Dear dying congregation-
I know that name is probably not one that you are proud of. It might not even be something that your congregation talks about out loud. I know you wonder what you can do to share the spirit and life that you experienced back in your glory days. Perhaps you've even wondered if it was responsible to keep going as your resources dwindle.
Perhaps you've prayed for an evangelism miracle that would help save the space you have loved and the worship that has held you steady.
When I was in seminary, I thought about congregations like yours differently. I thought dying congregations were failing to be relevant to the world around them and were spoiling their resources. I was very arrogant in my thinking, I thought that doing mission work and serving the homeless was somehow meeting a more vibrant need in this changing world.
I was wrong.
The difficulties you are experience are the same as those that are the hardest in my work. Having enough funds coming in to pay the bills, for staff members and to keep the building from falling apart is as hard for non-profits and mission programs as it is for congregations. We all fight for the opportunity for the communities and world around us notice what we are doing and to join us.
In seminary, I thought that I was best suited for mission work. I think the truth is that I am best suited for helping to sustain the heart Christian ritual and of what is most important to faithful people. I love elping to create meaningful rituals and coming up with innovative ways support people in their saintly sinfulness.
And most unexpectedly, I've found that I am gifted in evangelism. Work with the homeless and hungry is attractive to individuals who haven't been a part of the church. By listening and using the sacred stories of local individuals alongside biblical stories, a new generation has found faith and felt like the church is a space for them. We have a vibrant congregation of volunteers, homeless folk and travelers. We have more coming everyday. What we don't have is the funds to support them.
Closing may seem like the most difficult thing you and your congregation could do. But, what if instead of closing, you invested in a new generation of evangelism? If you find yourself closing and selling your building, think of Welcome. Remember that in the last year, six people (four adults) were baptized, an average of 52 people participated in our weekly bible studies, thousand of individuals served the homeless and hungry and more than 3,226 listened to online sermons (in addition to those who heard them in the pews).
When was the last time your congregations had those kinds of numbers?
We are people who believe that out of death comes new life. If you're selling your building, consider tithing a part or all of your proceeds to Welcome. We'll share the history and legacy of your congregation and name our evangelical work after you. Your funds will pay for ministry to those who can't afford to pay for a building or a pastor.
We're both dying in this economy. You however, may be in the position to create life for our work and ensure that the homeless in San Francisco are supported for generations to come, or until we've finally ensured that all who are hungry have food and all who are without shelter have a home.
I know we're a part of a church that has avoided these kinds of conversations, but let me know if you or your congregation would be interested in talking more about how Welcome might be able to carry your legacy forward. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lots of love to you,
Pastor Megan Rohrer