The Best Books on Church Revitalization

the best books on church revitalization

The Church in the United States is facing an epidemic.

The experts say that somewhere between 3,500-4,000 churches close their doors every year.

Plus, as many as 100,000 churches are showing signs of decline.

That’s unacceptable.

Church planting alone cannot keep up with this decline. We need more pastors to accept the challenge of revitalizing dying churches.

So if you are considering church revitalization or are in a declining church that needs revitalization, where do you start?

I recently read over a dozen books on church revitalization. Here are my favorites:

Can These Bones Live: A Practical Guide to Church Revitalization – Bill Henard

church revitalization books

Henard writes from experience both teaching church revitalization and on the ground as a pastor who has worked to revitalize churches himself.

I love his balance of biblical principles and practical strategy. This book will give you the roadmap, assessment processes, and tools you need to get started.

If you could only read one book on this list, I would recommend this one.

Favorite Quote:

The church has a future and a hope. Before any one of us can go forward with the idea of church revitalization, we must arrive at that conclusion. It is more than research, location, statistics, negatives, the past, the present, the people, or the naysayers. In order for anyone to initiate revitalization effectively into the local church, that person must believe Christ’s promises about His church.

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive – Thom Rainer

church revitalization books

Rainer performed autopsies on churches that were forced to close their doors.

In his study, he found the common characteristics of churches that die. As morbid as it sounds, these characteristics serve as a warning sign for churches in decline and an opportunity to change before it’s too late.

The book is a short read and serves as an excellent starting point for pastors and the elders to work through together to identify and correct the problems in their declining church.

Favorite Quote:

It is rare for a long-term church member to see erosion in his or her church. Growth may come rapidly, but decline is usually slow, imperceptibly slow. This slow erosion is the worst type of decline for churches, because the members have no sense of urgency to change.

Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too – Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

church revitalization books

Unlike Rainer’s book that studied dead churches, Stetzer and Dodson studied 324 churches that experienced decline and then had a successful comeback.

This book is not just a guess at how to revitalize churches; it’s the cold, hard facts. The book systematically analyzes the common factors that led these churches to turn around so that we can learn from them.

It’s a must-read for anyone considering church revitalization.

Favorite Quote:

Leadership was rated as the number one factor by the churches that experienced revitalization. Leadership and vision are major keys to any type of turnaround in churches.

Relaunch: How to Stage an Organizational Comeback – Dr. Mark Rutland

church revitalization books

Dr. Rutland writes from experience leading a church and then two Christian universities from decline to success.

Although written from a Christian perspective, this book focuses more on the leadership and business aspects of turning around a declining organization.

Rutland is a gifted storyteller, which makes his book an enjoyable read, but it’s also filled with golden nuggets of wisdom and practical leadership principles that church revitalizes need to learn.

Favorite Quote:

In a turnaround situation, the biggest problem is never damaged systems or damaged finances. The biggest problem is a damaged dream.

Church Planting is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things – Mike McKinley

church revitalization books

McKinley writes with self-deprecating humor and shares his story of revitalizing a church.

The book is refreshing because McKinley doesn’t pretend to be the foremost expert on church revitalization.

It’s less, “Look at how awesome I am and how large my church is,” and more, “Here’s the mistakes I’ve made and what I learned along the way.”

I appreciated McKinley’s brutal honesty and enjoyed learning from his journey.

Favorite Quote:

Friend, if you are going to plant or revitalize a church, know in advance that even moderate church growth will become a burden if you haven’t developed the people who can help with the ministry. Don’t invest all your efforts in bringing in more people before you have done the hard work of cultivating leaders.

Am I Missing Anything?

Do you have a  favorite book on church revitalization that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments.


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By | 2017-08-21T16:51:24+00:00 August 22nd, 2017|


  1. Donnie Jenkins 08/23/2017 at

    Mark Clifton’s book ‘Reclaiming Glory’ and Richard | Henry Blackaby’s ‘Flickering Lamps’

    • Brandon Hilgemann 08/23/2017 at

      Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll look them up.

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