At A Crossroads: A discernment process for churches uncertain about their future.

Welcome

 

Welcome to a challenging and timely conversation about your congregation! We assume that getting to this point has been a journey for you and for the people with whom you serve. You’re trying to name hard realities, acknowledge unmet hopes, savor memories, wonder about the future, and put your trust anew in the God who was, and is, and is to come (Rev. 1:4). In this toolkit we hope to help you do all of these things well. 

This toolkit is designed for leaders and members like you who sense that 

  • the ongoing ministry of your congregation may soon face significant challenges. 
  • your congregation in its present form might not be sustainable.
  • your congregation may soon have to make important decisions about its future.
  • good stewardship of the resources God has given for ministry and mission may mean crucial changes are needed. 

In this resource, we want to help you prepare for and lead a congregational conversation in which your people engage the past, name the present, and discern the future together. One of our guiding convictions is that in light of Christ’s resurrection there is always hope. Of course, that hope may well be realized in ways that you don’t expect today. But it will be realized, by the grace of God, for your blessing and for his glory in the world.

One of the key dynamics in any conversation about viability is that of stewardship. There are pastoral needs and concerns that are powerful and real—for individual members as well as the community. There are also practical needs and concerns about leadership, finances, membership numbers, and the time/energy inputs of volunteers. And there’s the relationship of your congregational story to the kingdom story in Scripture. How do you understand God’s hand in your stories, and your hand in God’s big story? 

This is a process of discernment. To do this well, it’s important that each step of the process be engaged in the sequence that has been laid out. There’ll always be a temptation to move quickly to the decision point, and perhaps even to skip one or more steps. We respectfully advise against any kind of shortcut. The process is designed so that folks can weigh-in and participate, allowing ultimate decisions to be owned together

There are several stages in this process: preparing for the journey, gathering your congregation, engaging the past, naming the present, and discerning the future—all leading to the decision either to reimagine your life together as a congregation or to close for the purpose of providing a legacy gift to some type of ministry that serves the coming of God’s kingdom. For each of these stages we have a tab in the toolkit, highlighting steps to follow, resources to explore, and activities to engage in. You can choose which of the resources you’d like to use and which activities might best fit your congregation so as to achieve the goal of a particular stage. In addition to choosing activities, you can get creative in how to tackle them. Some will work well in a retreat setting.

Preparing for the Journey

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE OR REIMAGINE


 

Whenever we’re thinking about starting something, whether it’s a project, a job, or a vacation, it’s important to do some prep work. Generally, taking some time to prepare results in better outcomes. The same is true for this discernment process. By engaging with the material in this stage, your church will be able to journey through At a Crossroads in the best way possible.

 

Checklist for Stage 1: Preparing for the Journey

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this preparation stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Create a team to oversee the entire process.
  • Read In Dying We Are Born by Peter Bush, a pastor who speaks about two kinds of death: (1) the dying to self that a congregation must undergo in order to remain vibrant and vital, and (2) the death of an organization, such as the disbanding of a church. The first kind of death holds great possibility for churches hoping to avoid the second kind of death. 
  • Consider reading Ending with Hope by Beth Ann Gaede Ending with Hope grows out of the understanding that although closing a congregation is in many ways about dying, it can also be about new life. Closing a congregation doesn’t have to be about failure but can be about redirecting resources for new ministry.
  • Consider reading Legacy Churches by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond.This book was written to offer hope, wisdom, and courage to leaders who must consider the pathway of becoming a legacy church.
  • Review the importance of having the right facilitator—the person who will guide the conversations and ask good questions.
  • Review the characteristics of a good facilitator.
  • Review options for possible facilitators.
  • Secure a facilitator.
  • Move onto the next stage/tab: Gathering Your Congregation
  • Consider having food/refreshments throughout the preparation process. It seems that things often go better when food and fellowship are in the mix.

To get started with this important conversation, the council should appoint a three- to five-person guiding team made up of both council members and congregants. This team will sort through the suggestions and guidelines described in this toolkit, make decisions about which ones may be most helpful or applicable in your setting, seek the blessing of the council, and then carry out and oversee the entire process. Ensuring that the congregation stays on track and crosses the finish line is a key task of the team.

Before any discussions begin about the future of your church, we suggest that everyone on the guiding team read In Dying We Are Born. Though the title suggests that a major focus is on churches that are dying and will close, this book also addresses how some churches need to dramatically change their culture and ways of doing ministry. The author contends that “all congregations, even ones that see themselves as healthy, need to be prepared to die, to take up their cross, so God can make them alive.”

You might want to think about having some group discussions on the book to help folks process the content before diving into the good and hard work of discernment.

 

Leading These Important Conversations

Thinking about the viability of a church can meet with a lot of mixed emotions. That’s to be expected. However, at times emotions can get in the way of having good and honest conversations. While it’s important to acknowledge what you’re feeling, it’ll also be necessary to step back a bit and try to separate your feelings from the situation so that you can engage in objective, constructive dialog. Who then should lead conversations concerning the future of your church? Here are some thoughts.

People often look to the pastor or the chair of council to fill the role of facilitator/discussion leader. There are times when this can work well and times when it may not be the best way forward. One of the most important things to consider when deciding who should lead these conversations is the individual’s giftedness. Here are some questions to consider. Does the person

  • listen more than they talk?
  • ask thought-provoking questions?
  • allow for some unrest/tension to take place in the conversation?
  • know when to tactfully “step in” and redirect the conversation?
  • have the ability to “take control of the conversation” when someone dominates or says inappropriate things?
  • keep the focus on others in the room rather than on what they think or have to say?

Even if you can answer yes to all of these questions with regard to a pastor or chair of council, that person still may not be the best person to facilitate the conversation. They’ll have emotional ties to the situation and perhaps some personal bias that will affect the process in one way or another. 

So what’s the best solution? Consider bringing in a facilitator from outside the church. This person will be able to check all the boxes above and will have specific training in exactly what you need them for—leading a complex, personal, and potentially emotional discussion. 

