A church that completes its ministry well, a church that completes its ministry faithfully, does not fail. Indeed, a church that completes its ministry faithfully and well becomes a participant in the resurrected Body of Christ.
What does it mean to complete a ministry faithfully and well?
- It means extending compassion to members as they grieve the completion of the ministry and embark on a new stage of their faith journey.
- It means extending compassion to your pastor – pastors are members, too – and any other staff. This includes unpaid staff – volunteers in key roles.
- It means redeploying the assets of the congregation, including property and buildings, furnishings and possessions, and financial assets, in ways that will continue to serve God and the world.
What does it take to complete a ministry faithfully and well?
- Time. It is not unusual for the last act of a ministry to play out over 12 to 24 months, and sometimes even longer. The amount of time – person hours of work and calendar months and years – is going to depend on the unique circumstances of the congregation. It is very easy to under-estimate the amount of time that will be required.
- Expertise. There will be many tasks to accomplish and while common sense and life experience will be helpful, there will be some new and novel tasks to be undertaken. Time will be needed to learn new things and to identify resources.
- Money. There will be expenses associated with completing a ministry, including selling property, legal fees and other professional advisors, and dealing equitably with staff. The amount of money will vary based on circumstances, but it would be reasonable to have a reserve of $40,000 for these expenses - $40,000 set aside and not available for routine ongoing expenses.
- Energy. Completing faithfully and well can be a rewarding journey, but it will take work, including spiritual/emotional/psychological work that we don’t always account for.
I am avoiding using the words “close,” “closing,” and “closure.” In some ways these words might accurately be applied to the process, but these words are often tied to closely to buildings or corporations. A ministry may be building-based and legally organized, but a ministry is more than buildings and legal documents. A ministry may end but the wider church – the Body of Christ – continues. When a congregation completes its ministry faithfully and well, the Body of Christ becomes stronger and the completed ministry is resurrected to new life.
We have seen many congregations wait too long to accept that it is time to focus on completing the ministry. Waiting too long means that the congregation no longer has the resources to end faithfully and well. Members, pastors, and staff are not dealt with compassionately through a transition. We have seen people wounded and suffering as a result. Assets are not dealt with appropriately and opportunities to support wider ministries and to strengthen the Body of Christ are lost. Congregations can avoid this by intentionally choosing to focus on completion, which means that this decision needs to be reached while a congregation still has the necessary resources – time, expertise, money, and most importantly energy, to complete a ministry faithfully and well.
Charlie Kuchenbrod is the Legacy Church Specialist. If you have any questions or would like to set up a time to chat with him, let us know: Transform@sneucc.org
Church Legacy Specialist Charlie Kuchenbrod is a resource for all UCC churches that are transitioning to the legacy stage of their lifecycle. Charlie Kuchenbrod has served the Southern New England Conference and prior to that the historic Connecticut...