Is Your Church Walking Through the Valley of Death? with Lee Kricher

Is Your Church Walking Through the Valley of Death? with Lee Kricher

Adopt a new mindset for your church to become a multi-generational. Pastor Lee Kricher of Amplify Church tells the story of how his church went from decline to reach younger generations. Listen to the five change strategies provided in Kricher's book "For A New Generation."

31 Minutes • 3 months ago

Episode Notes

Greenelines with

Dr. Steve Greene

Guest: Lee Kricher

 

Adopt a new mindset for your church to become a multi-generational. Pastor Lee Kricher of Amplify Church tells the story of how his church went from decline to reach younger generations.

 

Listen to the five change strategies provided in Kricher's book For A New Generation.

 

Introduction

Dr. Steve Greene: Have you ever attended what other people call a dead church? I've never really understood that phrase since wherever two or more gathered in his name, Jesus is there. Here's a bigger question. Have you ever pastored what other people call a dead church? That was a real special time in my life when I had a visitor say this church is dead, I'm not coming back. It’s just dead up in here. I believe that angels attend church as well. I know that angels were attending my church that I pastored for over 10 years. But I did hear that expression more than I liked, and never really understood what they were trying to tell me. I suppose the concept of a dead church is when a church doesn't do things the way I think they should. They don't sing the right songs, they are too loud or just not cool enough. The pastor wears a tie instead of jeans. I will tell you, I'm not cool. I've never preached in jeans. I've never not preached with a tie on. I don't know why, it's just me. It's my brand, it is who I am. I'm not bound to it. I don't feel legalistic about it. Maybe somebody would be upset about a church because they can't find a small group that fits them. They've been to three different small groups. They just don't get me. I've been there. I understand those people. So, when we think of a church that loses its way and its members, we begin to consider what's causing people to leave. We're preaching the Word. We're doing everything the way we know to do it. We've got good prayer meetings, we seek the Lord. But we still feel that people are leaving for a reason that we can't get our finger on. What makes that church down the street work.? They have come from nothing and they're blowing up and it seems like they're adding 100 people every weekend. I know that my guest today might be able to offer some insight to the changing expectations of what makes a church appear alive. Pastor Lee Kricher has written a book titled For a New Generation: A Practical Guide for Revitalizing Your Church. For a New Generation, listen to that title. There's a lot of new people coming in to our churches. We got to learn a thing or two about helping this young group. It sure sounds like a better way than watching them all leave. So, without further delay, I want to welcome and I'll tell you, I'm honored to have you on our show, welcome to the podcast. Pastor Lee.

 

My first question is just right off the bat. I'm gonna throw a nice soft pitch down the middle of the plate. Why does the church need to be revitalized? What are we doing wrong? Why is revitalization necessary?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Well, to me, most churches that are either in decline or plateauing, have lost touch with the next generation to some degree. That was the situation our church was in back in 2003 when I became senior pastor. The average age of our church members was well over 50, while the average age of our community was about 35. So, clearly, we weren't reaching our community. We were just reaching a dwindling number of elderly people in our community. I do think revitalization needs to occur, when typically, not always, but most often, when the church somehow has lost touch with the next generation.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, what is a vital church for the next generation? Give us a little bit of an idea of what you're seeing that has worked, particularly for your church, Amplify Church, what did you see and what did you do in the early days to start to bring vitalization.

 

What They’re Saying About for a New Generation

 

·         “Lee Kricher is the expert I point people to with questions about transitioning a church.”Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor, North Point Ministries

·         “Rich in insight, difficult to put down, courage-inspiring, practical and brutally honest. For a New Generation makes church revitalization seem invitingly doable—because it can be!” – Warren Bird, Research Director, Leadership Network

·         “The story of a church where the seemingly impossible becomes possible in God’s power. Read it with the prayer that God will do a similar work in your church!” – Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: With Amplify Church, we had dwindled down to about 150 people, which is not a small number for an average church, but for our church that was in a 50,000-square foot facility on 20 some acres of ground, there is no way that church was able to survive. We were literally ready to close our doors. So, the biggest thing that had to happen was we had to adopt a new mindset as a church because our mindset as a church was very much … if it is good enough for me, it's good enough for our children. We had to shift to a whole new way of thinking that said, without changing our core beliefs, our core values, what will it take to reach the next generation? For so many in our church, their children wouldn't come, their grandchildren wouldn't come. That was not a good sign for the future.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, what did you do? How did you begin to bring vitality into the work?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Well, I first took our board of directors to Atlanta to a church that we had been attending, my wife and I, when we were living there, called North Point Community Church. What I really wanted them to see was what a multigenerational church looked like and what a commitment to the next generation would look like. We really believed in it very much so. It really opened the eyes and the hearts of the group of directors who I was accountable to. They said, we will never try to become this church, but we can become a multi-generational church. That was the most important thing; no to replace the elderly people in our church with young people so we're a quote unquote young church, but to have a church that was the average age of our community and was truly multi-generational, which, when you read about when Paul writes about older men and younger men and older women and younger women, he assumes the church is multigenerational. We were not.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What did they see from Andy Stanley and that visit? What was that plane ride back or the meeting after? Did you see the big eyes and the excitement and the energy from them that you expected?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Yes, and I would encourage anybody whose church is kind of fading are dying to go to a church, even if it's within driving distance that is multi-generational. I think it does open people's minds and hearts to say this is possible. Our journey is going to be very different. In the northeastern U.S. where we are, and we were in a part of the Pittsburgh area that was not growing, so it was completely different than the environment in which North Point was. But to see churches that are growing, it just sparks hope. That's really what happened there. To me, that kind of vision trip or field trip to a church that is multi-generational, especially when I was encouraging them to say don't come away saying that would never work for us. Just come away saying, God, what are you speaking to us?

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Did they?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: They went away saying, God, what are you speaking to us? I started speaking regularly to the church about reaching the next generation and the power and the importance of doing that. We had small groups based on reaching people instead of just keeping people. When a church is dying, it's so easy to shift focus on how do we keep the dwindling number of people who are here. We started to shift our focus to how do we reach people who aren't here? Those things, along with a lot of individual one-on-one conversation, started to tangibly shift the mindset of the people of our church to say, what will it take to reach the next generation.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, you're a pastor in a charismatic church, correct? There had to be some difficulties or some concern about moving more toward center to de-charismatic it a little bit or not be. Did you have to become seeker friendly, that excuse for not allowing the gifts of the Spirit to move or some version of that, pastor. How do you deal with that?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: It was interesting because our church was birthed during the charismatic movement. It was born in the late 1970s and grew to its greatest height of attendance during the 1980s. We did have to wrestle with what does it mean to be a spirit-filled and Spirit-led church. The assumptions that we had made, we started to say are those assumptions valid? I'll give you one example. We used to have an open microphone in the church. And an open microphone meant that anytime during the service, anyone in the church could walk up and kind of take hold of the service as they felt led by the Holy Spirit, whether it's with tongues or interpretation, or with a prophecy or a word of knowledge or encouragement or something like that. This was proof to our congregation, that we were a spirit-filled and Spirit-led church because we had this open microphone. What was so interesting, the more I talked to people, the number one reason that they didn't bring guests to church was because of the open microphone. They said it was so unpredictable what people would say. Very often the pastor had to get up afterwards and say, well, that really wasn't of the Lord or whatever, that they just had stopped inviting people. So, I just took away the open microphone out of the context of our weekend service. Some people immediately said, well, you're getting rid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is no longer leading our church. I know this sounds sarcastic, but I thought if the Holy Spirit's been leading our church, He's been doing a terrible job because we're on the verge of dying. We're not reaching any new people. No one's coming to Christ, and no one here will even invite someone to come. So, so it was something that was a sign to us of being spirit-filled that wasn't really accomplishing the vision of the church, which was to lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: How many board meetings that you have, be able to move that microphone?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: It didn't hurt to. When I came into ministry, I said here are some things that are … actually when I came to be a candidate for the position, I made it clear about some things that were going to change and that was one of them. So, when they voted for me to become pastor, I think they knew the open microphone was going.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What I've observed in my travels, and I speak often and I'm out a lot. I observed that there’s that 45-plus church and then there's the under 30 church, it seems like they're in two different places. The younger one is on fire, moving. I'm not seeing a lot of multi-generational congregations, and yet they must be because that's what makes a mega church. How do we avoid either or, either being an older church, not old, old but just older, and then not be a young church? How do we blend?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: For us, we, we determined we weren't going to just switch from a dying, aging church to a growing young church and lose our older leaders who were amazing people of God who built the church. I knew that some people could leave because we were going to change, not the doctrines of the church but we were going to change our approach to church. We had to because the results we were getting as a church in reaching our community were perfectly matched to our approach to church. So, we had to change our approach if we were going to reach more people. But I think, as we were looking at certain things, I erred on the side of reaching young people by putting young people into visible positions of leadership. I actually had a rule. It started as what I call the 50 percent rule. It became the 75 percent rule that said … and we hold that now that roughly 75 percent of everyone that visible leadership in our church will be the average age of our community or younger. So, since the average age is 35, that meant we had to start tapping shoulders of a lot of young leaders, and even putting some young leaders in the visible positions of leadership on the worship team are doing announcements or saying prayers before you might think that they'd be seasoned enough or ready. But I found that older people are fine coming to a church that have young leaders on the platform. But young people, if they walk into a church and everybody in visible leadership is in their 50s, 60s, 70s and older, generally they not coming back. So that was one of the biggest changes that we made. Again, not to our doctrines or beliefs, but just to who was going to be more visible in the front of the congregation.

 

For the rest of Dr. Greene’s interview with Pastor Lee Kricher, please click here.

 

Connect with Pastor Lee Kricher

 

·         Amplifychurch.com

·         On Facebook

·         On Twitter

·         Futureforwardchurches.com

 

Greenelines Host Information

Dr. Steve Greene is the Publisher and Executive Vice President of Charisma Media. Dr. Greene received his Ph.D. in marketing from Memphis State University. He has worked in television station management and worked directly with over 80 stations throughout the United States. He has worked in marketing capacities with McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, and Stanley Steemer. He has owned restaurants, a national advertising agency and a syndicated marketing research firm. Dr. Greene has served as the Dean of the College of Business and professor of marketing at Oral Roberts University. He is also the author of Love Leads, which dispels the myths and misconceptions many have come to accept about leadership.

To learn more about Dr. Steve Greene, connect with him on social media!

Facebook: https://facebook.com/drsgreene/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrSteveGreene

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.stevegreene/

Episode Notes

Greenelines with

Dr. Steve Greene

Guest: Lee Kricher

 

Adopt a new mindset for your church to become a multi-generational. Pastor Lee Kricher of Amplify Church tells the story of how his church went from decline to reach younger generations.

 

Listen to the five change strategies provided in Kricher's book For A New Generation.

 

Introduction

Dr. Steve Greene: Have you ever attended what other people call a dead church? I've never really understood that phrase since wherever two or more gathered in his name, Jesus is there. Here's a bigger question. Have you ever pastored what other people call a dead church? That was a real special time in my life when I had a visitor say this church is dead, I'm not coming back. It’s just dead up in here. I believe that angels attend church as well. I know that angels were attending my church that I pastored for over 10 years. But I did hear that expression more than I liked, and never really understood what they were trying to tell me. I suppose the concept of a dead church is when a church doesn't do things the way I think they should. They don't sing the right songs, they are too loud or just not cool enough. The pastor wears a tie instead of jeans. I will tell you, I'm not cool. I've never preached in jeans. I've never not preached with a tie on. I don't know why, it's just me. It's my brand, it is who I am. I'm not bound to it. I don't feel legalistic about it. Maybe somebody would be upset about a church because they can't find a small group that fits them. They've been to three different small groups. They just don't get me. I've been there. I understand those people. So, when we think of a church that loses its way and its members, we begin to consider what's causing people to leave. We're preaching the Word. We're doing everything the way we know to do it. We've got good prayer meetings, we seek the Lord. But we still feel that people are leaving for a reason that we can't get our finger on. What makes that church down the street work.? They have come from nothing and they're blowing up and it seems like they're adding 100 people every weekend. I know that my guest today might be able to offer some insight to the changing expectations of what makes a church appear alive. Pastor Lee Kricher has written a book titled For a New Generation: A Practical Guide for Revitalizing Your Church. For a New Generation, listen to that title. There's a lot of new people coming in to our churches. We got to learn a thing or two about helping this young group. It sure sounds like a better way than watching them all leave. So, without further delay, I want to welcome and I'll tell you, I'm honored to have you on our show, welcome to the podcast. Pastor Lee.

 

My first question is just right off the bat. I'm gonna throw a nice soft pitch down the middle of the plate. Why does the church need to be revitalized? What are we doing wrong? Why is revitalization necessary?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Well, to me, most churches that are either in decline or plateauing, have lost touch with the next generation to some degree. That was the situation our church was in back in 2003 when I became senior pastor. The average age of our church members was well over 50, while the average age of our community was about 35. So, clearly, we weren't reaching our community. We were just reaching a dwindling number of elderly people in our community. I do think revitalization needs to occur, when typically, not always, but most often, when the church somehow has lost touch with the next generation.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, what is a vital church for the next generation? Give us a little bit of an idea of what you're seeing that has worked, particularly for your church, Amplify Church, what did you see and what did you do in the early days to start to bring vitalization.

 

What They’re Saying About for a New Generation

 

·         “Lee Kricher is the expert I point people to with questions about transitioning a church.”Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor, North Point Ministries

·         “Rich in insight, difficult to put down, courage-inspiring, practical and brutally honest. For a New Generation makes church revitalization seem invitingly doable—because it can be!” – Warren Bird, Research Director, Leadership Network

·         “The story of a church where the seemingly impossible becomes possible in God’s power. Read it with the prayer that God will do a similar work in your church!” – Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: With Amplify Church, we had dwindled down to about 150 people, which is not a small number for an average church, but for our church that was in a 50,000-square foot facility on 20 some acres of ground, there is no way that church was able to survive. We were literally ready to close our doors. So, the biggest thing that had to happen was we had to adopt a new mindset as a church because our mindset as a church was very much … if it is good enough for me, it's good enough for our children. We had to shift to a whole new way of thinking that said, without changing our core beliefs, our core values, what will it take to reach the next generation? For so many in our church, their children wouldn't come, their grandchildren wouldn't come. That was not a good sign for the future.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, what did you do? How did you begin to bring vitality into the work?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Well, I first took our board of directors to Atlanta to a church that we had been attending, my wife and I, when we were living there, called North Point Community Church. What I really wanted them to see was what a multigenerational church looked like and what a commitment to the next generation would look like. We really believed in it very much so. It really opened the eyes and the hearts of the group of directors who I was accountable to. They said, we will never try to become this church, but we can become a multi-generational church. That was the most important thing; no to replace the elderly people in our church with young people so we're a quote unquote young church, but to have a church that was the average age of our community and was truly multi-generational, which, when you read about when Paul writes about older men and younger men and older women and younger women, he assumes the church is multigenerational. We were not.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What did they see from Andy Stanley and that visit? What was that plane ride back or the meeting after? Did you see the big eyes and the excitement and the energy from them that you expected?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: Yes, and I would encourage anybody whose church is kind of fading are dying to go to a church, even if it's within driving distance that is multi-generational. I think it does open people's minds and hearts to say this is possible. Our journey is going to be very different. In the northeastern U.S. where we are, and we were in a part of the Pittsburgh area that was not growing, so it was completely different than the environment in which North Point was. But to see churches that are growing, it just sparks hope. That's really what happened there. To me, that kind of vision trip or field trip to a church that is multi-generational, especially when I was encouraging them to say don't come away saying that would never work for us. Just come away saying, God, what are you speaking to us?

