A clergy colleague said to me recently: “I think my church has less than five years to live. How can I get them to start talking about it?”
One answer lies in this post from 2011, which involves starting informal conversations to feel members out on the subject of culminating a ministry.
Another idea in this post involves talking to key leaders one by one and then building to group conversation.
Here is another idea: a congregational assessment tool put out by George Bullard, a church consultant. It is a checklist for churches that want help discerning their future. It won’t tell you what to do, or help you “save” your church. It will help you discern how vital and viable your church is now. From there, your congregation has to discern where God might be leading you in the future.
I’m not sure how Bullard uses this tool, but I would recommend it as a base for discussion with congregations and pastors together. Talk about what the different categories mean and why you each scored them the way you did. Look for hard evidence to back up your responses. Then test your answers against others’. What is God telling you?
Here is another older blog posts that can give you some ideas about how to engage in conversation about the need for radical change. Other posts under the “spiritual discernment” section of this blog include reflections for a leader and short peices you could read to a group and discuss.
Once a congregation has the courage to say “Things can’t go on like this”, then they can begin a meaningful conversation: “What are some options for change we could consider?” and, “Where does God seem to be leading us as a first step?”
It is scary to have these hard conversations, but whatever you do, don’t stop talking!