A declining church of fewer than fifty people doesn’t need the same structure and ministries it had when it ran one hundred fifty to two hundred. A replanted church must become a focused church. That refocused, simplified church looks different in every context. You will need to determine what your church’s priorities look like as you strive to make disciples in your context.
Simplifying your church structure will have multiple benefits throughout the replanting process, but maybe the most important benefit is to give young families the needed margin to live the Christian life. That’s how ministry is done these days. Older generations expected to be busy at church. Younger families do not. They need space to live their faith outside of the church building. Simplifying your strategy and reducing the time members are expected to be in the church building gives them that space.
At Wornall Road, we asked people to participate in three ways: weekly, gospel-centered worship; weekly community groups; and a lifestyle built around serving. We didn’t expect people to do anything else. In fact, the only gathering at the church most weeks was the church worship service on Sundays. That gave our young families time to be involved in the community and to serve. Thom Rainer’s book Simple Church is an excellent resource to help you think through this process with your church family.
Many older, dying churches have complex and detailed organizational structures that make the decision-making process slow and unresponsive. Your church structure needs to facilitate kingdom growth, not prohibit it. Many churches experienced failures or conflict in the past and, in an effort to see that “that never happens again,” they put governance mechanisms in place to safeguard against missteps. Though perhaps well-intentioned, the result is often a governance system that slows down and deters missions/ministry activity rather than encouraging it. New churches can react quickly. They can saddle up in a hurry and move to the sound of the battle while dying churches argue over which saddles to use. You get the picture. Create a biblical model of church leadership that actually allows those selected to lead, to lead.
Mark Clifton, Reclaiming Glory: Creating a Gospel Legacy throughout North America (Nashville: B&H, 2016).