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.
It Took You How Many Years To Get This Far?
When we normalize exceptional turnaround stories, we can unintentionally belittle and discourage those making consistent, steady progress. Most pastors will be at a church for 3, 4, 5 years or longer with few visible results to show for it, even though a healthy turnaround is actually happening.
That’s my story. Almost 25 years ago, I was called to help a church turn around from a decade of numerical, emotional, spiritual and missional decline.
There were about 30 very discouraged people when I arrived and, while I wasn’t expecting to go “from 30 to 3,000 in three years!” I did expect a lot more than we got. The church is situated on a busy street in a very populated area, after all. Onward and upward, right?
If you had told me that the church would still be under 100 and worshiping in the same small building after ten years of pastoring, I probably would not have taken the assignment.
And if you’d told me that we’d be under 200 and in the same building 25 years later (as in, today) I’d have been out the door so fast there’d be a Roadrunner cartoon trail of smoke behind me.
But here I am. In exactly that spot. And I’m so profoundly grateful to be here.
Fast Is Not Typical
We always hear about the fast, big turnarounds. Those are great, but they're not normal.
If your turnaround pace sounds more like my pace, that’s normal.
Keep at it.
Church turnarounds are called turnarounds for a reason. They’re more about the direction you’re heading than the speed you’re going.
Since slow and steady is normal, those who are doing it consistently should be recognized, resourced, encouraged, normalized and celebrated.