First, let me define my terms. When I say YOUR CHURCH, I’m not implying that the church belongs to anyone but God or that the Church universal will die. I am referring to the local faith community you lead or belong to. My premise is that your church, the local body of believers you are attached to, has a natural life cycle that ends in some form of death.
For the following discussion, I’ve added one identifiable stage in a church’s life cycle:
Senior citizen: The congregation has aged and is no longer attracting or deploying young leaders. The focus turns to what will happen when the congregation can no longer support itself.
At each stage, a church is engaged in a core activity to ensure health and growth.
At this stage, the church plant is simply trying to become self-sustaining. Each week, the question is “Will we be here next week?” Attendance growth is crucial at this stage because the larger the baby, the more likely she will be viable.
As an adult, the church should be developing a clearly defined pathway for discipleship (linear or non-linear), a structure for community beyond the weekend service, and a strategic plan for local and global evangelism and transformation.
The key activity for a parent is healthy reproduction. Is the church regularly giving birth and providing support to ensure the survival and maturity of her children?
The key activity for a grandparent church is to leverage her experience and resources to encourage, resource, and strengthen younger churches. Grandparent churches often find ways to cooperate with other churches either in an informal or formal way to continue to plant new churches both domestically and internationally.
As a church begins to decline in attendance and giving, the focus turns either to survival (returning to the Child phase) or legacy (What will be our long-term contribution to the Kingdom?).