It’s time for the neighborhood church to make a comeback. The stigma of small churches is fading. Fostering is becoming more common. Pastors should feel free to leave the islands of their campuses and make friends. The opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods is as big as ever. The neighborhood church movement is primed for a relaunch.
Neighborhood churches tend to be small or midsize and well-established. For years, we have dismissed the potential for a significant move of God in these churches. I believe they are primed for a comeback. They are numerous, and they are located in the heart of places with lots of people.
I believe in this comeback so much that I wrote a book about it. The Surprising Return of the Neighborhood Church just released! If you lead or attend a neighborhood church or want to know more about this potential movement, you can pick up a copy now. I wish I could write that these churches will make a comeback, but it’s still an unrealized possibility. But what might it look like if such a comeback were to occur?
The Stigma Must Become the Advantage
Some have bemoaned the “on every street corner” nature of the established church. I understand. It seems there are churches everywhere that are doing nothing. But a shift is already underway. The megachurch movement is waning. The younger generations don’t prefer the giant sanctuaries on sprawling campuses that their Boomer parents enjoyed. The neighborhood church has a long way to go before we can talk about a movement, but the stigma of small and local is fading. Smaller churches embedded in neighborhoods have a certain appeal. If these churches step up and begin to reach into their surrounding communities, that stigma might shift to an advantage.
Church Fostering Must Become More Common
We understand the term fostering in connection with children being placed with a family. It differs from adoption in that it’s not intended to be permanent. Similarly, a new movement called fostering is emerging in the world of church revitalization, as healthy churches provide people and other resources for unhealthy churches over a specified time frame—usually six months to a year. In many cases, the fostering relationship involves sending in a preacher, improving the worship ministry, and restarting programming for children. The most successful fostering relationships also include outreach into the surrounding neighborhood.
Local Pastors Must Work Together for the Kingdom
In too many communities, pastors treat their church campuses like islands instead of as interconnected outposts in a kingdom network. Pastors need to get off their islands and befriend other pastors. When pastors in a community become friends, tenures become longer, and churches stop competing and start cooperating.