by L. Gail Irwin
is now available from
Resource Publications/Wipf & Stock Publishers
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The pews of many mainline churches are clearly not as full as they used to be. While committed Christians are trying everything they can to keep their churches open and thriving, history has shown that no local church is meant to live forever in its current form. Like people, churches are born, live and breathe, fulfill their missions, and pass away. And recent history shows that more churches will be closing or re-shaping their ministry in the near future.
Toward the Better Country tells about the grief stages, discernment processes and creative options explored by lay leaders, pastors and regional leaders who have dealt with this sensitive time in the life cycle of a church. These are woven in with the author’s own experience of leading a church through steep decline toward closure.
This resource, based on interviews with over thirty lay, clergy and judicatory leaders, will offer healthy, practical ways for congregations to move through the terrain of loss, discern God’s path for their future and pass on their legacies to emerging ministries. It can be used for personal reflection, leadership training, or in discernment groups in local churches. Scripture readings and questions for conversation are included at the end of each chapter, along with a list of additional resources for churches struggling with decline.
2. The Rise and Fall of Sacred Places
3. Expressions of Grief in the Faith Community
4. Discerning the Failure to Thrive: Lay Leaders
5. Discerning the Failure to Thrive: Pastors
6. Discerning the Failure to Thrive: Regional Pastors
7. Multiple Paths to the Future
8. A Tale of Two Closures
9. Laying the Foundation for Future Ministry
10. Seven Ways to Say Goodbye
11. New Wine for New Wineskins
Appendices, Additional Resources and Bibliography