A church is considered to be “at-risk” when the potential exists for the church to close without the members proactively making that decision. This can happen through apathy, neglect, or the intentional takeover of the church by self-serving people. The following situations serve as examples:
Apathy & Neglect: A congregation declines to only a handful of members, many of whom are living in skilled care homes, and unable to attend church. A civil court judge ultimately disposes of the property.
Internal Coup: The leaders of a declining church, facing financial challenges and congregational fatigue, look to anyone with a new plan. This makes them an easy target for a strong-willed individual (or group) to take control of the congregation and its assets, often leading them away from the church’s original heritage and doctrinal beliefs.
Hostile Takeover/Steeplejacking: A group of individuals identifies a declining church and moves people in to become members. Once this new group outnumbers the original members they can call for a Congregational Meeting, change the bylaws, change the name of the church, change the doctrine of the church and become the owners of the church’s assets.
Is Your Church “At Risk”?
- Attendance that decreases to less than 100 people
- The age or tenure of the membership is unusually high
- Staffing of essential ministries is no longer adequate or effective
- Less than 35 active families involved in the church
- Annual income is no longer adequate to do effective local ministry
- The church has not consistently grown over the last five years
- Property that is valuable
- Survival has become the main mission