CAPE GIRARDEAU – Leading a church can be a challenge even in ideal circumstances. That goes double (or triple, or ten-fold) for a congregation that may need to take a hard look at itself and determine if revitalization or replanting might be the best way to glorify God.
Renovate SEMO is a concerted effort by Cape Girardeau Baptist Association to help guide pastors through that process with a residency program.
“Not only do we want to be coming alongside churches to see that happen, but we believe we need to raise up a generation that are equipped, devoted, and passionate about revitalization and replanting,” said Brandon Moore, director of Renovate SEMO and pastor of First Baptist, Oak Ridge.
Revitalization and replanting are closely related concepts, Moore said. The differences have to do mostly with the intensity of change needed in a congregation and the time span over which it happens. Revitalization can often happen without any change in leadership and happens over a stretch of several years, “chipping away” at change. Replanting a church typically involves new leadership, and “flips the switch” on the change with a new identity and a newly focused mission.
Renovate SEMO has two “residency” pathways. One is a certificate program, with ten leaders in various stages of ministry – some are senior pastors, some are bi-vocational – participating at the moment. They meet once a month for ten months to collaborate, sharpen each other, and dive deep. In between sessions, they’re reading, completing assignments and assessments, watching videos, and writing. Later in the program, their “homework” will include more hands-on ministry and work within a local church to learn how to better reach their communities, before finally completing a revitalization plan.
“If they’re a pastor of a church, they’ll working with their church,” he said. “If they’re not, then we’ll connect them with a church that’s interested in doing a community survey in order to help them learn their community. They’ll do a church health survey of their church or another church. The revitalization plan covers everything from where they are going to preach for the next year to what kind of changes need to happen in order for them to get to a place of health as worshipers, family and missionaries.”
Being a healthy congregation is key, Moore said.
“We’re not going for bigger, necessarily,” he said. “We really want guys to grasp God’s heart and passion to bring churches back to life for His glory and the good of their communities. More people being saved and coming to Christ is amazing. We pray for that, but we can’t control who and how many come to Christ. But we can go after health, and we believe through that, that God will grow the church.
The second track is a partnership developed with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It’s a similar mindset, but leaders who are considering a master’s degree can earn 18 hours of credit through some more intensive work.