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Did they?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: They went away saying, God, what are you speaking to us? I started speaking regularly to the church about reaching the next generation and the power and the importance of doing that. We had small groups based on reaching people instead of just keeping people. When a church is dying, it's so easy to shift focus on how do we keep the dwindling number of people who are here. We started to shift our focus to how do we reach people who aren't here? Those things, along with a lot of individual one-on-one conversation, started to tangibly shift the mindset of the people of our church to say, what will it take to reach the next generation.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, you're a pastor in a charismatic church, correct? There had to be some difficulties or some concern about moving more toward center to de-charismatic it a little bit or not be. Did you have to become seeker friendly, that excuse for not allowing the gifts of the Spirit to move or some version of that, pastor. How do you deal with that?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: It was interesting because our church was birthed during the charismatic movement. It was born in the late 1970s and grew to its greatest height of attendance during the 1980s. We did have to wrestle with what does it mean to be a spirit-filled and Spirit-led church. The assumptions that we had made, we started to say are those assumptions valid? I'll give you one example. We used to have an open microphone in the church. And an open microphone meant that anytime during the service, anyone in the church could walk up and kind of take hold of the service as they felt led by the Holy Spirit, whether it's with tongues or interpretation, or with a prophecy or a word of knowledge or encouragement or something like that. This was proof to our congregation, that we were a spirit-filled and Spirit-led church because we had this open microphone. What was so interesting, the more I talked to people, the number one reason that they didn't bring guests to church was because of the open microphone. They said it was so unpredictable what people would say. Very often the pastor had to get up afterwards and say, well, that really wasn't of the Lord or whatever, that they just had stopped inviting people. So, I just took away the open microphone out of the context of our weekend service. Some people immediately said, well, you're getting rid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is no longer leading our church. I know this sounds sarcastic, but I thought if the Holy Spirit's been leading our church, He's been doing a terrible job because we're on the verge of dying. We're not reaching any new people. No one's coming to Christ, and no one here will even invite someone to come. So, so it was something that was a sign to us of being spirit-filled that wasn't really accomplishing the vision of the church, which was to lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: How many board meetings that you have, be able to move that microphone?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: It didn't hurt to. When I came into ministry, I said here are some things that are … actually when I came to be a candidate for the position, I made it clear about some things that were going to change and that was one of them. So, when they voted for me to become pastor, I think they knew the open microphone was going.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What I've observed in my travels, and I speak often and I'm out a lot. I observed that there’s that 45-plus church and then there's the under 30 church, it seems like they're in two different places. The younger one is on fire, moving. I'm not seeing a lot of multi-generational congregations, and yet they must be because that's what makes a mega church. How do we avoid either or, either being an older church, not old, old but just older, and then not be a young church? How do we blend?

 

Pastor Lee Kricher: For us, we, we determined we weren't going to just switch from a dying, aging church to a growing young church and lose our older leaders who were amazing people of God who built the church. I knew that some people could leave because we were going to change, not the doctrines of the church but we were going to change our approach to church. We had to because the results we were getting as a church in reaching our community were perfectly matched to our approach to church. So, we had to change our approach if we were going to reach more people. But I think, as we were looking at certain things, I erred on the side of reaching young people by putting young people into visible positions of leadership. I actually had a rule. It started as what I call the 50 percent rule. It became the 75 percent rule that said … and we hold that now that roughly 75 percent of everyone that visible leadership in our church will be the average age of our community or younger. So, since the average age is 35, that meant we had to start tapping shoulders of a lot of young leaders, and even putting some young leaders in the visible positions of leadership on the worship team are doing announcements or saying prayers before you might think that they'd be seasoned enough or ready. But I found that older people are fine coming to a church that have young leaders on the platform. But young people, if they walk into a church and everybody in visible leadership is in their 50s, 60s, 70s and older, generally they not coming back. So that was one of the biggest changes that we made. Again, not to our doctrines or beliefs, but just to who was going to be more visible in the front of the congregation.

 

For the rest of Dr. Greene’s interview with Pastor Lee Kricher, please click here.

 

Connect with Pastor Lee Kricher

 

·         Amplifychurch.com

·         On Facebook

·         On Twitter

·         Futureforwardchurches.com

 

Greenelines Host Information

Dr. Steve Greene is the Publisher and Executive Vice President of Charisma Media. Dr. Greene received his Ph.D. in marketing from Memphis State University. He has worked in television station management and worked directly with over 80 stations throughout the United States. He has worked in marketing capacities with McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, and Stanley Steemer. He has owned restaurants, a national advertising agency and a syndicated marketing research firm. Dr. Greene has served as the Dean of the College of Business and professor of marketing at Oral Roberts University. He is also the author of Love Leads, which dispels the myths and misconceptions many have come to accept about leadership.

To learn more about Dr. Steve Greene, connect with him on social media!

Facebook: https://facebook.com/drsgreene/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrSteveGreene

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.stevegreene/

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Is Your Church Walking Through the Valley of Death? with Lee Kricher