To Close or Not to Close

One of the challenges facing many of our churches is whether to keep their doors open or to move in a different direction. This has been especially true after the 2020 pandemic. Over the past 30 years, churches have gone from full time pastors to part time pastors. In our denominational region of upstate New York, 75-80% of the churches are only able to support a part time pastor due to their small size. In addition, many churches are having to deal with another reality-can we stay open? In my various contacts with churches, it is not uncommon to worship in churches with less than 20 in attendance. In one of the congregations I have preached at, there was a grand total of four (including myself)! Coupled with limited finances and oversized, often ancient buildings, many churches are struggling with the possibility of closure.

Closure is not a topic many like to talk about. Death is a topic that is often avoided whether it pertains to individuals or to churches. Such discussion is like the elephant in the room. We know it is there, but we choose to ignore it. As a consultant, I know I struggle with this reality too. I want to give churches hope but increasingly I am coming to realize that my consulting may also include the role of hospice care for churches. How that care looks in my future ministry remains to be seen.

If your church is struggling with whether or not to close, I would like to recommend a wonderful book that may help you in your decision. The book is called, “Legacy Churches” by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond. This book would be a helpful study for your leaders if you attend one of those churches that are struggling to keep the doors open. Also, I would like you to know that I am available to meet with you to help give you some guidance on these concerns. Feel free to contact me for more information.

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