According to a Hartford Seminary study, churches that had been declining and have begun the turnaround have several key indicators in common:

1. more contemporary worship.  They see this as a cause, rather than an indicator of willingness to be adaptable.  I see it as the latter.  Many emergent congregations are moving to chants and hymns, which are not within the “contemporary christian” genre, and even some of the more popular worship songs within that genre are recast hymns.  It is not the use of drums and guitars, but a willingness to refresh the music to match the tastes and desires of the target audience.

2.  a strong sense of identity and mission – Dorothy Campbell writes of the need for a spiritual gate-keeper.  Maxwell writes of the need for a visioning leader.  Both indicate an organization that knows who it is and why it exists.  By regularly describing that identity and mission to all who attend, they are able to shape life solutions for what’s been called a “meaning-hungry culture.”

3.  do little things well – the attention to details matters.  Basic cleanliness and reduction of accumulated clutter adds a lot to the appearance of a vibrant church.  (3-year-old magazines on the give-away rack indicate a stale church.)

4.  recognizing volunteers  – the church is built on volunteers, but people get tired of doing the same thing over and over with no reward.  we hope God will one day say “well done” but we like to hear it from time to time here on earth. 

5.  contacting inactive members. Just because they don’t come to your church doesn’t mean they go somewhere else.  For some, they just drifted away.  For others, it’s a simple issue that needs addressing, or a disagreement with someone that no longer attends (or has died); with that issue resolved, they might be disposed to return and renew their activity.

This is not a definitive list.  There is a longer discussion in my book “From the Brink: Hope for Struggling Churches.”   But this is a good start.  Any congregation can do these with little or no injection of new cash, only a change in attitude.