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.
ESSENTIALS CHECK-LIST TO “COMPLETE & BLESS”
As a resource, we have made available to you a checklist that will help you in the process of completing and blessing.
Council votes on presenting a motion to the congregation to “complete and bless”
Articles of Incorporation are reviewed to determine conditions set forth in the dissolution clause
Classis is notified of the council’s desire to bring a motion for completion to the congregation (see C.O. 38).
The congregation votes on closing and approves trustees to oversee the process (minutes must be kept)
- Determine the vote total necessary to pass a motion to close
- Develop the language that will be on the ballot
- Approve trustees (can be council or members of the council) to guide the completion process
- Approve the process by which the closure will take place
The trustees meet to begin the process of completion
- Officers of the board of trustees are named
- An attorney is retained to assist with all necessary legal documentation
- A realtor is retained to assist with the sale of property
- A completion coach is retained to assist with the closing journey (this is optional)
- Individuals or teams are assigned to address completion tasks
- An Assets & Legacy Team
- A Legal & Property Team
- A Pastoral Care and Celebration Team
- A post completion plan is drafted to determine if there will be a merger, restart or simple dissolution
- Target dates for completion are determined
- A plan is drafted to provide for church staff including actions on ministerial credentials and severance.
The Legacy Council meets regularly (this council consists of key leaders from each team and the trustees)
Communication with the congregation continues on a regular basis
A second official congregational meeting takes place to finalize all items related to closing including:
- Will there be a merger, a restart or simply allow members to choose their membership destination?
- Where will the legacy assets of the congregation be distributed?
- When will the final celebration and closing of the congregation take place?
- Who will be entrusted with the final items related to the closure of the ministry?
Completion events take place
- Typically, a gathering takes place to celebrate the story of the congregation and welcome back former members and key leaders in a memorial of thanksgiving.
- A final worship celebration is conducted.
All items necessary to close are completed
- Memberships are transferred
- Building is sold
- Assets are distributed
Legal entities are notified of closure (classis/denomination & governmental)