 

 

Facilitator Characteristics 

When it comes to challenging discussions such as the future of your church, there are some other key characteristics that your facilitator should exhibit. Look for someone who’s

  • pastoral—not necessarily an ordained minister but someone who can shepherd God’s people with grace, hope, and truth.
  • missional—able to help the congregation think beyond themselves to consider their role in the kingdom of God. 
  • trustworthy—a respected leader with integrity who’s able to carry out the work in a way that honors God and blesses others.
  • without a personal agenda—able to walk alongside you in your conversations and discoveries—able to hold back their two cents and resist pushing their preferred outcome.

 

Options for Choosing a Facilitator

As you consider the above qualifications, here are some options for choosing a facilitator:

  • certified coach 
  • trained facilitator
  • pastor “down the street”
  • denominational staff person

A number of denominational staff have the skills, abilities, and experience needed to lead your church through these important conversations. Some staff even have certified facilitator training. One challenge with using such a person, though, is geography. For the best possible process, the conversation facilitator should be in the room for all of the engagements—which can take several months. If your church happens to be in a location that’s close to a “qualified” denominational staff person, then you’re good to go. If not, a staff person could join the meetings virtually (via Zoom or Skype, for example). There are obvious limitations to facilitating remotely, but in some situations a remote facilitator may be the best option. 

To help you find a denominational staff person who could serve your church as a facilitator, please contact your Connections Regional Team Connector.

 

Church Visitors’ Involvement

Church visitors are appointed by the local classis. One of their tasks is “church visiting,” which connects the classis to its local churches and their officebearers through strengthening, care, and accountability. They also help churches understand Church Order, navigate challenging conversations, and advise church leaders. Typically, church visitors are two-person teams—made up of two pastors or one pastor and one elder. While church visitors may take the initiative to contact churches, churches are also encouraged to contact church visitors for advice. The church visitors may be instrumental in helping you find a facilitator for this process.

 

Conversation Participants

Since these important conversations are about your church and its next steps, all who are connected to the church in a significant way should be present. Defining significance can be tricky. Someone who attends once a month may consider themselves a full, active member and may want to have input, but they might not be familiar with many of the church’s ministries or the people who serve in those ministries. Their perspective might still be helpful, though. Be careful when deciding whom to include and whom to leave out. You’ll want diversity and as many groups as possible to be represented. And to move forward constructively, you’ll want to avoid unnecessary conflict and ill feelings from the get-go.

What’s important is that both the congregation and its leaders are part of the process. This isn’t just about what the leaders think. The church belongs to everyone, and everyone desires and deserves to be heard. The level of participation may vary at different points along the way. Generally, as long as people feel they’ve had a chance to say their piece, and have been heard, they’ll feel good about the process. But having everyone on board with the final decision may be another story.

Once you’ve decided who the facilitator will be, please contact Pastor Church Resources and let us know who that person will be. This will allow us to connect with this person and assist in any way we can.

 

Worship Resources for the Entire Process

There are a number of worship resources available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help.

Once you’ve completed this Preparing for the Journey stage, go to the Gathering Your Congregation stage/tab.

Gathering Your Congregation

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE OR REIMAGINE


 

As you gather for your discernment conversations, you’ll want to consider how you’ll create a safe space for honest reflection and engagement as you listen to one another and to God. This stage of the process helps you develop healthy listening practices and creates a positive environment for the conversations you will have together. No matter what path you ultimately choose, taking the time to discern well will benefit your congregation.

Each congregation is unique and comes to these conversations from a different set of circumstances, so the activities suggested here are customizable. Some congregations will be able to point to examples of having healthy discussions about weighty issues in the recent past. Other congregations, with less practice in having intentional, challenging discussions, may find that they need to spend a lot of time on listening activities so that they can build their capacity to do the work ahead of them. If you think your congregation may need some extra time in order to maintain a healthy, constructive conversation in this process, you may want to schedule more than one session to go through this gathering material.

 

Checklist for Stage 2: Gathering Your Congregation

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Have your council or guiding team meet with your facilitator to determine the number of sessions you think you’ll need to lay a strong foundation for this process through this gathering stage.
  • Review the list of optional activities you could engage in (see the “Summary of Activities” list below), and make selections that seem helpful and fitting.
  • Establish dates and times for the selected activities. We encourage you to start these activities with a meal or dessert.
  • Gather the necessary supplies for your selected activities.
  • Communicate plans to the congregation well ahead of time, finding different ways to convey information so that everyone has an opportunity to hear and participate. Make people aware of these plans a few weeks ahead of time.
  • Consider how you’ll incorporate prayer and worship into this stage—in your worship gatherings, in these sessions, and in suggestions for personal and group prayer and devotions as participants seek God’s guidance.
  • Print copies of the Table Questions (below) for use during a meal or dessert time that you might wish to incorporate into one or more of the activities.

 

Summary of Activities

(for important details, click on the links below)

Here are some activities you can engage in as you work through the Gathering stage. Although most of the activities in the other stages are optional, these three activities are necessary for setting the stage for healthy conversations, and we strongly suggest that you participate in all of them.

  1. Listening to One Another: Particularly in today’s North American culture, we don’t often have meaningful conversations with people who fundamentally disagree with us. We’ve lost the skill of having these conversations in a respectful yet helpful way. This activity takes you back to the basics of listening to each other.
  2. Conversation Covenant: Having difficult conversations is hard, especially when you find yourself in an anxious situation. Yet your congregation will benefit from inviting everyone to include their voice in healthy discussions together. A conversation covenant will help you create agreed-upon expectations for entering into these discussions.
  3. Listening to God: Integral to these congregational conversations is a focus on discerning God’s will for your congregation. God speaks to us through his Word, shaping our hearts and minds to be aligned with his will. Dwelling in God’s Word helps us learn to listen for God’s voice together.

 

Table Questions

(for use during a meal or dessert time)

  • What’s your earliest memory of this church?
  • What’s something you disagree about with a good friend of yours?

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Blog post: 3 Key Insights for Having Difficult, Honest Conversations by Kathy Smith. A summary of three insights discussed in the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler.
  2. Blog post: 9 Tips for Entering & Sticking with Tough Dialogue. Jeanette Romkema writes about some tips for engaging in tough dialogue, drawn from her experience of 20 years in dialogue education.
  3. Leadership training: The Colossian Forum trains church and lay leaders to lead participants through practices that help them engage divisive cultural conflicts in ways that reflect Christ and build up their faith.
  4. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

 

Reflection Questions

These questions may be used by the facilitator when engaging with the group:

  • How does it feel to be the listener? What’s hard about listening to one another? What’s hard about listening to God? What did you learn?
  • How does it feel to be listened to? What’s hard about it? What did you learn?
  • What did you learn from this experience that could help you form principles for having conversations about more difficult topics as you go through this process together? What type of environment creates a safe space for these conversations?
  • How can you balance grace and truth in your conversations? What might happen if either grace or truth outweighs the other?

 

Next Step

When you feel that you’ve laid a strong foundation of listening to God and to one another, and that everyone involved is ready to enter into deeper conversations, you’re ready for the Engaging the Past stage.

It’s important to celebrate the accomplishment of the progress you’re making. How will you celebrate the transition into each stage? A few ideas:

  • Create a bulletin board depicting the stages and an arrow pointing to the stage you’re currently in.
  • Create space in a worship service to note the transition into each new stage, to hear a testimony about how God worked among you in the previous stage, and to pray that the next stage will be fruitful and constructive as well.
  • Ask an artist to draw the outline of your church logo or of another symbol that’s meaningful to you. Use crayons or markers to color a portion of it each time you make progress, and in the end you’ll have a completed picture.
  • Create a “certificate of accomplishment” for each stage. Send it as a PDF to your church mailing list after each stage completion.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help.

Once you’ve completed this Gathering Your Congregation stage, go to the Engaging the Past stage/tab.

 


CRCNA Testimony

I have used dwelling in the Word in an established church and in a church plant. The dwelling in the Word practice is different from our usual way of engaging the Bible. We tend to do “one off” readings of the Bible in which we study a text one week and then run on to the next one. We seldom stay long enough to ask whether we’re actually doing what a text calls us to. When dwelling in a rich text like Luke 10:1-12, for example, I’ve seen groups ask and begin to discern how to engage their neighborhoods in the way that Jesus calls his disciples to in that text. I‘ve seen groups begin to experience where and how they can join Jesus where he’s at work. 

—Rev. Jon Huizenga, pastor of Rise Up Church, Cedar Springs, Michigan


Engaging the Past

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE OR REIMAGINE


 

Your past is important for understanding your present and for thinking about your future. Your church was born at a certain point in history. People came and went. Opportunities for ministry surfaced and disappeared. Leaders responded with wise and unwise decisions. Conflicts arose and died away. And today you live with the cumulative impact of it all. This stage of the Crossroads Discernment Process asks you to travel into the past in order to see the faithfulness of God, to celebrate and lament the actions of his people, and to learn from it all. Through this part of your journey you’ll learn an abiding truth: Today is never just about today. 

 

Checklist for Stage 3: Engaging the Past 

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Confirm with your facilitator that you’re ready to move into the good work of engaging the past now that you’ve spoken and listened to one another in initial conversations, developed a Conversation Covenant, and spent some time listening to God. 
  • Review the list of optional activities in which you could engage the past (see the “Summary of Activities” list below) and make selections that seem helpful and fitting.
  • Establish dates and times for the selected activities. We encourage you to start these activities with a meal or dessert.
  • Gather the necessary supplies for your selected activities.
  • Communicate plans to the congregation well ahead of time, finding different ways to convey information so that everyone has an opportunity to hear and participate. Make people aware of these plans a few weeks ahead of time.
  • Consider how you’ll incorporate prayer and worship into this stage—in your worship gatherings, in these sessions, and in suggestions for personal and group prayer and devotions as participants seek God’s guidance.
  • Print copies of the Table Talk suggestion (below) for use during a meal or dessert time that you might wish to incorporate into one or more of the activities.

 

Summary of Activities

(for important details, click on the links below)

Here are some activities you can engage in as you work through the Engaging the Past stage.

  1. A Night to Remember: Remember events and people in the congregation’s past and celebrate them. 
  2. Testimony Night: Personal stories are powerful reminders of God’s faithfulness. During this evening of celebration, people will have the opportunity to share their experiences of God in the context of the congregation’s life and ministry.
  3. Small Group Conversations: Engage the past in the context of small groups rather than as a whole-congregation activity. Gather in existing small groups or in small groups that are specially created for this activity. 
  4. Online Book of Congregational Memories: Create a website or a Facebook page for others in the congregation to share memories and to experience the memories of participants who have shared. 
  5. Online Catalog of the Congregation’s Impact: A team helps the congregation to create and develop an online catalog of the congregation’s impact on its community and the world. 
  6. Worship Services and Sermons: Worship planners and leaders assemble a series of worship services or write a series of sermons, perhaps planned for a “memory month,” in which events, processes, and personalities from the past are named and treated appropriately within the liturgy (as opportunities for praise, thanksgiving, confession, lament, etc.).

 

Table Talk

(for use during a meal or dessert time)

  • Everyone in the group describes a favorite childhood memory. Note: It doesn’t have to be a memory associated with this congregation. The memories will help the group shift thinking away from today and toward the past.

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Written presentation: The Life Cycles and Stages of Congregational Development by George Bullard, who offers important insights about a church’s life cycle as well as the dominant characteristics of each stage of that cycle. You might choose to engage the congregational assessment exercise that is included in the book.
  2. Analytical framework: General Systems Theory and its application to the lives of emotional systems such as congregations. For a brief summary of the theory, see Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual and Organizational Tools for Leaders by Gilbert R. Rendle (chap. 3). 
  3. Book: In Dying We Are Born: The Challenge and the Hope for Congregations by Peter Bush, a pastor who speaks about two kinds of death: (1) the dying to self that a congregation must undergo in order to remain vibrant and vital, and (2) the death of an organization, such as the disbanding of a church. The first kind of death holds great possibility for churches hoping to avoid the second kind of death.
  4. Book: Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger. This book paints a picture of the changed cultural landscape surrounding the Western church today and provides important guidance for navigating this new landscape. Bolsinger describes the purpose of this book in this video.
  5. Book: The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. Building on the work of his earlier book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Scazzero helps churches to understand organizational healthiness and unhealthiness. His website has more resources, including blogs and podcasts. 
  6. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

 

Reflection Questions 

While helping the congregation to engage in one or more of the above activities, the facilitator may use questions like these to draw together important findings and themes:

  • What values/virtues/passions do you see in your past that you can carry into the future?
  • Which people or groups from your past do you need to honor?
  • What mistakes, misuses of power, and conflicts should you acknowledge and/or confess together?* 
  • With whom do you need to reconcile?*
  • What hardships do you need to lament?
  • What do you need to thank God for?
  • What are some key moments when you saw the Holy Spirit lead you into something you would not have done yourself?
  • How has your community been transformed in big or little ways because of God’s work in and through you? 

*If this question leads to a sense that there is work to be done in the areas of reconciliation and/or healing, then the group should feel free to seek assistance from Pastor Church Resources.

 

Next Step

When you feel that you’ve engaged the past well, you’re ready to move on to the next stage of the Crossroads Discernment Process: Naming the Present.

It’s important to celebrate the accomplishment of the progress you’re making. How will you celebrate the transition into each new stage? A few ideas:

  • Create a bulletin board depicting the stages and an arrow pointing to the stage you’re in.
  • Create space in a worship service to note the transition into each new stage, to hear a testimony about how God worked among you in the previous stage, and to pray that the next stage will be fruitful and constructive as well.
  • Ask an artist to draw the outline of your church logo or of another symbol that’s meaningful to you. Use crayons or markers to color a portion of it each time you make progress, and in the end you’ll have a completed picture.
  • Create a “certificate of accomplishment” for each stage. Send it as a PDF to your church mailing list after each stage completion.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us at Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help. 

Once you’ve completed this Engaging the Past stage, go to the Naming the Present stage/tab.

Naming the Present

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE OR REIMAGINE


 

If you’ve ever walked into a large shopping mall, airport, or amusement park, you’ll have seen a map that identifies your current location: “You are here!” Knowing your starting point allows you to get your bearings so that you can chart a course to your destination.

So far in this Crossroads Discernment Process, you’ve focused on the past. Now you’ll focus on the present.

Chances are that the present is tense. There are questions in the air. Wonderings. That’s why this discernment process is under way. It was important for you to think about your past: who, what, where, and how you were. It was important to speak the truth about the good and the not so good of the past. Ultimately it was important to sense the grace of God in your past—and now you need to consider the truth and grace of God in the present. This involves the important work of self-examination as a church community.

This brings the community to a vital conversation about stewardship: How well are we making use of the resources God has provided? Resources include people, gifts, buildings, time, and energy. Is our current use compellingly fruitful, or can we imagine better ways to use these resources? When we talk about stewardship, we are talking about how God has blessed us in order to bless our surrounding communities and the world. So how has God blessed us, and how are we blessing others? What’s God doing in our presence and with our presence in the world? His mission and ours need to be in harmony.

And if “here” is where we are—where exactly is that?

People aren’t always in sync with what the orientation map says. They may even disagree with the people standing beside them! Which way do we go from here? Ahead? Left? Right? Back? And on which level are we standing? How do we interpret the map together, so that it really does help all of us?

 

Checklist for Stage 4: Naming the Present

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Review the highlights of the previous stages of gathering and exploring the past.
  • Identify current realities: membership numbers, demographics, and programs.
  • Identify the signs of God’s presence—that which is good and for which you are thankful!
  • Name the losses that are part of the current reality—things that cause sadness, and perhaps frustration.
  • Explore the range of emotions and perspectives within the congregation—hopes and fears. 
  • Review the list of optional activities you could engage in (see the “Summary of Activities” list below) and make selections that seem helpful and fitting.
  • Establish dates and times for the selected activities. We encourage you to start these activities with a meal or dessert.
  • Gather the necessary supplies for your selected activities.
  • Communicate plans to the congregation well ahead of time, finding different ways to convey information so that everyone has an opportunity to hear and participate. Make people aware of these plans a few weeks ahead of time.
  • Consider how you’ll incorporate prayer and worship into this stage—in your worship gatherings, in these sessions, and in suggestions for personal and group prayer and devotions as participants seek God’s guidance.
  • Print copies of the Table Questions (below) for use during a meal or dessert time that you might wish to incorporate into one or more of the activities.

 

Summary of Activities

(for important details, click on the links below)

Here are some activities you can engage in as you work through this Naming the Present stage.

  1. Review Current Realities: Before doing this activity, you’ll need to collect church membership data. This activity will name dynamics at work in the present. It uses Congregational Life-Cycle teaching, The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development , and the current demographics of the congregation.
  2. Naming Losses, Fears, and Hopes: This circle conversation activity will attend to the real and present emotions within the group.
  3. Who Is Our Church? A winsome way to think about who your congregation (the body of Christ) might be as you consider it to be an actual human person (body)—and how that might inform your present understanding, as well as future needs.
  4. Appreciative Inquiry: A way of thinking about the positive resources that exist in your congregation. This approach helps you think about the present in a way that is rooted in thanksgiving in God’s provision, rather than focusing on a perception of scarcity or lack (“the church down the street has this ministry and that program”).
  5. Community Demographics: Engaging in a demographic study of your community can give you ideas about how the community has changed and how you can connect with your neighbors. It can also help you decide how to use your resources to serve the community.

 

Table Questions

(for use during a meal or dessert time)

  1. Describe a moment when you especially sensed God’s presence in your life through the ministry of this church.
  2. Describe a moment when you sensed that God was using you to bless someone. Share what was going on inside of you at that moment.
  3. Describe a moment when you sensed God at work in one of your fellow church members. What did that spark in your own soul? 

