LAMESA, CA. Ochicken The Christian Chronicle staff met in March to discuss the question “Where Have All the Churches Gone?” project, I told my long-suffering editor that I didn’t just want to write about dying churches for seven months.

“It’s just going to depress everyone, especially me,” I remember saying.

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While I wanted to look deeply at churches that couldn’t hold on, I also wanted to visit places where rejuvenation and hope can live. This month’s story about Church of Christ of La Mesa in the San Diego area and the ambitions it shares with several entities that I have come to call “helping organizations” is a of these stories.

In a community as proud of its autonomy as the Churches of Christ, collaboration is too often a rare commodity.

But the success of the plan to plant or rejuvenate 10 churches in 10 years in the San Diego area depends on God’s blessing and the cooperation of many of these organizations.


Related: The fight to save a church inspires an innovative partnership


In the few months since starting this project, I have met with several aid organizations and provided snapshots to the right. Some are well established. Others are nascent. Some are national in scope. One is hyper focused on Colorado. But all provide resources for congregations considering their strengths, weaknesses, and future – if they have one.

This list is not exhaustive and these organizations have different strategies, strengths and resources. Several of them collaborate with each other. Some are very independent. Some, like HomeMission, work primarily with more conservative congregations. Others staunchly refuse even to ask questions or comment on terms such as conservative, liberal, progressive or principal.

In conversations with the leaders of these organizations, a common thread emerged: churches that are inward looking are not going to overcome the typical 60-year life cycle of a church. To survive and thrive, they must look outward. They have to worry about bringing Jesus to the people outside the walls of their nearly empty buildings.

Let their tribe grow.


Church Resource Organizations

Be1Make1

Founded: 2022

Mike Vaughn, CEO and Chairman of the Board.

501(c)(3) registration in Cookeville, Tenn.

Be1Make1 primarily works with churches in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, but is expanding nationwide with 15 full- or part-time staff.

“We ensure the development of strategic planning for individuals and churches to live a life in mission. We walk in and walk with a leadership team and in 90 days they can go from wherever they are to a plan that they can implement – We can make it an effective organization and turn them into habits of the heart so that it becomes an organism instead of just an organization.”

Legacy 21 Foundation

Creation: 2015

Mike O’Neal, President.

Scott Lambert, President.

Heritage 21 Foundation works nationwide, with a particular focus on the western United States and California. They are currently engaged with approximately 40 congregations at various levels through two part-time staff members and additional volunteers.

“We work very hard to help churches really assess what their future is because almost everyone says ‘could we have a future?’ After the assessment we will work to help them grow, but if after the assessment they are ready to transition, we start the legal/real estate work and then start the closing the well part. We want them to celebrate, think about how they want their money to be spent, and try to develop a mechanism to help many of them get back into the realm.


Related: The trend of church closures began before COVID-19


HomeMission

Creation: 2014

John Orr, director, under the supervision of West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas.

The majority of churches served by HomeMission are in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and the Ohio Valley. The organization receives on average about one request per week from churches, of which about 30% are about to close.

Workshops led by HomeMission evangelists over a five-year period cover goal setting, visitation, circles of influence, giving, singing, evangelism, and Bible study.

“Everything about HomeMission is evangelism. We know that a church doesn’t change overnight, so we have tools that we give them to help them evangelize and we hope that within five years, 30% will be able to organize Bible studies – that’s our goal.

HOPE Network Ministries

Creation: 1997

Grady King and Greg Anderson, co-leaders.

Led by three full-time employees, 25 associates and associates.

The organization has worked with 300 churches in five years in 18 states across the country.

“Hope Network is a team of passionate church leaders who work for the Churches of Christ to stay on mission and move that mission forward. This work is done through mentorship, through interim ministry work, and established through church revitalization.

“Our preference is to walk alongside a management team for a season. It takes time to work on things. In the interim ministry, we try to provide a consistent presence in the pulpit and a consistency of counsel in mentoring a research team. If it’s planning or conflict management, we consider a series of engagements, usually three to five face-to-face engagements with some homework in between.

Establishment of the Kairos Church

Creation: 2005

Ron Clark, Executive Director.

Seven full-time or part-time employees.

Kairos church planting averages about one request per month from churches considering closing or renewing. There are currently nine church plants with Kairos and four future ones in progress. They mainly concentrate on the East and West coasts.

“Our goal is to plant new churches in new places for new people. If we want to revive a church, we usually try to work with the core leadership group, which could be the elders and the minister or a leadership team that the congregation has put in place. We walk them through our strategy lab – whether it’s a reboot, plant or relocation – they’ll find out what their mission is, what their goal is and what their plan is to go from the front.


Related: One Last Song, A Familiar Ending


Partners in Missions for Colorado

Founded: 2020

Bill Young, coordinator.

Overseen by Castle Rock Church of Christ.

Three leadership volunteers and 17 on-call preachers provide support to 10 Colorado congregations.

“We have adopted approximately 10 small churches in Southeast and Southwest Colorado as targets for our encouragement, possibility of several ministries we can assist with such as VBS, Special Bible Teachers, Interim Ministers, replacement Sunday ministers in small churches that otherwise would not have access to resources. We held a workshop for small churches in December and had a good turnout. We have also enlisted the help of Hope Network who provide an assessor to work with one of the struggling small churches we help foster.

Siburt Institute

Creation: 2012

Carson Reed, Executive Director.

The Siburt Institute is led by seven full-time and part-time employees, six professors and four consulting partners. They respond to calls from approximately 150 churches 20 in crisis each year from across the country.

“Sometimes we just offer informal and pro bono consultations, share resources, reads, talk about some possibilities and help them network with other organizations. In a more formal consultation, we might walk with a church for a year or more.

“In more formal engagements this usually means being on site and doing one-on-one interviews with elders, staff, congregants, doing focus groups, listening to stories looking for signs of life and hope. there is no specific program – the program helps them to face their reality and asks them: “Can these bones live? If there is no life there, then how do we die Well, if there’s life, how do we begin to prophesy to the bone?


BACON CHERYL MANN is a Christian Chronicle correspondent who served for 20 years as director of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Abilene Christian University. Contact [email protected].

Filed under: Be1Make1 church closings church closings Church closings Heritage 21 Foundation HomeMission HOPE Network Ministries Inside Story Insight Kairos Church Planting Opinion Partners in Missions for Colorado Siburt Institute for Church Ministry Top Stories Where Have All the Churches Gone


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