When the Tennessee Valley Presbytery began developing our current church planting strategy, we also took time to assess the need for church revitalization. Largely guided by Andy Aikens, pastor of First Presbyterian of Crossville, we developed a philosophy of and plan for church revitalization. Andy’s personal experience with church revitalization helped us set a clear path of support for churches in our presbytery, should they ever need it.
While we are passionate about starting new churches, it is also important that we don’t neglect existing churches in our presbytery. Andy calls this approach a “full-orbed care for the proclamation of the gospel in our communities. If a church needs and wants help and wants to be vibrant again, it’s part of what we care about. We want to see Christ-exalting churches, which is why we plant them, and it’s also why we’d come alongside them with revitalization.”
Revitalization is not a sign of failure or unfaithfulness on the part of the pastor and members. Rather, Andy explains, “In church ministry, you are either planting a new church or in some stage of revitalization. All churches go through peaks and valleys, and all need to find renewal and refreshment in the work God has called us to do.”
In 2019, the presbytery defined terms around church revitalization and set up an application through which churches could seek support from the presbytery. We now have a three-step plan in place. 1. Determine if a church is a good candidate for revitalization (the “status” stage). 2. Form a team who evaluates the needs (the “evaluation” stage). 3. Align plans and resources to aid the church (the “plan” stage). While primarily offering human resources, the presbytery may also aid with financial resources as needed.
Church revitalization doesn’t simply mean seeing numbers in the pews increase. While additional members may be a need, our presbytery focuses on keeping churches gospel-oriented. The presbytery helps these churches form strategic plans with specific ministry goals, varying from church to church, but the overall goal is to stay mission focused on biblical truth and the proclamation of the gospel.
The presbytery promotes the revitalization program among churches who might be interested. So far, several churches have entered the program and others have initiated fruitful conversations. With the plan and process established, the presbytery is prepared to support the long-term health of all the Tennessee Valley churches.