Church Life Cycles

Whiteboard Wednesdays is a short video series capturing the knowledge and experiences from our current leaders. These videos will discuss various topics that will educate, train, and inspire leaders who are looking for a weekly dose of motivation and learning. For this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday, we have Art Wiers, one of the leaders of Luminex, here to share with us about how understanding church life cycles helps to strengthen churches.

Just as tools are crucial for building houses, so too are tools crucial for strengthening churches. This particular tool helps church leaders to understand where they are in the life cycle of their church, and to lead their church accordingly.

Although not all churches share the same bell curve for a life cycle, most share a lot of similar characteristics. There are generally four basic components in a church’s life cycle: First, the church’s leaders must discern and convey a strong, compelling vision that will move the ministry forward. Along with the expansion of vision comes relationships, where people connect and start to build fellowship and community around the ministry. As the church reaches “adolescence” and begins to mature, they start creating programs. And as more people come into the church, demands increase and are often met by developing programs for children, youth, and adults. Finally, with programs comes the need for management. Typically, a young church will start off with minimal management consisting of mainly one leader, but as the church ages (20-25 years), the management role expands as more programs are added.

“Adulthood” of a church is reached when all four elements – vision, relationships, programs and management – are at their peak. Churches tend to begin declining at around 30 – 40 years. A decline usually leads to the misconception that adding more programs is the best way to avoid further decline. But in reality the best approach is to focus on regaining clarity of the vision. No matter how much energy and effort leaders spend on programs, they will not pull a church out of a decline until they are able to gain clarity and direct their energy toward a fresh vision. Ultimately, maintaining a strong vision is crucial for a church’s survival. Even young churches can hit a decline with strong relationships and management, but weak programs and vision.

In conclusion, understanding the life cycles of a church helps leaders to avoid misreading their church’s needs, and to avoid wasting precious resources and energy in ways that do not help the church move forward. I hope you find this article helpful in aiding church leaders to develop stronger churches, and to identify solutions for churches that have hit a decline in their life cycle.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Doug Johnson
    Reply

    We did this exact thing. We lacked a vision. That was 4 years ago and we still lack a vision. Who, exactly, determines a vision? The pastor who turns over every 3-5 years or the Consistory/Board who is constantly in a flux every year? I am just a lay person but am so frustrated that we can’t determine what we are here to do and just do it.

    • Mike Gafa
      Reply

      Hi Doug, this is Mike Gafa. On behalf of the Luminex Team (RCA Great Lakes Region), I thought I would reach out to you. I will send you a separate email, if that is okay. Maybe we can help on this?

  • Nick deVries
    Reply

    Art,
    Thank You for your in-depth analysis of “Church Lifecycles”. It’s thinkers/communicators like you who inspire us to “step-back” and focus on the important aspects of ministry. Thanks for this “Luminex” video tool. Nick deVries.

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