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Starting Over

Some congregations find their best option is to shut down the church for a few months and re-open it with a new name, new leadership and a new vision.

In an area of the Midwest that’s been hard-hit by the economy, a small group of Disciples were struggling to keep the doors to their mostly Anglo church open in a changing neighborhood that had a growing African-American population.

By the time of the New Beginnings assessment, the congregation couldn’t afford to keep the building open. Adding to the challenge was the fact that many of the key leaders were driving to the church from their homes more than 30 minutes away. With the exception of groups using the church facility, there was little connection between the congregation’s programs and the surrounding community.

With the help of a New Beginnings assessment, the congregational leaders saw the potential this church could have if it “restarted.” There was need for a renewed Christian witness in the community, but these leaders knew they were not the ones who could initiate the renewal.

And so they’ve chosen to start over. With this option, a church building “goes dark” for a period of three to six months and then reopens with a new name, new sign, new worship services and programs and usually new leadership. Many former members will still attend, but will allow new people to accept the mantle of leadership. Some former members are finding other church homes. A restart enables long-time, dedicated church leaders to rest after many years of faithful service.

The New Church Ministry team of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has training and coaching resources to assist churches that choose to restart.

Restarting is an effective option for churches that have lost touch with their local neighborhoods. In one case, a church that chose to restart is now welcoming more than 300 people to Sunday worship. By starting over, these churches are discovering ways to re-introduce themselves to their communities. And God is doing a new thing in their midst!