The Renewal Legacy Project
A life-Giving Journey of Completing and Blessing
In his book IN DYING WE ARE REBORN Peter Bush writes, “Each generation of leaders has to learn the truth that the church must die so that God can make it alive.” The idea of death as God’s gateway to life is deeply biblical. Jesus said in John 12:24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
God’s universal design is for death to bring life. The soil that nurtures magnificent forests is the compost of previous forests that lived, died and lived again. The church, too, is part of God’s universal design. Congregations, too, live, die and then bring new life. Those who study the church refer to this as the “lifecycle of congregations.”
This lifecycle is apparent throughout Reformed faith communities with 1-2% of all CRCs and RCAs closing each year. The number of closings is likely to increase as our denominations age. In those same 20 years a similar number of church plants have begun their new congregational journey.
All this is to say that congregations should be willing to embrace death, not fear it. When God calls a faith community to complete their journey it is an opportunity to be part of God’s greater resurrection work. When churches finish well they leave rich soil that nurtures the life of new congregations begun.
The Center for Church Renewal (part of the Church Renewal Lab at Calvin Seminary) wants to help churches finish well. A new division of our renewal work is the Renewal Legacy Project. The Renewal Legacy Project provides trained coaches to serve churches completing their journey.
Our coaches help churches finish well by walking them through all the important steps of completion including: a final assessment to determine if closing is the best option, pastoral care of members, celebrating a congregation’s life story, transitioning pastoral staff, dealing with legal obligations, finding a new church home for congregants and developing a legacy plan to maximize the blessing of remaining assets. Our hope is to serve congregations by caring for them in the closing days of their life together.
If you are considering the possibility of “dying to be reborn” please call or e-mail us at the locations listed below. We’d be honored to discuss our passion to nurture vital Gospel-centered ministries that make more and better disciples and how your congregation can still be a vital part of that grand vision.
RENEWAL LEGACY PROJECT OUTLINED
The Renewal Legacy Project comes along-side congregations contemplating the completion of their congregation’s journey by providing assessment, coaching and assistance with the multiplicity of details and concerns related to completing well and leaving a legacy of blessing.
Steps to Completing and Blessing
Step 1: Initial Conversations
- A Renewal Legacy Coach/Team has initial conversations with congregational leaders about congregational life-cycles and the location of the church on that life-cycle.
- An assessment tool is administered to determine if completion is the best option.
- Various resources are made available for consideration and review including:
- IN DYING WE ARE REBORN by Peter Bush
- LEGACY CHURCHES by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond
- The coach/team assists congregational leaders on how to introduce the idea of completion to the congregation
- A final congregational vote is taken authorizing the journey towards congregational completion.
Step 2: Development of a Post Completion Plan
- A legacy team (the appointed trustees) is formed to determine which of the following options will be pursued:
- The congregation will close and members will find a new congregational home of their choosing;
- The congregation will merge with an existing congregation;
- The congregation will close and a church plant will arise in the present location utilizing the resources available from the financial legacy of the congregation.
Step 3: Assignment of Completion Tasks to Three Distinct Teams
THE PASTORAL & CELEBRATION TEAM
Task 1: Pastoral Care
- Pastoral care will visit all shut-ins and various other members for whom completion will be difficult in order to share the vision for completion, hear and collect stories and listen to any concerns.
- Pastoral care will also make provision for the pastor and/or key staff to be cared for in the transition and facilitate the transfer of ministerial credentials as may be necessary.
Task 2: Membership Oversight
- Membership care determines the active membership list and where memberships will transfer based on the decision describe in Step 2 above.
- This team will work with a receiving congregation to provide information about members transferring in and determine the best way for the receiving congregation to provide care for the new members as is deemed necessary.
Task 3: Celebration Events
- Celebration Events develops plans for final celebrative gatherings and a final worship service that highlight stories from the congregation’s history and provide opportunity for congregants to reminisce, celebrate and complete the journey well.
- To the extent possible, former pastors, missionaries and key congregational leaders are invited to return and participate in these events.
THE LEGAL & PROPERTY TEAM
Task 1: Official Documents
- Legal processes all necessary documents for dissolving the church as a corporation
- Legal will identify attorneys, realtors, accountants and church parliamentarians to assist with details related to closing.
- Articles of incorporation will be reviewed to determine congregational obligations
Task 2: Finances and Assets
- A review of finances and assets will be made to determine the net-value of the congregation.
- Legal determines the best dispossession of the property
- Legal drafts a final report to the trustees and classis highlighting: intention to close, date of closing, church partners, membership transfers, intention for dispossession of assets, the final legacy plan and the individual or team that will bear responsibility to bring all the above to completion.
Task 3: History and Records
- History/Records gathers important congregational records (minutes, historic books, membership files, etc.) along with various congregational artifacts and determines how those items can be preserved for future generations. Assistance will be sought through Heritage Hall at Calvin College.
Task 4: Building Content
- Inventory all content inside the building and determine who should be the recipient of the content
- Sell or distribute all building content prior to the completion day
THE ASSETS & LEGACY TEAM
Task 1: A “blessing plan”
- The Assets and Legacy will determine the best “blessing plan” to bring Gospel life by sharing remaining assets with organizations committed to the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom. The blessing plan will demand determining how to support a merged ministry, conversations with classis, receiving of letters of request, interviews with potential fund recipients, etc.
- The plan will be presented to the congregation for their approval.
Task 2: Summary keepsake
- A final summary memory booklet will be created that tells the story of the congregation’s ministry together and names how the assets of the congregation were shared to bring new life.
Step 4: A Legacy Council Meets Regularly
- A Legacy Council consisting of persons/teams responsible for the above tasks will meet regularly with the trustees to coordinate progress, discuss overlapping responsibilities and set in motion a time table with specific target dates for the completion of the congregation’s journey.
Step 5: Completion
- The process of completion takes place following a final worship service, the transfer of all memberships, the dispossession of all assets and the distribution of gifts in accordance with the legacy plan.
- An authorized team or an authorized individual bring all things to a close.
- A final report of closure is drafted and sent to members, the church’s governing body, the classis/denomination and governmental agencies to indicate the completion of the congregation’s journey
The Role of the Renewal Legacy Project
The Renewal Legacy Project will provide a coach or team to work with a congregation’s leadership team to guarantee that the above tasks are accomplished in a thoughtful, sensitive and proper way.
The process of completing a congregation’s journey generally takes 6-24 months. The coach remains with the congregation through this process.