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The Resurrection Legacy

In a recent conversation with Dr. Eric McKinney, consultant in Leadership Ministries with TMF, he shared with me some of things he looks at in church health as a congregation begins to examine its future.  (He uses the learning tool Holy Conversations by Gil Rendle and Alice Mann.)  He asks about their average worship attendance over the last two decades and examines what age quartiles their percentage of giving comes from.  Both are key variables in looking at long-term congregational viability. Dr. McKinney’s questions coincide with learning I recently gleaned from reading Legacy Churches by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond.  (I was so impressed by this work and the insights offered to us that I bought a copy for each member of the extended Cabinet.) In a forthright, loving, and courageous way, the authors face the reality of church closings.  They detail the natural life cycle of churches.  They note critical signs that indicate a church might need to face closing – history of decline in worship attendance below a critical level needed for support, changing population base, lack of connectedness to the mission field (area around the church), the giving base overwhelmingly from a post-retired generation, over dependence on the same volunteers, few professions of faith, etc. Rather than simply lament reality, seek blame or grieve, the writers offer a hopeful response.  They call for churches to be legacy congregations.  “To leave a legacy is to pass on to future generations something of great significance. . . .If your church can give birth to a new church, that new church can carry forward your values and believes and continue to fulfill your mission to bring life-change to the community.” The book is crammed with practical help that can be easily used to guide a congregation in examining its future.  Even better, it is hope-filled and resurrection-based.  It reflects the gospel.  I commend it to you.  Legacy Churches is a quick practical easy read with check lists a congregation can use examine its future in ministry for the advancing kingdom of God. On another subject, Monday I was in Austin for a meeting of the Texas Methodist Foundation’s Executive Board.  I continue to be deeply impressed with TMF’s foresighted leadership in resourcing United Methodist Churches.  Recent action folding the Central Texas Methodist Foundation into TMF is a welcome step that will aid all involved and continue the strong work previously being done by both TMF and CTMF.