“Surrender all day-to-day decision making to an outside transition team, ideally from a sending church. Engage strategic outside ministry partners. Call a trained replanting pastor. What does this pathway look like practically?
First, as noted above, the church needing to be replanted has already said, “We surrender. We recognize this is the Lord’s church and to move forward in a healthy way, there needs to be fresh leadership. We joyfully submit to an outside transition team that can guide us into the future.” This transition team could be a group of pastors, elders, deacons or other lay leaders from a particular sending church. It could be a group made up of pastors and leaders from different churches in the community. It could be a group of denominational leaders. It might be a combination of all of the above. Whoever these individuals are, the dying church has agreed to give up day-to-day decision making and oversight to this outside group of trusted leaders. They have gladly surrendered to this group to help guide them and lead them into the future.
Secondly, the congregation, along with their outside transition team, begins to engage ministry partners and churches, inviting them to be part of this new, exciting replanting vision. The reality is that no declining church can get healthy on its own. Declining churches need healthy churches to come alongside them, to encourage them, to help share resources with them, and to serve joyfully as partners in this new work. Radical cooperation is needed. This is the beauty of the body of Christ in action and makes much of Jesus and the gospel!
Thirdly, the congregation recognizes they need a pastor who is trained in, equipped for, and has a heart for replanting. Because replanting is a unique ministry, it takes unique leadership, including a unique type of pastor. This church needs a pastor who is a visionary shepherd. This is a pastor who is burdened to reach the lost in the community and who is willing to do whatever it takes to lead this dying church to engage the surrounding community with the love of Christ.
At the same time, this congregation needs a pastor who truly loves shepherding people, both young and old, who respects and honors the history of the congregation, and who understands the unique dynamics of replanting ministry. Where does this church find such a pastor? In most cases, this replanting pastor will be identified and appointed by the outside transition team that is helping to oversee the entire replanting process for this congregation. Working with the declining congregation and potentially denominational leaders, the transition team will seek to find a replanter who they believe is a good fit for leading this congregation back to health and life. Revitalization vs. Replanting… A Closer Look Revitalization: A deliberate, dedicated and protracted effort to reverse the decline or death of an existing church. The least invasive approach as few major changes are made up front. Utilizes existing structures, leadership and congregants. May be led by an existing or new pastor. (Revitalization is less likely to occur successfully with a long tenured existing pastor; more likely, a new pastor will be the best way to move forward). Requires a great deal of time—the pace of change is very slow. High risk as the church may reject the leadership efforts of the pastor and leaders and ask them to leave or remove them through elevated conflict or forced termination. Is less likely to lead to lasting change and more likely to be a continuation of the same. Is the least effective approach for churches facing imminent closure. Replant: A decision to close an existing church and re-launch as a new church, with new leadership (a new replanting pastor), new name, new identity, new governance, new ministry approach and overall new philosophy of ministry. In some cases it is not necessary to adopt a new name but simply adjust it. In some instances where a denominational label is a hindrance to reaching the community or where the name is unnecessarily long or confusing a name change may be appropriate. Builds on the history/legacy of the previous church. Requires new leadership (a new replanting pastor).”
Hallock, Mark. God’s Not Done with Your Church: Finding Hope and New Life through Replanting (The Replant Series) (pp. 20-22). Acoma Press. Kindle Edition.