Frequently Asked Questions


Turnaround Synod Initiative

Find common questions and answers below, if you have more questions, please e-mail us. We'll do our best to answer, and we may publish it here on the site.

We have set a goal of 50% turnaround of our declining congregations. Shouldn’t every declining congregation be moving toward growth?

Ideally, yes. But actually 50% is a bold goal. Turnaround work is difficult and takes time. Some declining congregations are ready to go but can use a little help and encouragement. Some have deeply ingrained habits and attachments that will take more time to change. Some congregations are struggling with conflict and need to get healthier before they can begin inviting others into their community.

To use a physical fitness analogy: Some people just need to find where they left their running shoes and they’re good to go. Some people need to start at a moderate level and build on that. And some people really do need to see their doctor before beginning any exercise program.

A congregation can be growing in other ways, even while worship attendance declines. So, why are you using average worship attendance to measure congregational vitality?

Yes, there are all kinds of growth—growth in biblical knowledge, growth in stewardship, growth in participation in ministries, and so on. But we are called to go and make disciples. Worship attendance shows how many people gather when the whole congregation comes together for the central act of a community of faith. All congregations lose worshipers to moves, family changes, illness, and death. But significant changes in average worship attendance over time show whether a congregation is also going outside the church doors with the gospel, energetically and repeatedly inviting people to come meet Jesus and experience Christian community.

Worship attendance is not a perfect measure or the only indicator of what’s going on in a congregation. But, as a generally accurate and easy-to-grasp measure of how we’re doing with reaching people with the gospel and helping them connect with nurturing communities of faith, it seems to be both a practical and a worthwhile measurement.

Our congregation isn’t in decline. Is there a way for us to be involved in the initiative?

Yes, absolutely. Any congregation in the synod—growing, stable, or declining—can benefit from the workshops and other offerings that are part of the Turnaround Synod Initiative. You may also want to take advantage of the discounted Transforming Church Index from TAG Consulting to get a clearer picture of your congregation. In addition, you can network with other congregations to share your experiences and, possibly, your resources. And, of course, prayer is always a great way to be supportive.

How confident are you that this initiative will accomplish its goals?

Though there are no guarantees, we are hopeful and confident that God can and will work through our congregations to spread the gospel. We’re confident that Jesus Christ can and will renew his Church. In fact, it’s happening around our synod right now.

Of course, different ideas and different approaches will work in different congregations. That’s why the initiative is designed to encourage, support, and share creative thinking. We’re expecting the diversity and creativity of the people and congregations in our synod to fuel this renewal. We believe that each part of this initiative has the potential to spark something positive.

The outcome of these efforts will ultimately depend on God’s blessing. But God also depends on us (“God’s work. Our hands.”). St Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). Every person, every congregation, every mission-inspired act is important.

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