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We May Be Small in Number, but We Can Do Mighty Things… Advice for Small, Aging Churches from Someone Who’s Been There. Resources from the workshop presented at the 2016 Annual Gathering.

By Rev. Sheri Randolph, First Congregational UCC, Barstow.

First Congregational UCC, BarstowMany of us have buildings which don’t work for our current needs – they’re too big, not accessible to disabled and elderly people, hard to heat and/or cool, expensive to maintain and insure…

Several of the churches in the Conference have sold their buildings.  Some did so while also closing the church completely, others sold their buildings and moved to more flexible space to meet their needs.  The money from these sales has helped pay off Pilgrim Pines’ mortgage, provided money for local mission projects, and been used to sustain our Conference ministries.

At the First Congregational UCC in Barstow, we found that selling our building has freed us from the heavy burden of upkeep and expenses, given us the flexibility to shape our worship space to our current needs, and provided us with financial resources that mean we can give more money to mission projects and not worry about who is giving and how much.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if your church is a smaller church!  The majority of churches throughout Christian history have been smaller churches.

Some Facts to Ponder
Did you know?

• Nearly half (46.5%) of all UCC congregations have 50 or fewer people in attendance at worship each week, and nearly 8 in 10 congregations (79.5%) have 100 or fewer people in weekly worship. Because of these statistics, it can be concluded that the United Church of Christ is a denomination of smaller congregations.

Some characteristics unique to these churches (differences that are statistically significant):

• Possessed greater percentages of older adults (age 50 or older) and smaller percentages of younger people (including children and youth).
• Were less likely to have changed worship styles in the past five years.
• Possessed an identity of their church as being a close-knit family.
• Had fewer church participants who were daily internet/social media users.
• Had fewer church participants who were involved in evangelism and outreach to new people.
• Were more likely to have a majority of participants possessing conservative theological outlooks.
• Were less likely to have grown in average weekly worship attendance over the last five years.
• Were more likely to have an older female pastor.
• Were more likely to have a part-time and/or bi-vocational pastor, as well as a shorter-tenured pastor.
• Adapted less readily to change/not as willing to make changes.
• Were less likely to have a website or use electronic technology or internet/social media.
• Were more uncertain about their future as a congregation.
• Located in less populated geographic areas.

Findings from the United Church of Christ 2015 Faith Communities Today (FACT) Survey of Congregations.  Available at http://www.ucc.org/research

Selling your church building
Looking to explore the sale of your church building(s)?  Carl Whidden has assisted several of the churches in the Conference, including the First Congregational UCC in Barstow, to sell their buildings.  Carl Whidden is a licensed real estate broker who will work with your congregation to assist you all the way through the process.  He is happy to meet with your congregation to answer questions.

Carl Whidden
Whidden Realty
70 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 296-2020

What can you do with all of your stuff?
We sold most of our furnishings with our building, keeping just what we needed for our new worship space.

And, if you sell the building and move you don’t need to haul all of your records with you!

Donate your church records to the Congregational records collection:

Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library, The Claremont Colleges
800 North Dartmouth Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711

Contact: Carrie Marsh, Head of Special Collections
Phone: 909-607-3977
Fax: 909-621-8681
E-mail: spcoll@cuc.claremont.edu
Web site: http://libraries.claremont.edu

Small Church Resources
BOOKS
1. When Steeples Cry: Leading Congregations Through Loss and Change Paperback – May 18, 2006, by Jaco J. Hamma
2. I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church! Jan 15, 2007. by Paul Nixon
3. We Refused to Lead a Dying Church!: Churches That Came Back Against All Odds– Apr 1, 2012, by Paul Nixon
4. Congregations in Transition: A Guide for Analyzing, Assessing, and Adapting in Changing Communities – Feb 20, 2002 by Carl S. Dudley and Nancy T. Ammerman
5. Studying Congregations: A New Handbook – Sep 1, 1998 by Nancy Ammerman, Jackson Carroll, Carl Dudley and William McKinney
6. Effective Small Churches in the Twenty-First Century – Oct 1, 2002 by Shirley S Dudley and Carl S. Dudley
7. The Indispensable Guide for Smaller Churches – Jun 1, 2009 by David R. Ray
8. When Sheep Attack  – April 12, 2010 by Dennis R. Maynard
9. Pastor Abusers: When Sheep Attack Their Shepherd  – June 4, 2012 Kent Crockett
10. The Elephant in the Church: What You Don’t See Can Kill Your Ministry – June 1, 2013 by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

WEBSITES
• https://smallchurch.com/ – Small Church.com A Big Place for small Churches
• http://www.thesmallchurchproject.com/ – The Small Church Project
• http://www.norcalepiscopal.org/small-church-resources – The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California Small Church Resources
• http://capresbytery.org/resources/small-church-resources/ – Charleston Atlantic Presbytery Small Church Resources
• http://newsmallchurch.com/ – New Small Church: Encouraging, Connecting, and Equipping Innovative Small Church Leaders
• http://www.200churches.com/about.html = 200 Churches: Ministry Encouragement for Small Church Pastors
• http://smallchurchpastor.com/ = Small Church Pastor
• http://www.smallchurchleaders.org/ –  Small Church Leadership Network
• http://www.ctlibrary.com/le/1998/spring/8l2034.html – North American Guide to Church Dragons: How to identify and approach two dangerous species by Louis McBurney April 1, 1998

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