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The purpose of this project is to explore the causal factors of church decline through the perspectives of church leadership, membership, community engagement, social factors, political and economic climate, denominational polity, and human choice to determine if church decline is fatal. It is argued that, though these factors contribute to church decline and eventual death if not addressed, a church can be revitalized to new life when appropriate measures are taken. Church revitalization is a long, tedious process but when a pastor and congregation determine to commit the time, effort, and resources necessary to bring the church back to a healthy state, it is possible to do so.

The thesis was tested at St. James AME Zion Church in San Mateo, California, a local church that had been in a slow yet steady decline for several decades. This is evidenced by the fact that the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the most senior members are no longer members of the church, few new members have joined, and the church focus turned inward to protect the remnant who remained.

An examination of Scripture confirms that decline has never been an expectation for the Church of God. The expectation was and remains, church growth and expansion. The hypothesis that church decline can be reversed is tested by developing and implementing a revitalization process for ministry at St. James, creating a new church within an established, historic structure. The process began by performing an environmental scan in every area of ministry, creating the supporting framework for changes made thus far by the revitalization team, a combination of staff and lay leadership.

This project will necessarily continue after publishing, but what has been concluded thus far is that St. James is already experiencing new life, new membership, and a bright hope for the future.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Hodge, Daniel

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Revitalization, Church, St. James AME Zion Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Zion), AME Zion Church, Church Growth, African American churches, Church management, Church renewal


Practical Theology


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