An open jar of coins is on a surface and half of the coins have spilled out.
Question Box columnist Christopher White says it is important to have honest conversations about financial realities. (Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash)

Topics: April/May 2024, UCC in Focus | Opinion

My church is running out of money. What should we do?

Question Box columnist Christopher White weighs in on why it's important to have honest conversations about financial realities

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Q: My church has two years left before we run out of money and will have to close. But the rest of the congregation is in total denial about it. They are sure the church will be revitalized with new people who haven’t shown up yet. What can I do to help the congregation face reality and start to make plans?

A: Magical thinking is a difficult challenge to overcome in a church. The belief that somehow new people will just miraculously arrive to save the church speaks to me of deep grief. A grief that something so precious and important to them is going to disappear is more than the congregation can contemplate, so they hope for the best.

Can a church be revitalized? Yes, but only if we recognize that it does not mean a return to the past. Revitalizing a church involves deeply understanding your context, your neighbourhood and its needs, and then formulating a plan to meet them.

It also requires an honest appraisal of your resources: physical, financial and human. What is the capacity of the congregation to do this work?

One of the emerging trends to consider is a shared ministry model, where one minister works with a couple of churches that can’t afford a full-time minister. I predict this trend will grow and become interdenominational.

But as for your situation: you can’t do this on your own, so the first place I would start is to invite your board chair and minister for a coffee. Share your concerns about the situation your church is facing. Trust me, they are fully aware of it. Then offer to find a few kindred spirits to start examining the different options.

I expect their relief will be huge. It may be the spark that is needed to start the process of facing reality and creating a new future for your community of faith.

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Rev. Christopher White is a United Church minister who lives in Hamilton. Do you have a query for Question Box? Email christopher.white143@gmail.com.

This column first appeared in Broadviews April/May 2024 issue with the title “Question Box.”

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  • says:

    Fifty years ago, I was told: "God's work done in God's way will not lack God's supply." Fast forward half a century and churches are closing left and right. Either the slogan was wrong from the start, or churches need to start working in God's way.