Assess and Discern

Assess and Discern

Like all things that grow and contribute to this world, churches have a life cycle that includes periods of growth and eventual decline. For many churches, it can be difficult to determine where they are in their life cycle and whether they can move in a direction of growth given their existing community relationships and resources. Only an intentional practice of assessment and discernment can reveal the church's best path forward toward an impactful mission. 

The resources listed on this page can be used to support congregations to take this fearless inventory and to discern their church's future.  

 Guidance and Support Services

Assess. Discern. Align. Plan. Transform. (A.D.A.P.T.)
The church life cycle is a journey to be celebrated and embraced across all stages. Through the A.D.A.P.T. program, qualified Shepherds assist churches through a fearless and honest inventory of their assets - time, talent, and treasure - to determine a path toward transformation for their future. The program guides participating congregations through a sequence of 5 modules to support shared decision making and reflective problem solving

Building a Church Legacy 
The decision to complete a ministry (close a church) after decades or even centuries of service can feel overwhelming, both from a practical standpoint and from a spiritual one. This important decision should only be arrived upon after an in-depth process of assessment and discernment. The complexities of this process require both thoughtful contemplation and a pragmatic lens. Guidance during this journey is important to ensure an effective transition of resources. The Center for Transformational Leadership is happy to assist with this process.  

Resource Materials

When Churches are Facing a Turning Point

  • Discerning the Future of Our Church - This resource was developed for the 2021 Super Saturday session on Assessing and Discerning your Church's Future and revised in 2023. It can be used in three different ways:
    • A member of the CTL can "walk through" this presentation with a church. 
    • This presentation can serve as a stand-alone document that church leadership can reference as they engage in discernment. 
    • ACMs can use this as a tool to share with congregations.

             A PDF Version of this resource can be found here

  • Discerning a Faithful Future.  Some of our churches are in crisis. Some are not. All of us are in a moment of change.  This document is a synthesis of some of the best (most faithful and effective) models churches have used to engage this moment in partnership with God.
  • Options for Struggling Congregations. Many churches come to a time in their congregational life where the question of sustainability or viability is raised. At this crucial juncture it is important to look at a wide range of options and to prayerfully discern what direction God is calling the congregation.
  • About Urgency - A healthy dynamic of urgency within a congregation can create a positive forward movement toward change and transformation.  The urgency born of crisis or conflict must first be resolved in order to move forward. Here are some hints and ideas about urgency.

Researching Your Community with MissionInsite

MissionInsite provides churches with a way to access demographic information. It moves beyond static reports to a powerful “discovery tool” for exploration and “out of the box” thinking for church ministry, church planting, church growth and outreach. Use of the MissionInsite site and its reports is free to SNEUCC churches.  Register 

Living Legacy Workbook

Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ and United Church Funds offer the new Living Legacy workbook as a discernment and decision-making resource for "Legacy Congregations"—churches that conclude their ministry and seed new ministries.

Living Legacy is a mixture of narratives, guidelines, inventories, and resources. It's designed for use by leaders from all church settings who work with congregations considering their "capstone" ministry.

Living Legacy is ideal for any
• Leader/member of a congregation who wonders if you need to 'get real' about your church's future
• Congregation seeking guidance in implementing your decision to close
• Pastor who seeks to guide your congregation in implementing a decision they have already made
• Conference staff or volunteer consultant to congregations
• Interim pastor who specializes in transitioning congregations
• Member of your Association Church & Ministry Committee and assisting churches

Order Your Living Legacy Workbook today!

Mission Driven Development

As churches struggle with shrinking congregations and increasing operating and capital expenses, many congregations have looked to redeveloping their valuable real estate assets to ensure their long-term viability. This webinar will discuss the steps to a successful redevelopment project from preparing a mission plan through the construction process and beyond, including an in-depth look at various options and deal structures available to churches. It will also cover church best practices as well as how to avoid common pitfalls. This material provided by Practical Resources for Churches.

To Focus on Mission, Sometimes Institutions Must be Pruned   

To enable growth, a leader needs to understand an institution’s “soul” and be willing to prune anything that doesn’t contribute to its thriving, Jones writes.  This material provided by Faith & Leadership.


Institutional religious leaders live in the dance between past and present. We are stewards who
carry the great traditions of song and story, theology and practice, and wisdom and ritual from
generation to generation. We are called to maintain the integrity of religious leadership: training,
placing, and supervising clergy; enabling congregational vitality; safeguarding resources; and
upholding core principles, values, and creeds.

We also enforce ecclesial rules. This means we know better than anyone how these rules can
sometimes get in the way of God’s work in the world. It also means we can become the locus of
projection from all sides—our bosses, our boards, our teams, and those we hope to serve.  This material provided by Sacred Design.

5 Steps to Resume Ministries Beyond Worship in Fruitful Ways

Lovett Weems says that churches should be deliberate and careful in making plans to resume ministries disrupted by the pandemic. The restart of youth ministry, Christian education, mission, and other programs presents an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your pre-pandemic approach, consider new options, and innovate in ways that promote fruitful outcomes.  This material provided by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.

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