Every church has a life-cycle.
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote “To every thing there is a season … a time to be born, and a time to die.” We believe that this same principal applies to all living organisms including the local church.
Over time, every church will travel through seven natural stages of a life-cycle; birth, growth, maturity, plateau, decline, drop-out, and death.
While the chart shows a smooth line of transitions, the actual story of a church’s life is often one of starts and stops. A church with a long history will likely experience several periods of growth, maturity and decline before a new found burst of energy will begin the cycle again.
A number of factors may influence a church’s progress through the life-cycle. Some are internal while others are external.
Internal factors may include:
- Aging members
- Resistance to change
External factors might be:
- Changing neighborhood demographics
- Local economy
- Congregation’s reputation
- Facility limitations
The most important takeaway is to understand that life-cycles are a naturally occurring event and the death of a local church does not mean it was a failure. If the death of a church was a failure, then every church established by the Apostles in the first century would have been a failure since none of them are in existence today.
*For a more in-depth presentation of church life-cycles, see Legacy Churches by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond.