By Dr. Terry Rials
September 5, 2017
When I started my first church revitalization project, it was glaringly obvious to me that I did not have the kind of people around me that I needed for such an important undertaking. I knew I needed help in several critical areas.
Thankfully, I chose wisely. Permit me to pass on a few insights that may benefit you in your revitalization project. There are five types of friends that you need in your life as you lead your church into revitalization: Encouragers, catalysts, equippers, prayer warriors, and ministry coaches. Without these, your chances of leading a successful project will be in serious jeopardy.
Think of encouragers as friends on a teeter totter. They keep you balanced and keep you from listening only to the critics and detractors on the other side. Additionally, encouragers keep you motivated to do the task God called you to do. An encourager is not a person who showers you with flattery, nor did God place encouragers into the church to cheer you up or assure you that everything will turn out okay. To be honest, people who agree with you on everything are not encouragers. Encouragers challenge your assumptions, give you direction, and expect you to heed their advice. Please do not underestimate the tremendous role these people will play in your ministry. Sometimes, the only difference between continuing on or giving up, succeeding or failing, is the right people encouraging you. These are the people who are called alongside to help. Their ministry is active, not passive, and without them we would soon run out of strength and motivation.
Whereas an encourager is like a teeter totter, a catalytic leader is like a person with a lever. Their leadership is invaluable, especially when the church is stuck on high-center. When catalytic leaders join your team, things will begin to move (sometimes quickly). Their lever is their influence, which they use to help things get moving. Every church has within it at least one lay person who is a catalytic leader. The scriptures speak of those in the church with the gift of leadership. Catalysts have several identifiable qualities that can be put to good use in church revitalization. First, good catalytic leaders have a genuine interest in the well-being of the church; they truly want the church to succeed in its mission. They are not out for personal gain. Second, they know the people and know how to get things done. Catalysts tend to be well-networked and often have vast resources available to them. Third, they are experienced in life and have emotional intelligence, the ability to manage their own emotions and to moderate the emotional highs and lows of others. Fourth, catalysts have earned the respect and trust of others in the church. Like the old E. F. Hutton commercials on television, when this person talks, everyone listens.
Think of an equipper as a prosthetist, the person who designs, fabricates, and fits prosthetic limbs. You see, there are parts missing on you – not body parts, but pieces that will make you a complete revitalizer. Like the Six Million Dollar Man, you will be better and stronger. After you evaluate what you are not able to do, you will need to find people who can equip you in those areas. Let me give you a few examples. I needed to know more about revival, so I found an expert on revival and I sat at his feet. I felt very inept at leading my church to engage the immediate community, so I found a pastor who excelled in that area and learned from him. I knew very little about coaching until God put a very gifted ministry coach directly into my path. Discover and address the missing parts of your ministry!
These people go into the battlefield in prayer on behalf of you and your church. Think of these people as holding one end of a rope with Almighty God attached to the other end – through their prayers! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in prayer for those who truly believe. Prayer warriors know this and have made it their business to be people of fervent prayer. You will not have to talk these people into praying for you and for the project because praying is what they do best. They will gladly volunteer! They do it because it works; actually they do it because they believe that God works! Jesus knew power in His earthly ministry and fought His battles in prayer. He went into the wilderness to pray, even battling with the enemy for forty days. He retreated from His disciples in order to commune with the Father in prayer. The High Priestly Prayer is chalked full of intercession for his disciples and the dilemma they would face. As a revitalizer, find people in your church who have walked with the Lord for a long time, who believe in the power of God, who trust in Him by faith. Find people who will fight this fight with you on their knees while you fight on yours.
Ministry Coaches are like voice recorders, reminding us of what we said we were going to do. We need constant reminding because pastoral leaders have short attention spans and we bore easily. Rather than camp in one place too long, we switch to something new and different. In the case of revitalization, abandoning the task will have disastrous results. A ministry coach reminds us to stay on the task of revitalization in a very non-threatening, non-offensive way using nothing but questions. They never dictate, lecture, or advise; they just ask really great questions. Coaches often begin coaching sessions with a general question. For example, a ministry coach would ask something like this, “What has the Lord been saying to you about your life and ministry recently?” Coaching then shifts to questions like, “Last week, Pastor, you said that you were going to work on three things to improve your church’s greeting ministry. How did that go?” Having a ministry coach is invaluable because there will be a day when you will not want to do revitalization anymore, but you know that Monday morning your coach will be calling to follow up with you, just like he has every week for the past six weeks. This well-trained, accountability partner who helps keep you on-track will become a great blessing as you lead revitalization!
You will definitely need friends as you lead revitalization in your church. You need the encouragers to make sure you do not get discouraged and give up. You need catalysts to help you get things moving. You need equippers to complete your skill set, prayer warriors to keep the enemy at bay, and ministry coaches to keep you on task. As in life, having the right friends leads to success. Having the right people around you as you prepare for and lead your church into revitalization may be the difference between glowing success and dismal failure.
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