I wrote last month about our little churches and the paradigm shift needed for those congregations to have a thriving future. My denomination is not governed by a single bishop who makes decisions – as our sisters and brothers in Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, and United Methodist have. My denomination is governed by “corporate bishops” sort of like the U.S. Senate, which begs the popular retort: “For God so loved the world, God did not send a committee.”
Decisions are made s-l-o-w-l-y.
Sometimes – honestly – I’d like to be the bishop, solely because I could move things along a bit faster.
I feel an urgency about ministry. The world is craving hospitality, healing, forgiveness, and spiritual peace. We don’t have time to waste.
So here we are with many tiny churches – under 50 members – and some (all?) of these churches need to close. But we in the Presbyterian tradition do not close churches in a vacuum. We might advise churches, coach them, and try to equip them for redevelopment. But we are unlikely to close a church without that church’s members agreeing that this is the healthiest choice.
Nevertheless, I’m being asked more and more to come up with A Check List for Pulling the Plug. In other words, there is a movement towards pushing our very small congregations to take a hard look at their ministry together and discern if their ministry is about God and expanding God’s kingdom – or something else.
If you were creating such a check list, what would you put on it? I have some ideas but would love to hear from you too.
Jan’s Check List for Congregation Viability and Effectiveness:
(Please check all that apply to your church community.)
___ Our congregation meets regularly for worship, the celebration of the sacraments, study, and fellowship together.
___ We have at least four different leaders who serve as the worship/music leader, the treasurer/financial secretary, the clerk/secretary, and the pastor.
___ We have the capacity to cover all monthly financial expenses including utilities, insurance, salaries and benefits, supplies, etc.
___ We make a difference in our neighborhood by: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
___ We make a difference in the lives of our members by: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
___ At least ten members can articulate why our church exists.
___ Our neighborhood would notice if we were gone.
I would hope that a viable church could check off at least six of these items.
Again, what would you add to the list?