The Five Phases of Church Leadership

In a previous post I introduced what I refer to as “The Discipline of ‘Why?’” This is an important leadership principle that guides us to remain focused upon the mission of God and a biblical vision to fulfill it. We must be disciplined to ask “why?” before “who?”, before “what?”, and before “how?” in order to stay on track with the vision to fulfill His mission for His church. I encourage you to go back and read about this important discipline.

Over the next several weeks I want to flesh out the five phases a church must go through in order to not only implement this discipline, but also to either move toward or to remain in a healthier state. These phases have come from my own twenty plus years in full time local church ministry, as well as nearly twenty years of church consulting. I have had the privilege of consulting hundreds of churches face-to-face as well as several denominations around the world. The need for these phases has been consistent in both the healthiest and most unhealthy situations I have personally seen and experienced. I am now teaching them as aspects of the Church Revitalization course here at the seminary.

I do not want you to misinterpret these five phases as formulaic, however. This is not “A+B guarantees C.” Instead, these phases are simply processes that churches seeking to be biblically strong will walk through and constantly repeat in an evaluative loop. In addition, at times they will not be completely linear. Leadership might need to weave in and out of the various phases at various times to address specific issues. There is, however, a logical beginning order that I will use to introduce these concepts. Think of the Olympic rings as an image of how these five phases interact with one another.


One last significant aspect of these five phases is that they are also incredibly beneficial for the individual believer. Just as they provide a strategy for moving forward and for evaluating an entire corporate body, they can do the same for the church member. As a leadership team embraces these concepts, they will find how they can be implemented on both levels.

Please read through this entire series of posts to come. I seriously pray this will be helpful as I walk you through the five phases of: Assessment, Identification, Vision Development, Adjustment, and Implementation.


Q&A 2: Should I Be Involved in a Church Revitalization Initiative?


Question 2: I really feel called to church revitalization. There’s an opportunity in my city to join a brother at a church in our neighborhood and start that work. My church, where I’ve been for 7 years, is not too excited about it. I really value their input, want to submit to their plans, and believe God uses the church to affirm callings, so this is a hard place for me to be in. There are 3 or 4 who are supportive and excited about it. Any advice?

Reply: I am grateful for all who have a calling for church revitalization. I believe it would be a tragedy to surrender billions of dollars of assets that were built by our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Many churches are on the verge of shutting their doors, and we have a propitious moment to reach out and seek to change the course of their trajectory. Of course, we cannot revitalize churches that are not interested in revitalization. In those instances, and tragically so, they will die of their own choosing. If I were a part of a church that was not interested in reaching out to a hurting congregation, I think I would look for another church. I want to be a part of a church that is passionate about the Great Commission. I want to be a part of a church that wants to help plant new churches as well as revive plateaued and dying churches. I agree that God uses the church to affirm our callings, but I have a hard time believing that God would not want us to be involved in helping plant churches and revitalize dying ones, especially when they invite us to come and help them! You shared that there are 3 or 4 who are supportive and excited about this. Then I would join them and go. I would get involved in helping that church turn around for the glory of God. I would do so humbly, with an open ear and with a commitment to above all things love this people in the direction they need to go. They don’t need a dictator or a “know it all” coming in to tell them how to do it. They need a loving shepherd who will guide them in the ways of the Lord.