What would happen if your church closed tomorrow? How long would it take for the people in your community to know your church was no longer providing ministry to the community? Other than members of your congregation, would people care if your church closed?
With about 100 churches in the US closing every week these are fair questions to ask. The answer to these questions might even determine if your church should remain open.
Several years ago when I was beginning my work as a Resource Minister I was asked to meet with the Pastor Search Committee of a small, rural congregation. They had given me directions to the church, but the directions weren't real good. Since I didn't know where the church was located I left early so I could find it before dark.
I followed the directions, and they did not take me to the church. I continued driving around the country roads looking for the church or at least a sign but found neither. I even stopped at two houses and asked where the church was located, but no one could tell me. It had grown dark, and it was now thirty minutes past the time we were to meet. I decided the next place I found to turn around I would do so and return home. The place I found to turn around was the church parking lot. The really sad thing about this story is that the two houses I stopped at were within a mile of the church, but the people at neither house knew where the church was located.
This was a nice little country church with nice people, but they could close their doors and it would have minimal impact on anyone other than the members of their congregation. If people near your church do not know where you are located it says something about the impact your church is making in your community.
Another church called me when their pastor became ill. The church had about a dozen people attending but only three were members. One of the members questioned whether they would be able to get another pastor or even remain open. This was a very troubled church so I asked about the church's reputation in the community. She admitted it was very poor. This was another church, that if it closed its doors, would not be missed in the community.
Both of these are sad situations. I don't know the stories of these churches, but I am sure that both were founded because someone had a vision for ministry in their communities. I do remember years ago when the second church was nearly filled every Sunday with worshipers and had an active ministry in the area. I don't know what happened, but somewhere along the line people lost their vision for ministry, and the church began a long, slow decline.
It's sad to see a church close its doors, but all things do have a life cycle. If a church no longer understands its purpose and has no vision for ministry, it's probably time to close and allow new ministries to begin who have a fresh vision for ministry. I'll ask the question again, if your church closed its doors, how long would it take people to know it?