The Church Revitalization Lifecycle: Three Primary Stages
Principle: In a fallen world, vitality is lost over time.
Incline. Ministry capacity of the church is increasing. Over time, the church is doing more and more ministry and the quality of that ministry is better and better. Incline is a strong stage featuring health, growth and multiplication. Primary identity of the church in this phase is its vision, or calling from God.
Recline. Ministry capacity of the church levels off into plateau. Over time, the church is doing the same ministry over and over at more or less the same level of quality. Recline is a tepid, tread water stage featuring ministry management by routine, filling in the blanks. Primary identity of the church in this phase is its programs.
Decline. Ministry capacity of the church is decreasing. Over time, the church is doing less and less ministry and the quality of that ministry is more and more compromised. Decline is a weak stage featuring decreases in membership, attendance, giving and overall impact in the community. Primary identity of the church in this phase is its structure.
Churches on the upside of the lifecycle (Incline and early Recline) are facing moderate revitalization, while churches on the downside of the lifecycle (fully developed Recline and Decline) are facing a much more severe revitalization treatment.
Since vitality decreases over time, church revitalization needs to be an ongoing process.
It is much better for churches to embrace revitalization early in the lifecycle rather than late, as revitalization is much more accessible from a position of strength than a position of weakness.
Why don’t churches turn to revitalization sooner rather than later? It’s because church leaders are reluctant to tamper with ministry that’s working.
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