Any Ideas on Giving Away a Church?

I’ll probably need to unpack that title a little.  I was hired, as the minister, to give away the church I serve. It’s not that the congregation doesn’t want it anymore – it’s that they’ve gotten quite small in number – small enough, in fact, that “common” sense would ordinarily dictate closing down and moving in with another church. There’s only basic problem with that – this is the only church found within the community and it’s located close to the center of this particular neighborhood in Schenectady. So, I have been charged with inviting in a whole new congregation who would adopt the church as their own and, in the process be adopted by the current members as heirs of the church. The basic scenario looks like this: 

There is this very small, remnant congregation on Avenue A in Schenectady. These are truly very lovely and courageous people – I mean that, I’m not being ministerial. Rather than do what most would do, go into hospice care and close up shop,  this group decided instead to suffer the expense and risk of calling a full-time pastor. They are putting the property and modest endowment to use to try to make sure that a church remains in the community once they are – well, gone. I, for one, applaud their faithfulness.

One difficulty is that the current congregation is largely, but not exclusively Scot-American, which is why it’s a Presbyterian Church. Most of the members no longer live in the immediate community, although most are not too far away and sincerely love the community. The area, of course has changed – what really hasn’t in upstate New York. Now the community is made up of a fabulous cultural tapestry of Guyanese of Indian descent, Hispanic, African-American, recent African and Central American immigrants, along with a reasonable remaining contingent of Italian Americans. It also has a sizeable population of HIV-AIDS sufferers, many working and non-working poor, buildings in a wide assortment of conditions, and a great many absentee landlords.

In short, the congregation no longer has, and really hasn’t had for some years, a relationship with the community beyond the food pantry which has been in place since 1998. The congregation loves the neighborhood, but doesn’t know it’s neighbors. We’ve been working on that but, since many members are well into retirement, it isn’t easy to find ways that they can engage with the community.

EWe are doing quite a few things, which I won’t detail at this point. That is because I don’t want to season the stew before you start adding ingredients. I would really appreciate it if you would offer your thoughts, observations, ideas, questions or whatever to help us think and act through this process. many heads are better than a few – but a few is all we have. So we need you in the worst way to help us determine if there are things we’ve overlooked. No idea is bad – don’t assume we’ve done anything – just throw out possibilities and let’s see where they land. If you don’t have ideas, but have a friend of a friend who is a church giving away guru, give them our site and get them involved, would you?

Will you help? I can provide whatever other information you need – just ask. Let’s use the comment area, if you will, and let’s start now. Please.

3 Responses to “Any Ideas on Giving Away a Church?”

  1. 1 Janny Wright
    February 2, 2009 at 3:17 AM

    Ahh.. here it is at the bottom of the page.. a true Doh..

    I am very interested in this issue. It seems from afar that you have an opportunity become a dynamic community resource. To meet people where they are. You need resources both financial and physical. You can pull a whole church along to rejuvenation all by yourself.

    I am interested in why the Presbyterian powers what to find new owners when the message they bring is still dynamic and alive. Is it that the body of your church is not middle class?

    Let’s talk

    Blessings and Pax Christi


  2. 2 Janny Wright
    February 2, 2009 at 3:18 AM

    *can’t pull a whole church along to rejuvenation

  3. 3 Rev Andy Little
    February 2, 2009 at 9:26 AM

    Hi Janny,

    The Presbyterian powers would like it to remain in the fold. I would prefer that – actually, if it was my choice I’d still remain the pastor.

    That said, my calling was to revive this congregation or rebuild another that this group can hand off the church to. I will honor that call, even it means the new church is vastly different. Actually, it need to be vastly different, even it stays Presbyterian.

    I have the physical resources to work with, and the commitment to use what financial resources there are – but commitment sometimes wanes when it actually comes to spending money on new initiatives. They seem, sometimes, to think that my salary is the whole investment – even though that’s just a beginning as far as I am concerned.

    As an organized church, however small, they remain somewhat autonomous as far as the denomination is concerned. So I am willing to be overtly subversive in accomplishing my call. My vision, for what it’s worth, lines up with the brief description you offered – to become a dynamic communtiy resource – mostly mission and finding ways to get people access to what they need, and also a worshipping body.

    Hope that helps a little. Keep talking with me – I need as many heads as I can get on this – along with the constant accompaniment of the Holy Spirit.


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... or, preaching from both ends


That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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