Reinvigorating Churches

Back in June, I got to spend some time with friends at Annual Conference.  That's the big upside to heading to Athens for a week each year - reconnecting with people that you know well, but serve hours away.

Many of my friends are church planters, or plan to plant churches one day.  I hear their stories and I'm encouraged.  Chances are, I'll one day serve one of these newer churches, even though I have no expectation of planting one myself. 

The resources available to church planters, in terms of ideas, coaching, and support, seem unquantifiable.  The biggest challenges they face are funding and drawing in that first critical mass to be self-sufficient.  As we talked about some of these things, I voiced my frustration over not finding any significant resources for breathing new life into an older congregation.  This is the kind of ministry I'm in, but for the most part, I'm on my own.

In my few years of ministry, I've learned that for lead/senior pastors, you're going to be in one of three stages of ministry:  planting new churches, nurturing and leading existing, stable, fruitful churches, or striving to reinvigorate a declining church.  There doesn't seem to be a fourth option, unless you want to throw in the inept pastors that ride the declining church into the dirt (or the churches that self-sabotage and choose to die).

That was a big lead-in to what came across my desk this week.  The friend I voiced my concern with months ago sent me a link to an opportunity this week.  A pastor in Illinois who successfully turned around a church has decided to offer a coaching opportunity for 12 ministers over the first 6 months of next year.  What an opportunity - what an answer to prayer!  Just the chance to conference with others dealing with the same challenges and to share methods and ideas.  Needless to say, I had the application request form filled out online in mere seconds and waited impatiently to hear back.

Yesterday I got a reply.  Included was more information and an application.  I was already thinking of what I might say in my 5 minute video application when I read over the information for the program.  For six months of coaching - one meeting per month (online) and the opportunity to connect with 11 other ministers (online) - the cost is $1,200.  That doesn't include flying to Illinois, renting a car, reserving a hotel room, and all else for a trip to meet in person toward the end of the meetings.  It doesn't include books to read and materials to buy.

I know that this coaching could be immensely valuable and might contain something that will help things get off the ground here at Mt. Bethel.  But I can say this - my continuing education fund is only $750 per year and the church I serve is doing everything it can just to pay the staff and fund basic ministries.  The new ministries we're trying to adopt to achieve God's vision for the church are currently limited to things we can do for nominal or no cost at all.  Raises for our staff are out of the question for 2010.  $1,200 is more than we can spare. 

So here's what I'm proposing: An expense-free opportunity for ministers in the same boat to connect.  If you're interested in networking or know someone that might be, please email me: alexander.stroud (at) gmail.com.  I'm looking for lead pastors / senior pastors that are trying to transition the churches that they serve.  If you're on the other side of the experience and you've already accomplished this, I want to talk to you as well.

Please help spread the word.  A few dozen of you follow my weekly rantings, but we need more for this project.