When a church seems to be floundering and direction-less, is there any hope? When we seem to be going through the motions Sunday after Sunday, and seemingly taking no ground for the kingdom, what can we do?
At some time or another every church leader asks these questions. And the good news is that there is always hope - because there is always God.
There are some specific steps a church can take in shaping a biblical purpose and vision for their unique setting. Let me describe a few:
1. Have an agreed upon, biblical statement of purpose or mission. A good one clarifies why we are here and what we will do and are doing. It says, "Here is where we are going and how we will get there." It also defines what a church will do.
2. Pay attention to demographics. The people living around the church, their income, their social habits, and many other variables can often tell a church a great deal. Church leaders ignore demographics at their own peril. Often, communities change while the churches never do. And a community/church disconnect follows. An astute observer of the community will be able to spot needs. A church desiring to minister to its community can then develop ministries to help address those needs. And when community needs are addressed, people are helped. And when a church helps people, they often end up in visiting that church. And when they visit that church, the Holy Spirit often moves and works in their lives.
3. Assess the church's personality. What's the make-up of the congregation? What are the strengths? What brings energy? What are the energy drainers? What is the personality of the church (careful: it often reflects that of the senior pastor!)? Before striking out in new directions, it is often imperative to know who and what the church really is.
4. Determine some achievable, short-term goals. I recall setting ten- and twenty-year goals in a church I once served. I look back at that now and laugh! Things move and change so rapidly in today's society and culture that I believe it is wiser to set short-range goals (no longer than five years at the max), and concentrate on achieving those. A church may have a sense of where they would like to be in 10 to 20 years, but only short-range goals will get them there.