For the ninth year in a row, Southern Baptists declined in membership. The latest statistics were released last week and indicated that we lost more than 200,000 members in 2015.
Having noted that, it is also a well-accepted fact that the mainline denominations started declining significantly in the 1960’s and 70’s and now more than 80% of all churches in America are plateaued or declining. (That would also be true in Middle District.)
In an attempt to be a resource of hope and help for our churches and pastors, I stay on top of the growing amount of data regarding churches that have turned around. Re:Vision is one recent book by the well-known Aubrey Malphurs group and is especially helpful because of their quantitative research on the characteristics of pastors who led their declining churches back to health, vitality, and increased membership.
The data seems to indicate that approximately 10% or less of pastors have the natural skill-sets to lead a church to grow again. However, the good news is that Malphurs’ research indicates:
… that those who are not born leaders can certainly develop as leaders, because a great number of the needed skills are teachable and can be learned. With practice, most can improve, but it’s not natural and that’s where the problem lies. p.125.
Much has been written about the complicated, difficult challenges of turning around a church. There are no simple, easy answers. One size does not fit all. Nevertheless, through the Spirit’s empowerment and guidance, the miracle of new life in the pastor and the people is possible. Isaiah put it this way: “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing.”
Take heart, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If you would like God to do a new thing in your church, let’s talk.