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Diagnostic Tool: The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development by George Bullard. This tool can bring clarity to a group’s self-awareness regarding their relative age and the potential work necessary to regain vitality.
  2. Book: Memories, Hopes, and Conversations by Mark Lau Branson. Appreciative inquiry is an intentional approach for engaging a congregation in the present by beginning with thanksgiving and focusing on strengths.
  3. Book: Know Your Story and Lead with It by Richard Hester and Kelli Walker-Jones. The authors’ narrative theory focuses on (1) understanding that there are differing narratives about the past as dots are connected and you arrive at the “here and now” and (2) understanding that there are multiple possible next chapters. Which pieces of the story will propel you? Can you integrate the perspectives of hero/victim/villain? The challenge is to live in the reality of the present as a crossroads moment, requiring a balanced, thorough, and prompt discernment. 
  4. Survey: The Healthy Church executive survey will allow the congregation to see, with some clarity, the church that exists in the present rather than the church as it once was.
  5. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

 

Reflection Questions

While participants engage in one or more of the above activities, the facilitator may use questions like these to draw together important findings and themes:

  • If “here” is where you are—where exactly is that?
  • What’s it like to be “here”? How are you being blessed? How are you experiencing “lack”?
  • Who is “here”?
  • How is God “here”?
  • How are you being instruments of blessing beyond your church family?
  • From what narrative perspectives are you telling the story of “now”? At best, this means that we integrate the perspectives below* so as to be hopeful, honest, and balanced. This involves teasing together the perspectives that, at worst, can isolate and dominate:

*Heroic perspective—focusing on what needs to happen to save the church.
Victim perspective—focusing on being in such a sorry, sorry state. Woe is us.
Villain perspective—focusing on the idea that this church needs to close its doors—period.

 

Next Step

When you feel that you’ve engaged the present well, you’re ready for the next stage of this process: Discerning the Future

It’s important to celebrate the accomplishment of the progress you’re making. How will you celebrate the transition into each new stage? A few ideas:

  • Create a bulletin board depicting the stages and an arrow pointing to the stage you’re in.
  • Create space in a worship service to note the transition into each new stage, to hear a testimony about how God worked among you in the previous stage, and to pray that the next stage will be fruitful and constructive as well.
  • Ask an artist to draw the outline of your church logo or of another symbol that’s meaningful to you. Use crayons or markers to color a portion of it each time you make progress, and in the end you’ll have a completed picture.
  • Create a “certificate of accomplishment” for each stage. Send it as a PDF to your church mailing list after each stage completion.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help. 

Once you’ve completed this Naming the Present stage, go to the Discerning the Future stage/tab.

Discerning the Future

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE OR REIMAGINE


 

It’s decision time. Isn’t that a daunting thought? 

Of course, you’ve already done some good (and hard!) work. Groundwork has been laid. People have been gathered. History has been celebrated, and you’ve acknowledged the challenges and the blessings of your present circumstances.

There are likely to be some preliminary thoughts about what direction the church should take—thoughts that may already have been swimming in peoples’ minds for some time. That’s pretty natural. The good work now is to make a decision about the future of your church together. Remember that no matter what you decide, there’ll be risk. Remember too that how you make the decision is as important to God as the decision itself. Keep offering people opportunities to speak into the process. Give people a voice when decision time comes. Follow through on the decision that has been made. Trust that God leads you. 

That last part is difficult in times like these—when there are such large questions to be addressed and seemingly so much is at stake. But as you trust God with the unknown, the known, and everything in between, he provides. He leads. He loves. God did so when he called Abram to leave his homeland and journey to an unknown place, and God did so when he called Abraham’s children, Israel, to leave Egypt and enter the wilderness and then, later, the promised land. 

Go with God!

 

Checklist for Stage 5: Discerning the Future

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Engage together with “A Question to Set the Stage” (below). 
  • Revisit your values from your Conversation Covenant.
  • Carefully review the options listed in the “Your Options” section (below) to make sure that everyone understands what each option means. 
  • Discuss the options and determine which one(s) resonate(s) best with your sense of what God is doing in your neighborhood and your values. 
  • Make a final selection based on your ongoing discussion and discernment. 
  • Submit your recommendation to the church council for discussion/approval.

 

A Question to Set the Stage

What’s God doing in your neighborhood to build his kingdom, and what’s your role as his partners in that work?

As you think about the future of your congregation, keep in mind that God is building his kingdom in your community. You uncovered that reality as you went through the Naming the Present stage—particularly if you engaged in the Community Demographics and Appreciative Inquiry activities in connection with your local community and your congregation. 

It’s important to remember that God’s at work within your neighborhood because now’s the time to think about how your church will participate with God in your neighborhood. Here are only a few of the options that are worth considering. Will your church partner with God

  • by remaining in place with a renewed focus on engaging your neighborhood? 
  • through the use of your building as a community resource? 
  • by finishing well as a congregation and then restarting in a form that’s better positioned to bless your community?
  • through the sale of assets and the strategic investment of proceeds in the area? 

It’ll be important to think beyond the “stay open” or “close” crossroad. Think more broadly. Think “kingdom”!

 

Revisiting Values

Before you review the options regarding the future of your church, it’d be wise to revisit the values that you identified for your process back in the Gathering Your Congregation stage, when you established your Conversation Covenant. These values will guide your conversation at this strategic stage.

You should also give thought to the values that your congregation has held and continues to hold regarding ministry. Having a list of ministry values in your hands will help you to sort through the options. (See the eight options below.)

  • What values have guided important ministry decisions in the past? 
  • Do those values still have weight today, and are they applicable to the decision before you now? 
  • Which options for the future of the church express the values that you’ve identified from your church’s past and that you want to uphold today and in the future? 

 

Your Options

Consider the following list of options as you think about how best to partner with God in the future. Several of these options could combine with one or two others, and you and your team could probably come up with some additional options. Review and pray about all of your options as a team, and decide together on the option(s) that best answer(s) the question “How will we partner with God as he builds his kingdom in this community?” Once your team has discerned the best way to move forward, proceed to the next step, as directed below. Here’s the list of options:

  1. Remain in place, in current form: Having done all the work that you’ve completed so far, it might be disappointing if you hear God call you to remain in place. However, this is an option that you should consider if you sense no guidance from God on an alternative vision for your congregation.
  2. Remain in place but renew/modify: You may be hearing God call you to remain open but to make intentional and focused adjustments to your ministry—its mission, its location, or its relationship to other churches. You may want to engage in an intentional church-renewal process. You’ll find more information about that in the Reimagining stage/tab. 
  3. Remain in place but with a renewed focus on using your resources to bless your community: God may be calling you to redeploy your building and your ministries so that they become instruments to bless the community. Perhaps your building could be offered to the community as a youth center, a senior citizens center, a hub for neighborhood nonprofit organizations, a community food pantry, or a homeless shelter. Perhaps your mentoring programs could be refocused to engage the people in your neighborhood who need mentors. Perhaps your members could form a neighborhood development ministry that seeks the flourishing of the people and places in your community.
  4. Remain in place but engage in new partnerships that bless your community: God may be summoning you to develop ministry relationships with other churches or with community and regional organizations. Together you might provide leadership, but your church’s unique contribution might be the space and the volunteers. 
  5. Remain open and merge with another congregation: God may be calling you and another congregation to a similar vision—one that’s best pursued together. Be careful here: the best mergers are built on a common vision for ministry rather than merely a common hope for survival. Even common-vision mergers are challenging.
  6. Close and restart: Sometimes the best option is to bring the current ministry to a close, wait for a season, and then restart in the same location with a new and different ministry. Of course, closing anything is difficult. Dreams, traditions, and memories will be affected. Some of the people from the old ministry will be part of the new ministry. Some won’t. All of that’s okay—especially if something significant is allowed to remain: your ongoing participation with God through the new ministry that emerges from the old.
  7. Close and hold your building in trust for the blessing of your community: Sometimes the best gift you can give to the kingdom of God in your neighborhood is the gift of your building combined with people who are gathered into a formal team to ensure that it blesses the neighborhood. Sometimes death gives way to a wonderful new life in this way.
  8. Close, sell all assets, and strategically invest proceeds: God may be calling you to finish your life well together. In such a case, your legacy can be marked by the sale of assets and the wonderful work of thinking through how proceeds that are raised can bless others.

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Book: The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry by Sue Annis Hammond. This brief book (56 pages) provides a great introduction on what appreciative inquiry is and how to apply it.
  2. Article: When a Church Closes by Gay DeJong. One person’s story of the unexpected peace she found in the midst of her church’s closing.
  3. Article: Affordable Housing Rises Where a Church Building Once Stood  This article tells how a piece of property that once had a church on it now serves many with its 173 apartments for low-income families, seniors, and those with disabilities.
  4. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

 

Reflection Questions 

While participants engage with the process of discerning the future,the facilitator may wish to use some questions like these:

  • Where else do you see people having to make choices about which direction to take in life? What can you learn from them?
  • Is your list of options as complete as you'd like it to be? What options might be missing?
  • How would you define “kingdom of God”?
  • What ministries or events or values from your past are clear examples of not just building your church but participating in God’s kingdom? 
  • What options for the future are easy to eliminate?
  • What options are worth considering further?
  • How will you decide on which option(s) to submit to the council?

 

Next Step

If you’ve selected option 1, then your work is nearly complete! All that remains is to record your recommendation, with its reasons, present it to the council, and request the council’s approval. If the council approves your recommendation to remain as is, then you could ask the council to declare your work complete.

If you’ve selected from options 2-5, proceed to the Reimagining stage/tab.

If you’ve selected from options 6-8, proceed to the Closing stage/tab.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help.

Closing

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | CLOSE


 

We’ve Decided to Close

You’ve come to this phase of the Crossroads Discernment Process because your congregation has given a significant amount of time and energy to listening to God and listening to one another. Through these conversations you’ve discerned that it’s time for your congregation to plan for closing the church.

This decision is never an easy one, but it’s also not without hope. Even in deciding to close, there are options that will give you an opportunity to plant seeds for future ministry—in line with Jesus’ teachings about sowing seeds that burst forth with new life for the kingdom of God (Matt. 13; John 12:24). 

There are at least three options available to you, as listed in the Discerning the Future stage:

  1. Close and restart: Sometimes the best option is to bring the current ministry to a close, wait for a season, and then restart in the same location with a new and different ministry.
  2. Close and hold your building in trust for the blessing of your community: Sometimes the best gift you can give to the kingdom of God in your neighborhood is the gift of your building and a governing board that finds ways to use it to bless the neighborhood. While your congregation might cease to exist, it can continue its ministry through the legacy of a board, formed by a group of former church members who steward the building as a gift to the community. The gift might take the form of a not-for-profit housing agency, a community center, or a home base for ministries that serve the community, and so on.
  3. Close, sell all assets, and strategically invest proceeds: God may be calling you to finish your life well together. In such a case, your legacy can be marked by the sale of assets and the wonderful work of thinking through how proceeds that are raised can bless others. 
  4. Other: There may be other options not listed here. As you prayerfully listen to God and to one another, be aware of the Spirit’s prompting.

The activities in this stage will help you discern which of these options fits your situation best.

 

Checklist for the Closing Stage

This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Establish dates and times for the small group and congregational gatherings (see below). We encourage you to start these activities with a meal or dessert.
  • Gather the necessary supplies for your activities.
  • Communicate plans to the congregation well ahead of time, finding different ways to convey information so that everyone has an opportunity to hear and participate. Make them aware of the planned dates a few weeks ahead of time.
  • Consider how you’ll incorporate prayer and worship into this stage—in your worship gatherings, in these sessions, and in suggestions for personal and group prayer and devotions as participants seek God’s guidance.
  • Print copies of the Table Questions (below) for use during a meal or dessert time that you might wish to incorporate into one or more of the gatherings.
  • Gather a small group of people who are committed to doing the following three activities and who will report back to the congregation. (For more information on these three activities, see Summary of Activities below.)
    • Blessing Our Ministry Partners 
    • Investing in the Future
    • Directing Funds
  • Schedule a congregational meeting to discuss the above activities and to invite as many members and regular visitors as possible to participate in the What About Us? activity (below).

 

Summary of Activities

(for important details, click on the links below)

Here are some activities you can engage in as you work through the Closing stage.

Now that you’ve decided to close, we encourage you not to skip ahead. Take your time to discern how to close well. In fact, we encourage you to do all of the activities listed below. 

(Note: Activities 1, 3, and 4 can probably best be done by a small group that reports back to the full congregation, who can then speak into which of the closing options best fits your context.)

  1. Blessing Our Ministry Partners: Note the people, organizations, and initiatives you’ve partnered with in ministry and how you might bless them with an investment in their future.
  2. Discover What Other Churches Have Done: Church buildings can be inefficient, expensive spaces to maintain for the few hours a week we use them. Churches today are finding incredibly creative uses for their buildings that address needs in their post-Christian communities. This activity can open people’s eyes to some of these possibilities. We hope the stories presented here might inspire other ideas for how your church building could endure as a kingdom blessing in your community.
  3. Investing in the Future: How has your community changed in ways that your church has struggled to address? How could this ending be an opportunity to invest in bringing the gospel in new ways?
  4. Directing Funds: What are logistical options for setting aside funds to leave a legacy?
  5. What About Us?: What do members do after their church closes? How can you help them find a community of faith and receive pastoral care? What happens to your membership papers?

 

Table Questions

(for use during a meal or dessert time)

Reflect on a graduation ceremony you attended or were part of. 

  • How did the graduates and their teachers and mentors acknowledge and remember the stage of life that they had completed and were now leaving behind? 
  • How did the graduates verbalize the hopes they had for the future? 

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Book: Ending with Hope: A Resource for Closing Congregations by Beth Ann Gaede. Ending with Hope grows out of the understanding that although closing a congregation is in many ways about dying, it can also be about new life. Closing a congregation doesn’t have to be about failure but can be about redirecting resources for new ministry.
  2. Article: Closing A Church Does Not Mean Failure This interview with Rev. Dr. Gail Cafferata summarizes her research with 132 pastors who have closed churches. The research led to her book The Last Pastor: Faithfully Steering a Closing Church.
  3. Book: Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What by Peter L. Steinke. In this book Steinke goes deep into the requirements of effective congregational leadership. He inspires courage in leaders to maintain the course, unearth secrets, resist sabotage, withstand fury, and overcome timidity or doubts.
  4. Coaching: Renewal Legacy Project, published by the Center for Church Renewal, provides coaches with information to help churches finish well. Note that it assumes the congregation has made the decision to disband.
  5. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

Comstock CRC (Kalamazoo, Mich.) and Pioneer CRC (Cedar Springs, Mich.) are two churches that decided to close and reinvest in a missional legacy. You can see the process they undertook after making this decision in Steps to Investing in a Missional Opportunity.

 

Reflection Questions 

These questions may be used by the facilitator when engaging with the group:

  • What surprises you about the demographics of your community today?
  • Whom do you know that fits within a demographic in your community that your church has not been able to reach? What might it look like for the gospel to transform that person's heart and life? To transform their communities?
  • What else do you need to learn about your community, and whom do you need to learn it from, before you can make a decision about how to invest in the future? 

Questions to ask the whole congregation once the Blessing Our Ministry Partners activity results have been shared with them.

  • Do you see any themes in what you’ve heard from these ministry partners? Give some examples.
  • Do any of these partners stand out as people or programs that God is asking you to bless? Explain.
  • How would you describe the legacy of your church—if you blessed these partners in this way?
  • What have you learned about closing your church through this activity? Has God used it to bring clarity to the situation in any way? Explain.

 

Next Step

After completing the work in this stage, a decision about which of the closing options to proceed with needs to be made. The council should deliberate and make a recommendation for the congregation’s input before reaching a final decision. The church's articles of incorporation and state or provincial laws should be followed with regard to a congregational vote on the closing.

Either the team that was created to oversee the Crossroads Discernment Process or a new team will take care of the logistics of carrying out the ideas that have emerged during this Closing stage. Refer to Logistics of Closing a Church—a step-by-step guide.

You should choose a final worship date that gives people time to prepare but isn’t too far into the future. This will help to avoid dragging out the process, which can be emotionally draining. Churches have found that once they announce a closing date that is about four to eight weeks in the future, the congregation generally shifts to a mode of finishing well.

Providing pastoral care to your congregation during this time is a priority. Pastor Church Resources is available to help you through the stages of grief.

 

What about the Pastor?

When a congregation decides to close, a pastor (and perhaps some other staff) will need to transition as well. Church Order regulates the protocols when pastors and congregations part ways. In the case of a congregation closing, Article 17 of the Church Order (p. 34) provides the parameters for moving forward. There are guidelines that ensure at least a minimum number of weeks of financial provision and support while a pastor seeks a new call. Churches are certainly welcome to provide well beyond that minimum. (See Appendix C, pp. 45-48—especially section B, 8—in those guidelines.)

Pastors are available for call for a two-year period, beyond which they may request extensions from their classis to maintain their eligibility for call.

It is of utmost importance that pastors are dealt with kindly and respectfully in this process. Pastors may well feel a sense of failure or shame, and some people may try to blame them for what’s considered a failure. But the decision to close a church always involves much more than just a pastor’s successes or failures. The narrative of failure should not be laid at the pastor’s feet. Ensuring that a pastor is being pastored through this transition is essential. Each classis has a Regional Pastor who can be of service to a pastor in need.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help. 

 


CRCNA Testimonies

When a Church Closes by Gay DeJong. One person’s story of the unexpected peace she found in the midst of her church’s closing.

What Happens to the Pastor after a Church Closes? by Joshua Benton. A pastor’s honest reflection on his journey of grieving when his church closed, and what a congregation can do to support pastors in this process.


Reimagining

 


PREPARE | GATHER | ENGAGING THE PAST | NAMING THE PRESENT | DISCERNING THE FUTURE | REIMAGINE


 

We’ve Decided to Reimagine

You’ve come to this phase of the Crossroads Discernment Process because your congregation has given a significant amount of time and energy to listening to God and listening to one another. 

Through the series of congregational conversations you’ve had, there’s a sense that God isn’t finished with you yet—but you know that your congregation cannot continue as is. You’ve discerned that God has given your congregation the time, energy, and vision to reimagine a new ministry model for the future. 

It’s important to know that this process of reimagining what God may have for your church isn’t something a congregation can rush through. It’s in our human nature to want all of the correct answers today, but this process requires adaptive leadership, a process of slow change that’s continually acting, reflecting, learning, discerning, and deciding. The Spirit of God is already at work in your congregation and your community. How will you join God in this work?

