Congregational sustainability 

Several churches attended the last meeting with representatives from the Presbyterian Foundation to discuss congregational sustainability last week. It’s been two years since we first gathered to talk about using our assets appropriately, being honest about our financial trajectories and creating space for the next generation of worship and work in the PCUSA. 

My take away this time had to do with thinking about plan B and plan C. Many of us have dreams of redevelopment, of attracting new families, of new ways of worship and work and we call it plan B.

Some plan B’s that are in motion:

  • One congregation creating a new alliance with a full daycare center, a service needed in the community.
  • One congregation choosing to worship in a part of the building that is handicap accessible.
  • One congregation willing to be honest about resources during a transition of leadership so that the transition can be transformative.
  • Two congregations working together for the future – including a transfer of land if the way be clear
  • Two congregations able to build a new sanctuary with the proceeds from selling off resources resulting from a successful merge

 

But around the table, we also talked about how many of us have avoided acting on plan B and we are then faced with the realities of plan C. Plan C is realizing we took too long to act and now the resources, our buildings, our finances and our human resources are no longer available to enact plan B.

Over the course of the last two years, the honesty we have shared has been refreshing. Our conversations have connectional, acting and speaking as if we truly belong to one another. By the end of this meeting, I felt as were able to face this question together – if we were to view our resources, buildings, finances and human resources, as the inheritance we have for the next generation of worshippers and workers, are we spending their inheritance in a way that the next generation will understand? 

We want to continue these conversations, so keep an ear open. We will let you know when and where.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. peter gregory says:

    By virtue of moving around allot in a military career NB is the 9th presbytery I have served in my career, Have had a number of tours on various COMs, Councils, were congregational revitalization, renewal, rebirths, mergers, consolidations, have been on top of the discussions from San Diego to Boston to Miami. The take away from my experience has been where the base emotions of fear, anxiety and its related stress is addressed or managed for these folks or stake-holders in these revitalization plans and processes, those efforts will succeed more times than not over time. I have seen time after time where fresh, young, newly minted clergy go into these type of churches full of fresh ideas and concepts, thinking they can turn things around, only to leave, drop out, 3 to 5 years along. Angry and disillusioned. COMs many times assume that all marginally functional churches want and desire to change or go though the hard processes required in transformation. Some do, but many times the most effective thing a Presbytery or COM can do is to be honest with these folks and transition them to a form of hospice,or end of live, palliative care where these congregations are closed, merged or consolidated with dignity, respect and compassion. Mitigating pain and stress along the way.

    The same thought process at times I think should be applied to other governing units of the denomination. No one had made coherent or a functional, economic argument that Presbytery boundaries set in 1725 in the age of horseback are set in stone or non negotiable, forever. Mission effectiveness, efficiencies and economies of scale I think makes rational sense for some type of union with NB, Monmouth, West Jersey, Newton. Given the trajectory of the denomination and Presbytery in terms of money and people, someone has to pay the bills at end of the day. I just do not know where the folks are coming from. At least to support the structure that currently exists.

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