Revitalization vs. Replanting: A Closer Look
One of the discussions I am regularly having with pastors and church leaders has to do with the differences between church revitalization and church replanting. What are the major differences between these two things?
Here is a short list of some of the major differences between these two types of ministry. Both are desperately needed, but they are different. It is important to understand the differences.
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.
Replanting: 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).
- New decision-making structure and new decision makers who handle the daily decisions (outside transition team).
- New by-laws are created and put into practice.
- Offers a break with the past (end date) and a fresh start for the future (launch date).
- New identity can create excitement, momentum, enthusiasm and interest in the community.(1)
(1) See the NAMB “Associational Replant Guide” for more on the differences between revitalization and replanting. “Associational Replant Guide,” The North American Mission Board, April 7, 2017, accessed August 15, 2017, https://www.namb.net/resources/replant-associational-guide.