A New Season for Church Ministry

Perhaps God’s future is renewal and transformation in this new season.

Over the past decade, the Presbyterian Foundation has partnered with approximately 1,100 congregations as they reflect on the call of Christ. Through the Regeneration Project, a team of ministry relations officers across the country assist sessions and church leaders as they consider their future.

Olanda Carr, Senior Ministry Relations Officer, was deeply touched by the opportunities to help churches. “Walking alongside congregations is a spiritual and meaningful journey as they face the next chapter,” Carr said.

It indicates that the heart of the relationship, centered on Christ, is the most important thing. “The key is to pray and listen to the Spirit,” Carr said. “Thinking about the future is a spiritual exercise from start to finish.”

The Presbyterian Foundation works closely with church leaders, in tandem with their presbytery, to guide the congregation through a season of honest prayer and reflection. The heart of the experience is not the nuts and bolts of buildings and budgets, but careful listening to God’s guidance. The process invites deep reflection on the months and years to come.

Sometimes the journey leads to a decision for the church to continue with its current structure. Other times there is a merger with another congregation. Or a closure decision.

Dissolving a church is a painful choice. During such a season, the Ministry Relations Officer encourages each congregation to listen to the stories of its members – memories of baptisms, weddings and funerals and the precious impact of community programs.

Such congregations are encouraged to find out how their ministries can continue. Carr tells the story of one church that decided to close: “They worked with the parsonage to sell the property, then invested the assets in a permanent fund with the Foundation,” Carr said. “The proceeds of this investment, year after year, will support three beneficiaries who reflect the ministry passions of the former congregation.”

Through Christ-centered planning, renewal can be achieved even when a congregation dies.

Sometimes the regeneration project takes a very different form. For example, Carr sometimes works with a congregation located in a building and accompanying lot much larger than necessary. He assists the session as elders and pastors explore possibilities and evaluate several options with development partners.

It is important work. The most recent statistics from the General Assembly Office reveal that approximately 41% of congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have 50 or fewer members. Many of our beloved churches will be faced with these questions in the years to come.

Paul Grier, vice president of the Presbyterian Foundation, has been involved in many of the Regeneration Project partnerships. “The foundation serves as an advisor, a sounding board and a coach,” Grier said. “We act as an impartial third party to help the church discern its future.” It is a tender time for any congregation. “We are firm in our commitment not to steer church leaders toward a specific course of action,” he added. “We don’t offer unrealistic expectations of likely success. We do not claim to offer answers so much as to facilitate the asking of questions. »

Pastors and elders express their gratitude for the partnership of the Presbyterian Foundation. At every turn, the Foundation strives to walk with church leaders through a time of discernment as they explore what God is calling them to do and be.

Charles K. Eckert