On the surface, they were three different congregations in two different parts of the country – one in a northern urban city, one in a mid-Atlantic suburb, and the other in a suburban southern resort area – but otherwise seemed very much the same.
All three were imperiled (e.g., in their judicatories’ version of hospice care), and their human and financial resources were dwindling rapidly. Their average Sunday attendance was between 30 and 40, with Christmas and Easter attendance hovering around 60, in worship spaces with a capacity of 3-10 times that total. They were rapidly drawing down their endowments, none of which were above $25,000, and roughly two-thirds of their normal operating income was from rentals. Their giving per household was exceptionally high (a point of pride), but this is frequently the case with congregations that know at some level they are in danger of closing soon.
That’s when we were called in…
We took all of them through a process we call Neighborhood Missional Assessment, in which we explored the missional opportunities and challenges in the neighborhoods they serve, their vitality strengths and weaknesses, and whether and how they could leverage the strengths to better engage the opportunities and challenges, as well as address their weaknesses. We ran Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Reports to explore key demographic trends and projections that define neighborhood missional opportunities and challenges, and MapDash for Faith Communities to dive more deeply into the demographics and projections they deemed relevant. We used our free Congregational Vitality Assessment to explore their vitality in 10 areas of congregational life, as well as their likely sustainability (with those whose judicatories subscribed to MapDash, we explored their vitality and sustainability scores). And we did trend analysis and projection on their weekly attendance, membership, and income to determine when they each would flatline (all within 10 years).
Here is what we found and how each congregation responded…[Read more…]