Church consultant Jim Ozier view churches on a continuum of a life cycle, and breaks that cycle down into the stages of birth, growth, maturity, maintenance, decline and death.
“It’s important to have a Conference strategy to identify and assess declining churches,” he said. Ozier has planted three new churches. He’s now the director of new churches for the North Texas Conference, and has worked as a consultant in 30 United Methodist Conferences.
Ozier is passionate about addressing churches in decline, because he’s seen too many slowly fade to death without taking action. It’s not just a United Methodist issue, thousands of churches a year close across denominations.
“If you’re a District Superintendent, a reality that will swamp your life is church closures,” Ozier said.
When Ozier is doing assessments, every church is a different quadrant on this matrix: Growing in a Declining Area, Growing in a Growing Area, Declining in a Declining Area or Declining in a Growing Area. After working with 42 churches last fall, Ozier came to the realization that most churches start considering the need to change far too late.
“In some cases we only had one or two people showing up – not even enough to do an assessment. There wasn’t anyone left,” he said. “Rather than intervening when a church goes from 40 to 20, we need to look at churches that are going from 180 to 150, or 450 to 400.”