dying church?

I’ve heard that question a lot.

There was a time when it seemed like every pastor I went to bible college with was following church growth principles and starting new churches. In a few years they were buying land to accommodate the growing crowds.

But I was sitting in a pre-existing small church, nurturing it along through the beginning, challenging stages of a turnaround. It’s a long, hard road from dying, introverted and tired, to healthy, outward-looking and innovative.

My friends in ministry saw my struggle and gave me two pieces of advice:

“Plant your own church.”

Establish your own vision, instead of fighting against an old one.

“Tear it all down and start from scratch.”

Tear the old structure apart and say buh-bye to anyone who won’t get on board.

I chose a third path:

Work with the current church to rediscover a new vision together.

It was a harder choice, but for me and the church it has been the most rewarding.

The World’s Best Small Churches

No one will ever make a list of the greatest Small Churches in the world. And they shouldn’t. After all, a great urban Small Church looks very different from a great rural one. Same with a great Baptist and Methodist church. Or a great Small Church in Japan or Costa Rica, etc. Even if there …

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Stuff We Like: Dirt Matters, by Jim Powell

Dirt Matters is a very good book. For many churches it could be a very important book. This is not a book of methods and gimmicks that have to be transposed for your size. It’s about fundamentals that apply to every church of any size.