Everything here represents my own opinion and not the opinion of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection or the United Methodist Church.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Death of a Congregation

New life and death are a natural part of the life cycle and overall health of a denomination and annual conference. This may be seen in the planting of new congregations, but it will also be necessary to move through the death of some congregations who are no longer effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Recognizing that a congregation is nearing death in a life cycle may be easier for someone that is outside of the congregation, i.e. newly appointed pastor, district superintendent, etc. However, it may be very difficult for someone from the outside to bring this to the attention of the congregation and facilitate moving into the process of closing. What may happen is that the person from the outside is accused of not having the best interest of the congregation in mind.

Sometimes there will be a place where someone within the congregation notices that things are not going well and perhaps the best thing is to let the congregation die. This may become easier as there are more and more congregations that are closing within the annual conference. The closing or death of congregations is likely to increase within the next ten years for various reasons. According to Steve Compton, conference staff of the North Carolina Annual Conference, some of these reasons include:

  • Loss of family perpetuation of membership in rural and town churches
  • Longer effect of the natural life cycle
  • Dramatic shifts in community demographics.
This is true, not only in the North Carolina Annual Conference, but I believe in the Kansas East, Kansas West and many other annual conferences around the country. The death of congregations will need to be matched with both the birth of new congregations and the revitalization of existing congregations.