Thom Rainer has once again hit the nail on the head in describing how some churches have reversed a downward spiral and regained health. It boils down to this: we must change or die. Sometimes we humans know what we need to do to avoid death — give up smoking, eat healthier diets, exercise — yet we choose not to do those things. Churches are no different. Even when they know what they should do, they often choose not to.
The book is divided into seven chapters, each addressing one issue the church needs to deal with:
- Accepting Responsibility — too often we seek a person or situation to blame. However, we cannot blame the Pastor, the community, our location, the mega-church that opened nearby, or other factors for the church’s decline. All members must accept their responsibility for the church’s failure to thrive.
- Overcoming the Traps of Tradition — We cannot allow our personal preferences or long-standing traditions guide the church going forward. If a program is not working, or has lost a vision, it is time to change or end it.
- Expanding the Scorecard– Numbers are not everything, but churches can hold themselves accountable by reviewing certain “scores” such as attendance, new members, and financial giving.
- Committing to Powerful Prayer — It is not necessary to have a large group, but Ranier insists that revival never comes without consistent prayer.
- Dealing with Toxins — Toxic members are rare, and criticism is not always toxic. However, a member who is consistently undermining the unity of the church must be approached and dealt with.
- Seeking Silver Bullets No More– This is similar to the chapter on accepting responsibility. There is no “magic” cure for a declining church. Changing the music, replacing the Pastor or moving will not work. Changing to an outward focus will. It is a process that takes time.
- Choosing Meaningful Membership — Rainer recommends a New Members program which emphasizes not just information, but involvement and assimilation.
VERDICT: 5 stars. This book is well organized and easy to read. It offers a number of useful suggestions to make your church healthier.
For other posts on books by Thom Ranier go to these posts: