Church Revitalization: Boat Anchor OR Fresh Wind in the Sails?

Church Revitalization is alive and well.  This is not the “Church Growth” movement of the 1980’s or “Seeker Sensitive” or some other fad. Frankly, “CHURCH” revitalization has less to do (in my opinion) with the age or condition of a congregation as much as a revitalization of the purpose (the WHY) of the church universal.

We have seen some incredible initiatives the past 10+ years related to revitalization and church multiplication. The most obvious and most publicized are Church Planting and Multisite Church. Both are alive and well and growing in impact.

“We need to be cognizant to not burden the next generation of church leaders with facilities that will become the boat anchor around their ministry and missional impact.”

But there has been an upswell of 2 additional initiatives that need to be mentioned.  These may be subsets of the above; however, they bring an additional set of impactful elements and I believe they have significant nuances that need attention:

  1. Mergers – Our team has served several churches the past few years that have merged to not just “rescue” a declining church, but rather to form a stronger, more vibrant and impactful church. As Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird have so well stated – BETTER TOGETHER!
  2. Revitalization/Redeveloped/Adoptive Re-Use – So many terms we could use here…but we see a trend (for the good) of revitalization and adaptive use of facilities that have either aged out or are underutilized and/or a “highest and best use” that may not be exclusive of a 1-day-a-week church facility.

A deeper dive into the above is merited, but that is for another day. Instead, I want to share a concern I am seeing with both of the above when we are not intentional. Both of the above are exciting…and they are a great way to not only grow the Kingdom/Church (capital “C”) but to breathe new life into aging church facilities.

HOWEVER…there are 4 critical considerations that both the “giver” and the receiver of such facility gifts need to consider:

1. Functional Obsolescenceis a reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. Here are some prime examples:

  • Not handicap accessible
  • Inadequate HVAC system
  • Flow feels more like a maze than an intentionally community space
  • Lots of stairs
  • “Wrong-sized” spaces
  • Limited parking

2. Incongruent/Non-contextual – In many cases, the “gift” does not communicate the story of the receiver. It may be in the wrong part of town…may feel like a monastery and not a thriving community-centric facility…or it may just be old looking, feeling, and smelling.

3. Deferred Maintenance – “Here is your FREE Building.” – Oh Goodie…but what about the $3-4M in deferred maintenance. Don’t miss this. I have seen too many well intended churches and church planting organizations hand over an older facility to a church plant or even a multisite campus that appears to be “free” only to find they had been give the MONEY PIT. Free is rarely ever free.

4. Uninsurable – Directly related to the above, make sure the facility being gifted is actually insurable. Put yourself in this scenario…you are the pastor of a church plant…you are gifted a facility only to learn that the facility in not insurable or the insurance cost, due to its condition, has massive deductibles and/or unsustainable premiums. OUCH!

We need to be cognizant to not burden the next generation of church leaders with facilities that will become the boat anchor around their ministry and missional impact.


2 comments on “Church Revitalization: Boat Anchor OR Fresh Wind in the Sails?

  1. “Boat anchor around their ministry”.
    This is such a concern of mine for the current church culture. Don’t misunderstand. I am convinced that the church needs to be able to move with the trends in our surroundings. But keeping up with the latest trend isn’t cheap! And that’s where I have issue. If we haven’t built in a consistent maintenance/capital funding source, then the latest “must have to keep up” will draw those funds away.
    I’ve just recently read through(again) God’s plans for the building and care of the Tabernacle found in the OT. I had always wondered why He went into such detail describing the size, material, and who would care for it. Now I see a correlation. It was meant to be portable. It needed to be able to move with the changing location that He would lead His people. Much like how we need to be able to move to meet His leading now.
    It’s design was meant to keep it from deteriorating, and to not become a “boat anchor” for the generations that followed.
    It was designed – Intentionally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *