Earlier this year, I was asked to step into a role within our larger church body to serve as a Regional Facilitator. It’s a bit of a fancy term for a guy who walks alongside congregations in a specific (yet very broad) geographic area to assist with a variety of ministry and mission objectives. How’s that for vague?! Some of these tasks will include vision planning, financial and stewardship emphases, and church revitalization/planting and so much more!
In the church around our Ohio District, the landscape looks very similar to the rest of the United States. Many churches are surviving while others are struggling and a lesser amount are thriving. The goal of this position is to help congregations of all sizes and statuses to move from where they are to a deeper level of ministry and mission. This post will talk about the struggles.
Now by way of disclaimer, the information here is real and relevant yet not specific to any particular church. It’s a situation facing many smaller, and typically more rural churches around the church body. As churches find it increasingly difficult to make inroads into their communities and as people move for jobs and family reasons, often these smaller churches face grave struggles. When you worship 20-40 on a weekend and a family of 5 leaves, you’re going to feel it! So what do you do when one door closes?
We have our typical flight or fight mentality that will generally kick in during these times. We’ll fight the tide and hold onto the rituals and building and name and programming that used to work in the hopes that trends will circle back around again. But then there’s the other camp who will simply jump ship and run for the hills the first sign of trouble. But there’s a third way!
This third response to a closing door is perhaps a combination of the two? It involves a flight from what’s just not working and a fight for the non-negotiable parts of life and ministry. The response that I’m seeing in the early stages of this position are very much in this section, and that’s beyond encouraging! Some of these smaller rural congregations that are challenged by the everyday parts of ministry are looking to other churches to come alongside them and share resources, personnel, talent and ministry programming to be better stewards of God’s gifts. This is incredible!
I want to encourage you to never settle for the knee jerk reaction to the problem. Whether it’s the church you love and hold dear getting closer and closer to closing or a relationship that’s just not going anywhere – take a moment to find a thoughtful response. Flight and fight are based on reactions, and reactions are typically never thought out! They are impulsive and rapid movements that for a time might yield short term gains but in the long term will often bring costly consequences. Pause for a moment. Think. Pray. Ask questions of others who’ve been there. Seek outside advice. Did I say pray! Then slowly and methodically move forward, one step at a time. Little by little, you’ll end up moving right through the problem.
When one door closes, slow down to see what other doors are around. And if you need help seeing what’s already there, find someone who can help you see through a different set of eyes. I’m generally here and would be honored to help you see what opportunities God has placed in front of you that might be hidden in plain sight! In short, when one door closes, look for the next one!