Legacy

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 an emotional and spiritual one. This decision is momentous and should only be arrived upon after an in-depth process of assessment and discernment. But making the decision to close is in many ways a new beginning. It provides churches with the opportunity to investigate ways in which they can invest their unique resources and assets to perpetuate their mission and purpose into the future.

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.  

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 Conference for nearly 19 years. He offers a wealth of experience and insights and is available to churches who require support with navigating Legacy. 

Churches interested in his consultative services may speak with The Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership, Rev. Heather Ramsey Mabrouk at ramsey-mabroukh@sneucc.org

To speak with Charlie regarding resources and information- LegacyChurch@sneucc.org


Resource Materials: 

              
 

Ministry Completion and Legacy Process: Beginning with General tasks and moving through Worship, Membership Care, Financial Matters and to Property and Real Estate, this is a bulleted and thorough list of considerations as you move to completion. 

Information Document: Bringing the congregational enterprise to an orderly completion requires a lot of information.  Here is a checklist of documents to gather as you enter into the completion process.

Cost Considerations Document: Congregations are often surprised at the expenses associated with completing a ministry.  This document outlines the categories of expense and may aid your planning and budgeting. 
 

Mostly Dead - United Church of Christ Mostly Dead (ucc.org) - Some of our churches, as Revelation puts it, have a name of being alive, but they are dead. Or rather, in the words of Miracle Max from The Princess Bride: they are only “mostly dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” Read more from this Daily Devotional by Molly Baskette here. 


Blog Series - Written by Church Legacy Specialist Charlie Kuchenbrod: 
 

Part 1: Who is this Series for?  When Should Churches Start Thinking About Legacies?

Who is this series for? Every church! When should churches start thinking about legacies?  If a church has not started thinking about its legacy, it should start now!  Taking up this exercise periodically, as a collective faith practice and spiritual discipline, will help all churches, whether their spiritual vitality is... (Continue Reading)
 

Part 2: Completing Ministries Faithfully and Well

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?  (Continue Reading)
 

Part 3: Does God Ever Yearn for a Church to Complete its Ministry?

Here is my affirmation of faith:

  • God is.
  • God loves us unconditionally.
  • God yearns for what is best for each and all of us.

God yearns for what is best for us.  Each of us.  All of us.  God cannot yearn for something that is good for one of us or some of us if it will make the world a less compassionate, just, and peaceful place.  Sometimes God may yearn for something that might make us uncomfortable or challenge us, if it moves us towards a more compassionate, just, and peaceful world.  Any parent knows that maximizing comfort and eliminating challenges is not the best way to raise children.  I think it is more likely that God yearns for meaningfulness and significance more than... (Continue Reading)
 

Part 4: Fruitfulness. Locked up Assets; Releasing Locked Up Assets

Resources can get trapped or “locked up” in declining congregations.  Institutional maintenance takes up more and more time and energy from fewer and fewer people, leaving little resources for community engagement, mission, and outreach.

Support for staffing and facilities takes up more and more funds from a smaller and smaller budget, leaving little funds for faith formation, discipleship development, mission, and... (Continue Reading) 
 

Part 5: Theology of Legacy Churches 

We are resurrection people.   Some important resurrection concepts:

  • Resurrection is not resuscitation.
  • Resurrection is a radical transformation, not a series of incremental changes.
  • Resurrection has parabolic power.  It is more than factually true.

The risen Christ is not the same as Jesus, who was fully human as well as God incarnated, God in flesh.  While the post-crucifixion appearances indicate some human characteristics, the resurrected Jesus is also more than human.  The resurrected Jesus is no longer with us, present in the ways humans are present to each other, but the risen Christ is present always and everywhere... (Continue Reading)
 

Part 6A: Changing the Narrative: Moving from “Decline, Failure, Closure, and Death” to “Maturity, Legacy Building, Ministry Completion, and Resurrection.”

The narrative for many churches is decline leading to failure, leading to closure, which means death.  This is what it feels like to people inside many struggling congregations.  It is not a helpful story to be telling ourselves.  I have at least two problems with this narrative. 

First, I don’t think it is faithful because it does not see God as still being at work in the congregation.  Declining congregations sometimes feel that God has abandoned them.  I don’t think that God ever abandons anyone, much less a congregation.  However, if a congregation has blinders on, they may only see success as measured by traditional metrics of membership, worship attendance, and financial support.  These churches may be missing... (Continue Reading)


Part 6B: Changing the Narrative: Moving from “Decline, Failure, Closure, and Death” to “Maturity, Legacy Building, Ministry Completion, and Resurrection.”

In the first part of this two-part blog, I described how the narrative of decline leading to failure, leading to closure, which means death, was problematic.  First, it is not faithful, because it does not see God as still being at work in the congregation.  This leads to missed opportunities.  Second, it leads to poor stewardship choices, as assets are consumed to support a way of “doing church” that is no longer fruitful.  I don’t think that this pleases God.
 
There is a better way.  We need to start telling ourselves a different story.  We need to create a new shared narrative.  We can do this by adopting new images.  Churches are not declining, they are becoming mature.  Churches are not failing, they are moving from active ministry to legacy building.  Churches are not closing, they are ... (Continue Reading)


Part 7: Palliative Care

My former colleague and current friend, Susan Townley, sent me this admirably concise blog - https://seths.blog/2022/11/palliative-care/ Take a moment to read it and come right back here.
 
The metaphor clearly works for churches struggling with spiritual vitality and financial viability.  Do these churches torture themselves until they run out of money?  Yes, all too often.  Do they hope for the best and wait far too long before embracing the next step in their journey?  Yes, all too often.  Would these churches come out ahead if they focused on a productive and comfortable way to wrap things up, instead of fighting (Continue Reading)

Part 8: People Will Grumble

Is it time to look at completing the work of this congregation faithfully and well?  This question may be raised and discussed first among leaders, but at some point the conversation will expand to include everyone in the congregation.  It is not unusual for people to resist the completion process.  It is not unusual for people outside of the leadership circle, people that may not even participate much in the conversation, to grumble the loudest.  For some reason... (Continue Reading)

Part 9: How Will We Know When It's Time?

Completing a ministry faithfully and well is often a two-step process.  The first step is the choice to become a legacy church.  The second step has two parts: Choosing an ending date for worship and choosing a target date for winding down the institutional aspects of the church.  Churches that avoid these decisions usually... (Continue Reading)

Part 10: Letting Go- Love God More!
As churches move into the final stage of maturity, turning towards legacy building and completing their ministry faithfully and well, some churches have trouble “letting go.” Truth be told, sometimes trouble “letting go” will keep a congregation from moving ahead. Congregations get trapped in the past...(Continue Reading)


Closing Thoughts:

"Is my church at-risk?" "How does a church complete its ministry?" "What’s God got to do with it?" "Are there support and resources for churches leaders?" 'CLOSING THOUGHTS' explores the questions, theology, ministry, and process of churches completing their missions through closure and preparation of a legacy for the future.

Join in this conversation series from the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund with the Rev. David Schoen, Minister for Church Legacy & Closure from the CB&LF, and Charlie Kuchenbrod, Legacy Church Specialist from the UCC Southern New England Conference as they dialog on Charlie’s Blogs, BUILDING A LEGACY: Learning, Discerning, and Leading In published in the SNEC Center for Transformational Leadership newsletter ‘Innovation Now’.

Watch for upcoming postings of more Closing Thoughts conversation videos too! For more Closure and Legacy Resources click here, https://cblfund.org/legacy-closure-resources/ Questions, comments or concerns? Contact David Schoen dschoen@ucc.org & Charlie Kuchenbrod legacychurch@sneucc.org

   

Closing Thoughts:
Completing a Ministry Faithfully and Well

Closing Thoughts:
Does God Ever Yearn for a
​Church to Complete Its Ministry?


 

   

Closing Thoughts:
C
hanging the Narrative from
"Decline, Failure, Closure & Death" to
"Maturity, Legacy Building,
Ministry Completion & Resurrection"

Closing Thoughts:
Palliative Care

Closing Thoughts:
G
rumbling

 

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