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The Questions You Need to Ask Before You Attempt a Revitalization


The following article is an excerpt of Revitalization of Southside Baptist Church. Copyright 2018 by Dr. Harry Fowler.

Southside Baptist. A once grand—but now shrinking—church.

Southside Baptist was founded in 1944 and experienced years of growth and stability, but 2009 brought an end to the era as a turnover of pastors began. Attendance dwindled, offerings decreased, they were in survival mode.

One pastor reluctantly took on the charge of breathing new life into a church desperate for CPR.

Enter Dr. Harry Fowler, an expert in church growth, an author of several books on the topic, and a pastor of over 30 years who took on the challenge. He knew the signs of a dying church but found a remnant at Southside Baptist, people who weren’t ready to give up.

Before accepting the call Dr. Fowler visited other pastors in the area asking for input. Almost all gave a negative response, some said the church had potential, but only one recognized the value of the love that existed in the remaining group. Dr. Fowler accepted the call with the condition that if they began “fussing” he would leave.

To prepare for the future, Dr. Fowler needed to understand the past and did a church growth study that can be useful for all churches. He knew that understanding the past would help them plot for the future. It helped chart the course for the vision that took Southside Baptist from less than 100 members to over 400 in just a few years. According to Fowler, “Lack of vision can be deadly to a church”.

Using the analysis of this data, Dr. Fowler was able to create 12 recommendations supported by explanations that addressed current problems facing the church. This solid evidence helped the church board move forward and make changes confidently.

The Growth Study consisted of:

#1 Reflection about the church mission

What do we think God wants us to do?

Could we take a leap of faith?

Do we really believe that nothing is impossible?

Can we make a three-year commitment to help our church move forward?

#2 Answers to these questions

When were the glory days?

What were the major accomplishments?

Has there been new construction?

What is the average age of attendees?

What is the number and ages of the children?

Chart the total offerings and church attendance over the last several years.

Is the church growing, plateaued or declining?

#3 Study the geographical areas

Where do members live?

#4 Interview 15-25 members. Ask:

When were the best days? What happened then?

When were the worst days?

What are the major events you remember?

What would you like to see the church do in the next five years?

What are the church’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

#5 Study demographic area

Average age, education and income levels?

#6 Study past 20 year stats

Sunday school and worship attendance?

Mission giving?

Total tithes and offerings?

New members?


Every Sunday attendees?

Once Dr. Fowler has received answers to all of these questions, he began the next step.

Analyzing the Data

#1 Review all of the data collected

#2 Analyze church data by answering these questions

What would you like to see the church do in the next five to ten years?

What is the church known for?

What have you always wanted to tell your pastor?

What are the church’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

#3 Analyze the demographics

Is the area growing?

What percentage are married?

What is the ethnicity of the majority?

Education and annual income?

#4 Prepare a recommendation and report for elders. Create a plan for growth and move forward.

And move forward they did.

Though the reversal was time consuming and tedious, Dr. Fowler knew the church would not succeed without changes. His love of the people prompted him to take a drastic pay cut, but he believes if he refused to pastor Southside because of the salary he would have missed out on one of the greatest blessings of his life.

In Revitalization of Southside Baptist, Dr. Fowler provides an easy to read and understand handbook that any pastor can use to help build growth in their church.

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Dr. Harry Fowler has 52 years of ministry experience as a pastor and church planter. He is also the founder of Youth On Mission. Dr. Fowler received his B.S. from East Carolina University, an M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Seminary, and his D. Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary.