Prototyping Churches

By Cailey Morgan

I was recently listening to the Thom Rainer Leadership Podcast. Their guest was Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor from Florida who tells the story of his church, which moved from a mega-church mentality, rebooting into a neighbourhood-centric church and eventually planting into a network of these smaller local congregations.

His story caught me, partially because of his attitude toward success. He had stopped worrying about how big or how fast the church was growing, and how fantastic their facilities were, and started thinking in terms of reaching everyone in their city.


In our Western Canadian context, as much as we’d all agree that our churches want to reach everyone, my guess is that we find most of our growth through lateral movement–that is, Christians moving to our church. We don’t see a high ratio of people coming to faith, and when they do, they have often come from a background that was already familiar with Christianity, or saw the Church in a favourable light.

Jimmy Scroggins’ outlook on the church is that it should look like the neighbourhood. They have diversified into smaller neighbourhood congregations in order to reach the specific type of people that live in each community. This type of multiplication also has the added benefit of being accessible to various types of leaders and removes the pressure of having to conform to certain expectations of what church should be. As he says, anyone can do it:

“Just start. Start with one. You can’t sit around waiting for everything to line up, and get your whole plan together. I am a big believer in prototyping–and anybody can do it.”

We’re doing a decent job at reaching some people with our present forms of church and evangelism, and I celebrate the vibrancy we are seeing in so many of our congregations across the CBWC. But to reach the unchurched and the totally unreached in our neighbourhoods, something’s going to have to change (check out Mike Frost’s brief video on this topic).

Our Turn
Would you be willing to consider participating in some R&D, initiating a “prototype” in your area? Think about your neighbourhood. What does is look like? What does it need? What does it have to offer the greater community? Who isn’t being reached?

And what about your existing church? What do your people have to offer? Who can you train into leadership? What other congregations in the area could you partner with to offer something new to a demographic or neighbourhood that isn’t presently being reached?

“Start something, and try it! If it doesn’t work the way you want, tweak it or change it, or try something different. But every pastor in every neighbourhood–rural, urban, suburban, ex-urban–everybody can be training leaders and trying to figure out how can we start new congregations to reach new populations of people in our area that are not being reached.”

Shannon, Joell and I really do believe that every church is called to and capable of multiplication in some form. That’s why we’re here to pray for, evoke, resource, and support you on that journey to health and growth. Talk to us today!

Find us at The Gathering this weekend in Calgary to chat about what could be next for you and your congregation. We’ll have some resources for you, and would love to collect some stories of life and growth in your area that we can share here on the blog.

Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity

This article by Thom Rainer is speaking to an American audience, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. What are your opinions on the topic of how churches should die? Please comment! ~Cailey

Death is not a popular topic.

I get it. It’s more encouraging to talk about birth, life, and growth.

But I want us to deal with the reality of dying churches in this article. And I hope we can move to a positive approach about these churches.

There are approximately 350,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. Many pundits estimate the number of closings to be about one percent, or 3,500 churches a year. For reasons I will discuss in a future post, I estimate the number to be closer to two percent, or 7,000 churches a year.

Let’s split the difference and say more than 5,000 churches die a year.


That’s 14 churches that die every day. And the number is likely to increase.

So what can we offer the leaders of dying churches? How can we help them help their churches die with dignity? I have seven suggestions.

  1. Be willing to move from denial to acceptance. If your church has declined from 200 in attendance to 25 in the past five or ten years, it is likely to close soon. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be proactive.
  2. Move from guilt to grace. Many members of dying churches feel shame and guilt for the state of their churches. It’s time to forget the past and move into the grace of God’s future. Wallowing in guilt precludes action. Celebrating in grace means moving forward.
  3. Avoid merging with another struggling church. An unhealthy or dying church merging with a similar church does not equal a healthy church. At best, it prolongs the inevitability of death from taking place.
  4. Consider a re-plant. Your church facilities are incredible assets God has given you. Many new churches are in desperate need of places to meet and worship. Consider giving your facilities to a church plant.
  5. Consider a merger with a healthy church. But it cannot be a merger of equals. The church with the healthy DNA must become the steward of leadership, facilities, and direction. In other words, it will be more like an acquisition than a merger. And it is likely the formerly dying church would become another campus of the healthy church.
  6. Celebrate the past and move to the future. Before your church transitions to either a replant or a merger, have a service of celebration. Thank God for the past, and look forward to His future.
  7. All members should reclaim another church. Before the door shuts on the past, each member of the dying church should state his or her commitment to get involved in another congregation. Some may even choose to be a part of the new church meeting in their former facilities.

Christ’s Church will never die. But local congregations have definitive life cycles, including birth, growth, decline, and death. If your church is moving from decline towards death, be the type of church leader to help your church die with dignity.

For it is in the death of one church that another church can have a hope for a great and healthy future.

The post Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity appeared first on on March 7, 2016Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at


Small Group Multiplication: A Priority?


by Cailey Morgan

Thom Rainer, in this helpful blog post and podcast on small groups, suggests that “One of the primary purposes of a small group should be to multiply itself.” He then gives 9 steps toward that multiplication of a small group.


Canaan Life Spring Baptist Church’s Women’s Group

While small groups may look different or even have different purposes in different contexts, we do wholeheartedly agree that if churches are to grow as a living organism, every level of church life needs to be reproducible–individual life transformation, group transformation, church-wide transformation and eventually city transformation.

Small groups are one of the best incubators for leadership development because they provide consistent, low-risk opportunities to serve and lead in a context of accountability and trust. But leaders in training can fail to reach their potential if the small group never multiplies because they don’t get the opportunity to step out and lead their own group.

What does group multiplication look like in your context? Are Rainer’s tips helpful for where your church wants to head? Share your thoughts here on this blog or email me at



A Webinar on Renewal

As part of this ongoing conversation about revitalization and renewal in our churches, I want to share this helpful webinar from Thom Rainer. I’m not sure how long it will be available for free online, so make sure to check it out soon!thom-rainerCailey Morgan

Social Media and Your Church

Cailey Morgan

Today at the Banff Pastors’ Conference, Bob Webber, Mike Engbers and I had the privilege teach a workshop on Publicity, Social Media and the Church. I got to share a bit of my journey working on communications with non-profit organizations, and offered some tips about social media usage. I wanted to post here a bunch of the resources that I found helpful, and Mike’s list of some software for churches.CC Faruk Ateş

Articles on Social Media

Here are two of the articles I have found particularly helpful, that hopefully will clarify some things for you as well:

What would you add to these two lists? Where has your church found success in social media? Both articles originally published on

Developing a Social Media Policy

Once your church has decided to use social media as a ministry tool, it’s important to develop policies around its usage. While not from a Christian ministry, the first two resources are helpful for thinking through what policies might fit your context. The last one is especially important for developing a policy around communicating appropriately with minors and vulnerable people.

Technology for Ministry

Here is a list of some helpful available software for churches from Mike Engbers.

  • Backups: Both these services have their advantages but allow for remote backup of a computer to the internet.  You can encrypt the data even to prevent someone from reading the data you archive (don’t lose your settings for encryption as you cannot recover them).  These are both relatively low cost options for a yearly subscription.  Backing up information so it is accessible in a disaster is very important!
  • Networking:
    • Open Mesh Hardware  (  a low cost expandable wireless network  that is able to be added to easily as needs grow. It allows for an internal network for an office and external guest network. Needs a moderate amount of technical skills to administer.
  • Live Streaming Resources: Live streaming is becoming more and more popular.  IT can be done from a iPhone or a full feature dedicated computer.  Here are some of the resources available:
  • Office Software: Probably the most basic software used in a church office is a word process or and spreadsheet.  There are a growing number of options to consider.
    • – has accounting software and Microsoft software at a charitable discount.  Microsoft Office 2016 can be purchased for $40.
    • Google Apps is  free software that come with any gmail account
    • Open Office – free alternative to MS Office.
    • Pages, Numbers, Keynote (OS X and in the cloud for all platforms)  (
  • Church Management: Church management software allows you to manage congregational information, print directories, record information, manage groups, and more.  Some even include finance and giving information.  Some are software installed on a computer while others are cloud based services that you log into a website to access or use an app. Prices range from free to expensive, from one time purchase to monthly costs. If using for financial information, ensure it allows for Canadian tax receipts. A list of options with comparison information can be found at Some examples include:
  • Volunteer Management: These allow you to schedule volunteers and manage them effectively:
  • Worship Presentation Software: Presentation software allows you to display song lyrics, scripture, videos, and more.
  • Online Donations: These sites are some that allow a church to collect online donations.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • – one of several online storage sites that allow you to save files to the cloud to access and share elsewhere
    • Reflector 2  –   This software lets you stream what’s on your mobile device to a computer.  This can be used to put the mobile device on a projector screen.  Useful especially for displaying a Skype call, sermon notes, etc.
    • Skype  allows for live video chats.
    • Google Hangout – Live video chats with multiple users.
    •  online video storage where people can access your videos online.  Free for basic account.
    • Hootsuite – manage multiple social media accounts and schedule posts

Have resources to add? Want to know more? Shoot me an email at

Well-Rounded Discipleship

As we look to the fall and the reboot opportunity a new school year brings for church communities, it’s worth spending some time thinking about what we really believe about discipleship, and how those beliefs should be worked out practically in our congregations.2014-BCY-Assembly (68)

Here’s a 20-minute podcast about well-rounded discipleship strategy that I found helpful and I hope you will too.

What did you think of the eight steps to effective discipleship? Which were the most important? Were any aspects missing? Share by commenting on the blog or email me at

Cailey Morgan

Eight Common Characteristics of Successful Church Revitalizations

By Thom Rainer

There is one type of church revitalization that is more successful than all others. The church closes its doors for a season, and then re-opens, usually with a new name and new leadership. I know this approach is not an option for most of you, so I gathered data from the “other” category. This category includes churches that kept the same name and, for the most part, the same leadership.

Pruning the tree so it can grow and be healthy. gynti_46 CC BY-NC 2.0

Pruning hurts but is required for health and growth.
gynti_46 CC BY-NC 2.0

As I gathered the information for successful revitalizations, I noted eight common characteristics that took place in most of the congregations. Unfortunately, many leaders are not willing to make all the sacrifices these characteristics suggest. Those who will make the sacrifices, however, are often seeing blessings beyond what they anticipated.

  1. The pastor formed an alliance of key influencers in the church. This group is not informal, nor is it closed to others. It begins when the pastor identifies those in the church whose voices are most effective in leading others toward change. I cannot remember a revitalization effort that succeeded without an alliance.
  1. The alliance of influencers recognized the need for church revitalization and made a commitment to pray for it daily. Please don’t let the last part of the preceding sentence escape your notice. Each of the influencers committed to daily prayer for revitalization. They realized it could not take place in their power alone.
  1. The leaders and a growing number in the congregation made a commitment to move the church to look more like the community. Such a commitment naturally involves an outward focus, because declining churches are not reaching all segments of their communities. The leadership within the church begins to look at the demographics of their community. They are willing to face reality on where the church is falling short.
  1. The church began to confront the issue of sacred cows. I know of one church that had a two-hour “town hall” meeting of the members of the congregation. The leaders made a list of every preference and church activity they could recall. For example, one of the items on the list was “11 am worship.” They then labeled each activity as either biblically essential, contextual, or traditional.
  1. The leadership began to work with the congregation to form a clear and compelling vision. One church, an all Anglo congregation, cast a vision to have 20 percent Hispanics in the worship attendance in one year because the community was 40 percent Hispanic. They did not reach 20 percent in year one, but they did in year two.
  1. The leadership communicated a sense of urgency. One of the simplest yet most powerful communications of urgency I’ve heard is: “We change or we die.” Too many congregations are choosing to die because of their unwillingness to change.
  1. The leadership, particularly the pastor, was willing to endure a season of intense criticism. This point is often where revitalization efforts end. The critics can get nasty, and the criticisms can become intense. Many people simply get mad at the idea of change.
  1. The leadership of the church was willing to let go of members. I have never known a successful revitalization effort where members did not leave. Few leaders like to see members leave, but some churches have a “back door revival” before true revitalization can take place.

Nine of ten churches are either declining or growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth of the community. Many churches are just a few years away from dying and closing. Revitalization is an urgent need.

Are you willing to become an agent of this needed change? Let me hear from you.

Do you agree with Thom’s assessment? What would you add? How can we help you take these first steps towards revitalization in your church? Email to share your feedback.

The post Eight Common Characteristics of Successful Church Revitalizations appeared first on Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

Eight Reasons Why Some Full-time Pastors and Staff Should Go Bivocational

by Thom Rainer

Some of you reading this post may need to get a new job. At least you may need to get an additional job.

Without a doubt, many churches will always need full-time vocational pastors and church staff. I am not suggesting all of you, even the majority of you, should go bivocational. But I do believe more of you should consider this path. Allow me to offer eight reasons why:

Barista. CC Beverley Goodwin

  1. A secular or marketplace job will put you in the middle of culture on a regular basis. Opportunities to develop relationships with non-believers will be greater. Opportunities to minister to people who would not set foot in a church will be greater as well.
  2. Full-time pastors and church staff often get missionally stale in their “holy huddles.” Perhaps the best way to break out of that Christian-only huddle is to be employed in a secular position.
  3. Smaller churches are increasingly unable to afford full-time pastors or staff. I have written on this site a few times about the flow of people from smaller churches to larger churches. As resources depart from the smaller churches, so do their ability to pay a pastor or staff person full-time. But these churches still need pastors.
  4. The digital world is offering more opportunities for flexible secular jobs than ever. I recently spoke to an IT professional who is also a pastor of a church. He spends about 25 hours a week in his IT job. He has declined good full-time opportunities in secular jobs because he wants to stay a tentmaker. I spoke to another staff person of a church who is an entrepreneur in the digital world. Those kinds of opportunities are growing every day.
  5. More churches are moving toward multiple teaching/preaching pastors. What was once common in large churches is now becoming increasingly common in medium and small churches. Many of these teaching pastors are in churches that cannot afford a second full-time pastor.
  6. More churches would like to expand staff, but don’t have the resources to do so. This issue is similar to #5 above, but here it refers to bivocational positions other than a lead pastor or teaching pastor. By the way, this approach allows church leaders to “raise up” people within their own churches—people they know and trust.
  7. A bivocational pastor or church staff can have greater freedom than a person in a full-time role. One of the “secrets” of church life is that many pastors and church staff are hindered from leading because their jobs would be in jeopardy. That is an unpleasant but clear and present reality. If a pastor or staff person has a job with other income, he or she may feel the freedom to move forward without succumbing to such pressure.
  8. A bivocational pastor or staff person has transferrable skills. A number of full-time church leaders have never worked outside of vocational ministry. They don’t understand the business and secular world. Bivocational ministers have secular skills they can use in their churches. They also have skills to support themselves if they find themselves no longer employed with their churches.

Bivocational ministry is a clear and definitive trend in church life. Some of the reasons for its growth are not that healthy. But many are. It is a great opportunity to make a greater difference in this culture in which we live. It is really a great opportunity to be a missionary on the field.

What do you of think of this issue? What are you seeing in your church and others?

This article was originally published at on January 19, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

Ten Reasons Why I’m Not Giving Up on Local Churches: A Plea for Revitalization

By Thom Rainer

The naysayers are at full throttle. “Local churches are dying!” “Churches are no longer relevant.” “The church is full of hypocrites.” “I don’t need the institutional church.”

The naysayer nabobs of negativity are in full force. It’s easy to give up. It sadly can be easy to believe God has given up on our churches. But He has not. I am convinced He has not.Ten-Reasons-Why-I’m-Not-Giving-Up-on-Local-Churches-A-Plea-for-Revitalization

My son, Sam Rainer, posted here his reasons why we should not give up on established churches. Indeed, he wrote an entire book on the topic. Allow me to add my own postscript with ten more reasons.

  1. The local church has been God’s chosen instrument since the ascension of Christ. Christ left us with the church to carry out His plan. He even refers to churches as “the body of Christ.” Local churches have been messy since the onset (Take a quick read of 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians as examples). He did not give up on the first-century churches. He will not give up on the 21stcentury churches.
  2. Believers can do more together than individually. We are called “church members” because we are members of the body of Christ (See 1 Corinthians 12). One member is not nearly as effective by himself or herself. We were not designed for Lone Ranger Christianity.
  3. The local church is where the Word is proclaimed and taught every week. Indeed, that is one of the key reasons for churches to exist.
  4. The local church is the place to gather to worship. Sure, we are to worship God individually. But we are also told to come together to worship with fellow believers. Such is one of the primary purposes of the church.
  5. The local church engenders accountability. The very essence of gathered believers is natural accountability. We are to submit to one another in willing and cheerful accountability. And that is intended to take place in the local church.
  6. We experience grace in the local church. I agree. The church is full of hypocrites and I am chief among them. The gathered church reminds us that we are a bunch of sinners who have been forgiven. As we continue to experience the grace of God through Christ, we should naturally desire to show that same grace to one another.
  7. The gathered church can have a great impact on its community. Most of us have seen the incredible difference a church can make on its community when that becomes its focus. I recently heard of a church where several local public schools were begging the church to come to their schools as a ministry. Those school leaders knew what a positive impact that church was making.
  8. The local church can provide an incredible organized ministry of small groups. Once believers get in small groups, they are apt to do more ministry, to read the Bible more frequently, and to give more abundantly.
  9. Believers can practice biblical stewardship best in local churches. As you read the New Testament pattern of stewardship, you see that most of the abundant giving came through local churches. Such is and should be the pattern today.
  10. The local church is the home base for evangelism. We gather for corporate worship and Bible study. But the best local churches then intentionally scatter to share the gospel with others.

I believe in the local church. I am not giving up on the local church. Too much is at stake. And God is not done with us.

This article was originally published at on October 27, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at