PEOPLE OVER PROPERTY: CHURCH HISTORY
For churches with over 100 years of ministry under their belt, it can be easy to focus your history on property instead of life change. Don’t make that mistake.
We work with mostly older churches. Some of our churches are over 100 years old. One is over 180! Over the course of those years, these churches have done amazing things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lives have been changed and communities have been transformed.
Naturally, over time, some churches have declined, buildings have aged, and some of that history of life change has been misplaced or forgotten.
When we take on new churches, especially the very old ones, we ask for a church history focusing on life change that has occurred through the work of the church.
Often, what we get instead is a historical document noting all of the physical locations they’ve inhabited, built, or expanded over the years. Why?
It’s Easier to Focus on Property
There are a lot of reasons churches end up focusing on property instead of people when documenting their church history.
- For a church that has a century of ministry under its belt, it might be hard to know exactly what happened in those early days that lead to so much growth that new buildings were purchased or built.
- Insiders know that buildings were purchased or built BECAUSE so many lives were being changed that the old buildings couldn’t contain the growth.
- New property or the expansion of property is just easier to document over long periods of time.
We love a good church history! We definitely LOVE historic church buildings with amazing stained-glass windows and that beautiful limestone or brick outer structure. However, none of that is effective in showing the community around the church WHY they might want to be a part of what God is doing through the church.
People Over Property ALWAYS
It sounds obvious, but as we have seen, it isn’t always as obvious as you’d think. Your website should ALWAYS FOCUS ON PEOPLE. If you can tell a compelling story about how God has transformed people’s lives through your church over time you have a better chance of seeing visitors walk through your doors looking to get some of that life change for themselves.
Even if it takes a lot of time and effort, research the history of life change in your church. Find out WHY those buildings were built, purchased, or expanded. What was happening in your church and community that drew people to attend and become members? How has your church made a positive impact in your community throughout its history?
- Review church records
- Interview your oldest members
- Check with local newspapers about old archived stories
- Interview people that have lived in the town the longest
Move From History to a Vision for the Future
Once you’ve written a compelling story of how your church has transformed lives throughout its history, move on to your vision for the future.
What do you believe God has called your church to accomplish in the years ahead? Even if your church has done almost nothing for a long time, now is the time to pivot, look to the future, and dream big!
A couple things to think about and address.
- Externally: Identify areas of need in your community and briefly explain how you plan to address them?
- Internally: Who is God calling your church to be? What cultural shifts need to happen? How will those shifts in culture lead to a thriving and faithful church?
Finally, Don’t Ignore the Negatives in Your History
It’s natural to want to gloss over or hide the fact that your church has been in decline for decades or hasn’t had a significant community impact in a long time.
You don’t need to focus on the negatives in your history, but don’t hide them either. Chances are, if you have a large building, and very few attending the church, it’s obvious things haven’t gone well in a while. Note it, own it, and show that your church is poised to reverse course and become vital again.
While a church history isn’t the most important document on your website, we believe it’s important to have if you are a church with a long history. There is something special about old and historic churches in our communities.
Tell that story then reach for the future.