Established: ~1904

Tribe: Protestant Mainline

Worship Style: Rural traditional, family informal


Congregational Demographics: 

AWA: 32
Trend: 20 years steep decline; 8 years slow decline; followed by 10 years slight decline
Median Age: 61
Adult Generations: 21 Builders+; 8 Boomers; 2 Gen-X; 1 Millennial
Children/Youth: 2–3
Ethnic Mix: Anglo
SES: Mixed, mostly blue collar; income similar to ministry area

Debt: $0

Available Resources: ~$100,000 in endowments


Ministry Area Demographics:

Population: ~17,000
Trend: Some growth
Median Age: 33.8
Adult Generations: 7.5% Builders+; 8.6% Boomer; 25.1% Gen-X; 32.2% Millennial
Ethnic Mix: 67% Anglo; 20% Black/AA; Others less than 5% each
SES: 64% White collar; 36% blue collar; income slightly higher than state averages
Mosiac Majority Group: O – Singles and Starters (38%)
psychographic description here


Half-time pastor for past 30 years retired five years ago. During his tenure, the congregation declined sharply. Largely the decline was due to demographic changes in the community. Fifty years ago, the community was rural and church participation was a part of the fabric of the culture. However, beginning thirty years ago or so, the nearby college town outgrew its boundaries and soon landowners were selling out to developers and subdivisions began popping up. The church quickly moved from being the community hub to just another calendar event that had little to offer suburbanites, other than a quaint, old fashioned rural worship, but with a very warm welcome.

The church depended on four annual community events to make connections with their neighbors. VBS, a two-day garage sale, a summer barbecue, and a turkey dinner in the fall. Although segments of the community did attend, mostly the events attracted former members and associates. VBS was the only non-fundraiser and as the church declined, fewer volunteers were available to help, so ten years ago, it was abandoned. The church made no significant changes to worship or outreach during these years.

When the long-time pastor retired, the church called an interim pastor who led the congregation in DNA development. They agreed on a mission that was about making disciples; values that included hospitality and spiritual development; a vision that looked to reaching the community by gracious hospitality; and included both a membership behavioral covenant and a leadership covenant. In addition, screen technology was installed and used during worship.

Three years ago, the church called a half-time pastor who attempted to lead the congregation into the implementation of the DNA. However, the board waived the leadership covenant to ensure the number of positions dictated by the bylaws were filled. This created conflict within the board and between members of the board and some members of the congregation. In particular, one family (the Smiths … not their names) used their long-time alliances to sideline the leadership and membership covenants in favor of the bylaws (that had been suspended). This created a conflict between the pastor and the leadership and the pastor resigned. Since then, the congregation has continued to decline as conflicts flare up and members or families leave. The church still sees occasional visitors, but few return.

Currently, the church is essentially patriarchal, led by a man who is committed to harmony above all else. The Smiths are well entrenched in the church. The senior Smiths attend regularly, but complain about anything that looks like change. The junior Smiths serve in key leadership roles (but to be fair, because of the bylaws, so does every other active member). Because of the waning numbers, the patriarch does everything in his power to try and “keep the peace,” and therefore tends to capitulate to the Smith family.

 Questions – Next Steps

  1. Start with triage: Is this church salvageable … and at what cost?
  2. IF it’s salvageable, where would you start?
  3. What benchmarks would you set for the first year?

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