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Life Cycle of a Church

The stages of the health of church begin with its ascendancy.

Its Ascendancy
The Church begins with a dream.
Beliefs grow out of the dream.
These are doctrinal agreements for the congregation.
Church goals grow directly out of the dream and beliefs.
Structure organizes the congregation for reaching its goals and advancing its dream.

The Pinnacle
Ministry refers to the variety of ways the church reaches out, develops members, and lives out its dream.

The Decline
Nostalgia describes a longing for the days when the dream was clear, focused, and widely supported.
Questioning is the point of no return on the health cycle.
Either a church returns to its dream and is revived by it, or the congregation risks spiritual
and organizational decline and perhaps death.

Polarization is a tragic sign of declining health.
At this stage church members mistake each other for the enemy.
Destructive conflict is common when polarization occurs.

Dropouts result from a loss of the dream and ongoing feuds within the church family.
A church doesn't have to move through the entire cycle from health to disease.
The health cycle should enable a congregation to discover where they are and revitalize themselves
by redefining God's will for them.

Churches are not doomed to die if they seek, find, and do what God requires of them.

God's will for congregations is health, not disease.
Healthy congregations plan to achieve their dream.
They live on the ascendancy.

Deteriorating congregations are problem-solvers, and find themselves living up and down
on the decline side of the cycle.

Ascendancy: dream, beliefs, goals, structure.
Pinnacle: ministry
Decline: nostalgia, questioning, polarization, dropout

Adapted from an article in the Baptist Program of October 1982.