Life beyond death for churches near closure
A few days ago I talked about the stages through which churches often pass as they move from decline to closure. Now here is the good news. It is possible to see churches that are near closure (or even have closed) replanted. So what does that look like?
There are a number of common models. Here are four.
1. Another local church (probably in the same network or denomination) take responsibility for a church that is near to closure. That usually means running events/ services/ programmes from time to time or even on a regular basis until a new worshipping group emerges as a result of that activity. In other words they are expanding their leadership team to take responsibility for leading their sister congregation that is in trouble.
2. Another church worships in the building and establishes another congregation in the building ready to take over from the church that is about to close. I know of one church largely composed of elderly people who saw an opportunity to reach young people in their neighbourhood. They realised that they could not do that outreach themselves but they had resources of money and building and so they sponsored another agency to plant a youth church in their building. Eventually that church plant became the church in that place.
3. A nearby church lends a significant number of people to the declining church so that the church is instantly re-birthed. However that is only likely to happen if the new people that migrate across to the dying church also bring with them a group of leaders. Numbers are not the only issue, it’s the total system that matters.
4. A mission team comes and establishes another congregation that meets at a different time in the same building. Why meet at a different time? Because the character of the worship service that the new group establishes will probably not be one that is acceptable to the existing group and vice versa. The existing group are not operating a worship service that new people can easily fit into.
The common factor in all of this is leadership. Assuming that new resources of people and leadership can be recruited then there is a crucial issue to face. Revitalised churches require new leadership. New leadership requires space and freedom in which to operate and can’t really be conformed to the current patterns of thinking and practice. That then becomes the crunch issue. Existing leaders rarely wish to relinquish influence. Only when the existing leadership is willing to hand over the reigns to new leaders can a dying church live again. It’s a tough call!