This article is part of our Blue Ridge Baptist Association focus through March. Dan Housam is the pastor of North Valley Church (NVC) in Myersville, a replant of Myersville Baptist Church.
According to a 2020 North American Mission Board Ministry Report, an average of 1,000 churches disappear from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) database each year. The same report stated that the SBC added 908 new congregations in 2019. Church planting is a groovy thing, but if the closure of existing churches exceeds the planting, we are still losing ground for the Kingdom.
My name is Dan Housam, and I am currently the pastor of NVC in Myersville. I am not sharing anything new. Many of us are aware that the revitalization of churches is an important strategy for growing the kingdom of God. Many people in church, associational, state convention, and national leadership have been investing time and resources to “close the back door,” as it were. I personally have been involved in a church merger and a replant. I am not an expert by any means, but I would like to just share a few things I have learned from the perspective of someone who has walked down this road. Twice. If you are someone contemplating a path of revitalization for your church, I pray that these thoughts are an encouragement to you.
Just for a quick glance, these are the areas I would like to encourage you to consider.
- Pray in silence.
- Take care of yourself.
- Seek expert counsel.
Pray in silence – Through both of my experiences, I was surprised about what God did in those circumstances. He did both exciting things and hard things. I did not always see what was coming. Having your children’s ministry grow by 50% over the course of a few months is exciting. Having a group of leaders decide that your church was not the right fit for them is hard. Our habit in prayer is to go before God with our list of requests. I encourage you to leave room in your prayer time to be quiet and hear what God might have to say. God knew what would happen in both of the cases above, and He wanted to prepare and lead me through them. Jesus is still the real head of the church (Colossians 1:18). He has a plan for His churches, and our greatest chance of “success” is to listen and look for His leading.
Take care of yourself – Change is uncomfortable and costly. It costs intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And that is when we are making change for ourselves. Revitalization, by definition, means that we are intentionally making changes. Our congregations will be experiencing the stress and uncertainty that is inherent in the process. As leaders, our natural tendency will be to focus, invest, and be excited about the work and sometimes neglect our self-care. I am currently navigating a season where things just got exciting, busy, and my self-care trailed off. People around me are asking, “Are you angry at me?” That’s my sign. I need to fill the tanks. Remember, Jesus (who is leading this process of change) also wants to refresh and restore your soul (Psalm 23:1-3). We cannot shepherd people with empty tanks. Taking care of yourself is not just about eating well, exercising, and sleeping through the night. It also means caring for ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
Seek expert counsel – There are so many expertly trained people in our associations, state conventions, and national organizations. Get them involved in your process. They are super eager and ready to talk and walk with you in the journey of revitalization. They have walked other churches through their journeys. There are strategies, methods, and assessments to help you and your congregation to make as informed and Spirit-led decisions as you can. And after the decisions, they can walk with you in wisdom and provide guidance and support. It is wise to seek counsel (Proverbs 15:22). As part of my journey, I was certified by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as a church replanter. I also was given the opportunity to attend a revitalization conference hosted by NAMB. Both of these were opportunities where I have been equipped. I also regularly attend revitalization cohort meetings. All of this is valuable equipping and counsel that is helping me fill my role in my replant.
I hope that some of my story is an encouragement to you. Revitalization can happen, and it can take many forms. I would enjoy praying for your revitalization journey. If you would like a prayer partner, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo: Housam prepares to open the church doors on a chilly day (photo by Dan Housam).
Read Housam’s replant story below.