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We need to talk about Church Revitalisation

Last year, we advertised for a Church Revitalisation Coordinator to join the FIEC staff team. We’re delighted that Phil Walter is now in post. Phil will work with a number of our churches to help them recapture their gospel vision and – we pray – flourish again. We asked him to share his experiences in church revitalisation as he begins his new role.

We need to talk about Church Revitalisation primary image

On my first day as Church Revitalisation Coordinator, I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. After all, he had no idea where the adventure would take him either! But he ended up making good friends along the way, met with some difficult situations and sometimes felt like giving up.

I’m sure the journey of church revitalisation will include all these things but with God’s help we can grow and revitalise gospel-driven churches together.

“Can you help us?”

My experience with church revitalisation began with this plea from a smaller church to our medium sized church in a large village in Northamptonshire. The smaller church that approached us had been through a very difficult period and were without visionary leadership.

It became clear that the only way forward was to somehow join with them and lead them to a better place. So we agreed the following way forward:

  • To provide interim Eldership for a two-year period
  • To take a fresh look at mission, vision and strategy
  • To aim to call a pastor within that two-year period
  • To challenge what they saw as important and put in place fresh ministry

The commitment from both the smaller church and our church was important. On this occasion the outcome was very positive and a new pastor was called within the timescale.

How did it impact our church?

The outcome for us was that God blessed us – we were able to pray for the smaller church, share with them, gain a real sense of partnership in the gospel and ensure we weren’t just looking after our own interests, but the interests of others (Phil 2:4). We found it so rewarding to partner with them.

As a church we decided we would definitely do this again – and we did – but in a very different church context and with a very different outcome!

“Can you help us? (P.S. don’t ask us to change)”

We were approached by a small village church with a great facility used by the community virtually every day. The congregation was less than 15 and the majority of them were more than 70 years of age.

Could this church be revitalised? The clear answer was “yes”, but after a period of research, searching questions and discussion, it was clear that any help would only put off the funeral for a few years!

So was time spent with this second church just wasted?

Well, there is no question that the folk were dear brothers and sisters who had been faithful over many years to the gospel. What had happened was that things had changed and they hadn’t really been aware of it.

For example:

  • They no longer met for prayer and Bible study in the week
  • They used their building for the community but were no longer connected to it
  • The leadership were not willing to change
  • Their interest was inward looking with the care of the congregation being the priority

So why wasn’t this a waste of time? Because there is a glimmer of understanding in this congregation that the church will not survive and therefore we might be able to help them to die well, so that either a new work arises, or the building and assets can be used for new gospel ministry.

Church Revitalisation: what can I do?

I think there are challenges for every FIEC church when we think about church revitalisation.

  • Would you consider getting involved with a struggling church in your area?
  • Does your church need help and are you willing to receive it?
  • Will you become part of the FIEC church revitalisation family through prayer, interest and action?

If the answer to any of these is yes, then start the ball rolling by getting in touch with me. May God bless you in your endeavours.

Phil Walter photo
Phil Walter - Church Revitalisation Coordinator

Phil grew up in Plumstead, South East London and pursued a career in the food industry before becoming Pastor of Brixworth Christian Fellowship in 1996. He is married to Ruth and they have two sons and four grandchildren. He became FIEC’s Church Revitalisation Coordinator in February 2016.