A Model for Renewal

Four phases to introduce small group ministry in a declining church.

(This model of renewal for declining congregations is based on The Servant-Witness Model for Congregational Renewal, which is explained in more detail in an upcoming book by Dan Bonner. Much of the work of implementing this model has particularly been centered on urban congregations.)

The servant-witness model for renewal consists of four interactive phases. For a church beginning the process of renewal action, there is a logical sequence to these phases. They are (1) mission development; (2) recruitment development; (3) small group development; and (4) prophetic witness development. Once all four phases are enacted, they continue to function simultaneously, each feeding the others within the congregational life of the revitalizing church.

Phase I: Mission Development

"When we began our efforts at renewal, the first thing we discovered was that we no longer had our fingers on the pulse-beat of the community around us," says Rev. Charles Stith of the Union Memorial Church in Boston. "We had to reacquaint ourselves with the struggles, hopes, and dreams of the people who live closest to us at Union Memorial. Before we could reach them, we had to show we cared about them."

The options for the approaches a church can take to mission development are numerous. The array of possibilities is limited only by the church’s ability and willingness to identify with the needs of its neighbors. Through these actions to meet human need, the church begins to reintroduce itself to its community as a dependable participant in people’s life struggles.

This first phase is missional when the church addresses basic human needs of hunger, housing, learning, or provides other human services. This is not missions in general. It is about the church ...

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