ARTICLE – From Decline to Renewal: The Transformation of New Life Church–Farmington

The New Life Church, located in Farmington, rests upon a small, two-lane roadway in a rural setting. It needs extra signage for visitors to find it. When Pastor Kevin Kappler became its pastor in 2013, average Sunday attendance was around 40 people, down from a peak of nearly 200 a few years earlier. The church was in debt from the partially finished construction of a new metal building, undertaken when the church was experiencing a season of rapid growth.

Several factors contributed to New Life’s decline. A series of short-tenured pastors who did not “gel with the culture of the church” led to conflict, church splits, and declining attendance. Lay leaders at the church also identified family problems, disagreements with preaching, and consumerism as factors that contributed to the church’s decline.

One of Pastor Kevin’s first actions was to address the church’s financial problems. When the balloon payment on the loan for the new building came due, the church lacked the funds to repay it. Working with a representative from the bank, the church took steps to improve its financial position. The bank agreed to work with the church and restructure the loan.

In addition to working with the bank, Pastor Kevin also challenged the church to begin financially supporting missionaries, even though the church was in a difficult financial situation. This commitment to missions had the unexpected benefit of leading to an improvement in the church’s financial situation. It also led to parishioners participating in short-term missions trips, and to Pastor Kevin encouraging  parishioners to see their community as a mission field.

Pastor Kevin, who had previously been a police chaplain, believes in “relational evangelism” and feels it is a key factor in the church’s turnaround. He became a police chaplain in his new community, serving both the police department and county ambulance service. This has led to police officers and their families attending New Life.

Pastor Kevin has also led New Life to become more involved in the community. The church hosts a “Light the Night” event in a local neighborhood and participates in the community parade. The church has also updated its foyer to make it more welcoming to visitors, and changed its name from Pleasant View Assembly of God to New Life–Farmington to reflect its new outward focus.

Pastor Kevin places a high value on building relationships with parishioners and utilizes those relationships when he needs to implement change in the church. He also works closely with the church’s deacon board, seeking their input and support before moving forward with new ideas. He is always sure to celebrate victories with the church and let them know he is thankful for their willingness to try new things.

By 2023, New Life–Farmington had grown to an average Sunday attendance of 102, with much of that growth occurring in the three years prior. The church has been able to refinance its building loan with the Assemblies of God Credit Union, and has never missed a payment. New and revitalized ministries, especially to children and youth, are flourishing, and more people are involved in serving than ever before. Lay leaders in the church point to Pastor Kevin’s leadership, particularly his willingness to ask people to serve, as a significant factor in the revitalization of New Life Church–Farmington.

The complete story of New Life Church–Farmington can be found in Danny Davis’ book, Rural Church Turnaround: Real Life Experiences of Rural Pastors and Lay-leaders (CrossLink Publishing, 2020).

Pierre-Alain Giffard, Director of Pastoral Work

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