Some Churches Should Die & Be Reborn

Building a New Team

The church’s new leadership will also need to communicate and build a core team that resonates with the new mission and vision for the church. That may, at times, mean asking that people who were left over from the former church not be a part of the core team for the new church.

That may seem harsh, so let me put it this way: The team that closed the church is not going to be the team that rebirths it. People from the old congregation may want to be a part of the new, and they will think they are not part of the old wineskin, but they often are.

There may be a time down the road when there can be a healthy re-entry of people from the old congregation into the new, but the core team must share the mission and vision that give the new church its identity.

A new name on a new sign in front of the building changes nothing if all the same people are doing all the same things inside.

(I should add a brief note that multisite changes some things—a new group comes in with the new campus and their numbers, often larger than those who might have stayed from the old church, and that can change the culture while the former church members remain.)

Working a Timetable

The transition from the death of one church to the birth of the next should be well planned, and again, it should not (and cannot) happen overnight.

For example, I’d suggest that the replant should not happen immediately after the closure of the old church.

Let it lay fallow for a while. Take down the sign so it’s clear. And then, after a time, put up a new sign with the new name. From there, treat it like a church plant that just happens to have some resources (the building and whatever other resources were gifted by the old church).

For most replants, I would say a six-month window between the closure of the old and the public opening of the new would be healthy. If there is already a core group in place (if an existing church is sending a core group or an existing church plant is taking over the space), three months may be sufficient.

During that time, the leadership team should be built, made up of people who are committed to and passionate about starting a church to reach the community. For about three months, home Bible studies can start up in order to build and solidify the core group. Then, for the next three months, public preview services may begin to take place each month in order to introduce the new church to the community.

This down time is also the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Send mailers and make phone calls. Let people know what is coming.

Avoid calling back people who have left the old church—at least at first. Remember, you are starting with a new identity, and those folks, especially, need to buy into it. To ensure that sort of buy in, require membership classes for everyone, so the new identity and new DNA is part and parcel of being part of the new church.

Much More

Replanting might be the right option for dying churches, but the key, and maybe the most difficult part in the whole process, is separating the new from the old.

That’s certainly not the only issue. I plan to write more on the other issues, but for now, consider that replanting really means that some churches should die and remain dead—and a new church, not a reboot of the old, should be started in its place.

This article originally appeared here.

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.

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