The options for a new ministry model are limitless. Your discernment process considered four main options:

  1. Remain in place but renew/modify. You may be hearing God call you to remain open but to make focused adjustments to your ministry that will change the way it serves its members and its community. A church renewal instrument, such as those you’ll find listed in the resource list below, may help you to determine which adjustments might be most appropriate. 
  2. Remain in place but with a renewed focus on using your resources to bless your community. God may be calling you to redeploy your building and your ministries so that they become instruments to bless the community in a new way. For example, you might decide to provide space and resources for a congregation that reaches a different demographic in your neighborhood or as a location for a nonprofit agency that serves your community.
  3. Remain in place but engage in new partnerships that bless your community. God may be summoning you to develop ministry relationships with other churches or with community and regional organizations. 
  4. Remain open and merge with another congregation. God may be calling you and another congregation to a similar vision—one that’s best pursued together. The best mergers are built on a common vision for missional ministry rather than merely a common hope for survival. You’ll find a few links below highlighting resources with information about merging.

The activities in this stage can help you develop an imagination for ways to bring your resources together for missional opportunities in your community.

 

Checklist for the Reimagining Stage

  • Have a conversation with your facilitator about whether they’d like to continue to work with you through this stage or if it’s time to engage a new facilitator or a coach for the longer-term work of reimagining your congregation and its ministry.
  • Gather a small group of leaders (ideally a diverse group that represents the whole of your congregation) to engage in this work. These leaders should be deeply rooted in God’s Word, able to listen well, passionate about God’s church and mission, and respected by your congregation. As they engage in this work, they’ll provide regular updates to the congregation, and they’ll invite members of the congregation to join them.
  • Engage with your Resonate Regional Mission Team to learn about how they can assist you as you develop a missional imagination to connect with your community.
  • Review the list of optional activities in which you could engage (see the “Summary of Activities” list below) and make selections that seem helpful and fitting.
  • Establish dates and times for the selected activities. We encourage you to start these activities with a meal or dessert.
  • Gather the necessary supplies for your selected activities.
  • Communicate plans to the congregation well ahead of time, finding different ways to convey information so that everyone has an opportunity to hear and participate. Make people aware of these plans a few weeks ahead of time.
  • Consider how you’ll incorporate prayer and worship into this stage—in your worship gatherings, in these sessions, and in suggestions for personal and group prayer and devotions as participants seek God’s guidance.
  • Print copies of the Table Question (below) for use during a meal or dessert that you might wish to incorporate into one or more of the activities.

 

Summary of Activities

(for important details, click on the links below)

Here are some activities you can engage in as you work through the Reimagining stage:

  1. Community Conversations: This activity gives you an opportunity to listen to your community, to see where God is already at work. We believe that through common grace God is already doing the work of restoring, reconciling, and repairing through many secular as well as spiritual organizations. 
  2. Discover What Other Churches Have Done: Church buildings can be inefficient, expensive spaces to maintain for the few hours a week we use them. Churches today are finding incredibly creative uses for their buildings that address needs in their post-Christian communities. This activity can open people’s eyes to some of these possibilities. We hope the stories presented here may spark other ideas for how you could reimagine the use of your church building.
  3. The ART of Experimenting: Adaptive change happens through small experiments and the intentional process of Action, Reflection, and Theology (ART). 

 

Table Question

(for use during a meal or dessert time)

  • What crazy new invention do you think will change our lives next?

 

Resources You May Want to Consult

  1. Coaching process: Go Local is a process of adaptive change. Your Resonate Regional Mission Team can assist you in learning more about Go Local.
  2. Demographic report: Resonate offers demographic studies to churches so that they can learn more about their community. In the United States the resource is MissionInsite. See also Lupton Institute (Focused Community Strategies). In Canada the resource is Outreach Canada.
  3. Denominational resources: Vibrant Congregations is an interdenominational partnership for directing you to resources for church renewal.
  4. Training: Fresh Expressions is a movement to reimagine the models of church today so that we can reach a post-Christian society.
  5. Book: Surprise the World by Michael Frost. This short book clearly lays out five habits of highly missional people. Easy to read; hard to put into practice—but if we did, it would change our lives, our church, and our communities.
  6. Book: The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. This book paints a vision for the church that moves the church out of its building and into the community. A primer is also available for small group study.
  7. Book: Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. This is the best resource for understanding adaptive change in the context of the church in North America today. Tod Bolsinger is a Presbyterian church leader.
  8. Resources about merging churches: 
    • The Lutheran Church has studied 250 church mergers and has shared their research.
    • The Presbyterian Church (USA) produced a study on church mergers.
    • The Alban Institute produced a short paper on church mergers. 
  9. Website: A number of worship resources are available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.
  10. Organizational Partner: Resonate recently developed a partnership with Fresh Expressions which helps churches imagine a diverse ecosystem of different forms of church. They offer training, consulting, coaching, and shared learning.

 

Reflection Questions 

These questions may be used by the facilitator when engaging with the group:

  • What did you do? 
  • What did you learn?
  • Where did you see God at work? How is God calling you to join in this work?
  • What support is being given to your pastor to discern his/her role in the Reimagine stage? (Note: A vocational discernment consultant can help leaders live out their strengths. Learn more about this resource from Pastor Church Resources.)
  • What do you want to learn next? How can you design a simple experiment to learn it?
  • What’s God doing among you?

 

Next Step

We encourage you to explore the denominational resources for guiding you through this process of reimagining your ministry. Resonate’s Regional Mission Teams are available for this purpose. We encourage you to contact them!

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help. 

 


CRCNA Testimonies

Faith Alive Church in Yakima, Washington, was exploring their options to either close their doors after 50 years or to creatively restart their church. They’re now partnering with a Reformed Church in America congregation led by Pastor Frank Meneses to launch a second site in their church building that’ll be an English-language multicultural community with a large Hispanic demographic. This courageous, Spirit-led move reflects (1) an acknowledgment that if they continued down the same path, they'd be shutting their doors in a few years, and (2) a willingness to partner with a pastor/community that doesn't look like them.

South Holland, Illinois, used to be a place where many Dutch residents of Chicago migrated when they moved out of the city, so the CRCNA began a Peace CRC there in 1965. Today the demographics of that community have changed. The church decided to close and reopen as Reconciliation Church, with the goal to reflect the growing South Holland African American population. The process of dying and being born again has not been easy for the longtime congregants, nor for the pastor. Yet the restarted church is gaining new people from the neighborhood.