Partnership Options to Strengthen At-Risk Churches
At-risk churches across South Carolina need strong churches to help them fulfill the Great Commission. They are willing to take steps of faith toward a new future and a renewed mission of gospel ministry in their community, but they need meaningful partners to come alongside them for a season. How could God utilize the resources of your church to assist an at-risk church to share the hope of the gospel in their community?
Leaders across our state are engaging our churches at-risk of decline or closure and helping them take steps of faith and renew their mission. Through an extensive assessment and recommendation process, at-risk churches are choosing revitalization and reSTARTing as pathways toward reengaging their community with the gospel. Many of these churches will need church partnership(s) to assist and encourage them for a season until they regain strength.
How can a strong church partner with an at-risk church?
BECOME A CO-LABORER (LEVEL 1)
- Pray for an at-risk church in your community
Every at-risk church needs a host of prayer warriors interceding for them as they seek to faithfully shepherd a dying church to new life. Consider joining their prayer team, praying for them by name during worship, praying with their leadership, prayer walking their community, etc.
- Support an at-risk church
Most at-risk churches face tremendous resource limitations that can be offset by partnership. With limited offering receipts and an aging membership, at-risk churches do not have the ability to offer multi-generational ministry, care for their facilities, or even staff the needed leadership roles for essential ministry. Partner churches can seek to meet tangible needs for ministry that include:
- Additional funding for ministry and outreach
- Assistance with resources and supplies for worship, discipleship, and other ministries
- Anything to reduce their overhead costs and put more money toward ministry
- Serve alongside an at-risk church
Every at-risk church needs a wide range of spiritual gifts and talents to be utilized for ministry for differing seasons of time. Often church partners can form agreements with churches that have committed to revitalization or reSTART by:
- Send members to utilize their gifts as members of the partner congregation.
- Serve during a short-term mission trip to help launch an at-risk church, host a community block party, make facility improvements, etc.
- Serve for 6-12 month in nursery, children, worship, small group, etc. while the church leadership recruits and develops new leadership.
Provide interim ministerial leadership while new leadership is developed or hired.
- Prepare future leadership for an at-risk church
What if your church could prepare a future pastor that would lead an at-risk church back to life and strength again? Through an intentional 12-18 month investment, a pastoral resident can gain valuable experience needed to shepherd a future flock while serving in the life and ministry of his sending church. Creating a pipeline for several future pastors would be a valuable investment to your church and to future at-risk churches.
PREPARE TO FOSTER (LEVEL 2) – “FOR A SEASON” PARTNERSHIP
Partner church extends care to a church in need of leadership, wisdom, resources, and vision for a determined season until they are strong enough to be self-sufficient.
- Longer commitment often 2-3 years in length.
- Fostering church supplements existing needs while preserving the at-risk church’s autonomy.
- Existing leadership is guided and prepared for self-sufficiency.
- Often new pastoral leadership is recommended and supported by the fostering church. Placing a pastor with a vision for church revitalization and a humility to work with the fostering church leadership for a season could yield lasting results.
- Assessment of need and available resources will determine the conditions of the partnership.
- Leaders work together to form a covenant that is affirm by both churches.
CONSIDER ADOPTION (LEVEL 3) – “EXPANDING THE FAMILY” PARTNERSHIP
Partner church launches a new expression of ministry by uniting resources and membership under the leadership and vision of a parental church to yield a new campus or network church.
- At-risk church is fully integrated into the family of the adopting church.
- Adopting church leads, serves, and equips existing members of at-risk church as new members.
- Existing leadership is often assessed for opportunities to serve the larger family.
- Combined assets are utilized to increase ministry on the new campus location.
WHEN SHOULD A STRONG CHURCH PARTNER WITH AN AT-RISK CHURCH?
- First, prayerfully take time to answer 3 questions before pursuing any partnership:
1. What is the vision for partnership?
2. What resources are available for partnership?
3. What are the essential terms and conditions for partnership?
- Second, let your associational and denominational leadership know of your desire to be a partner.
- Third, scale your partnership with the readiness of the at-risk church.
1. Build relationships and trust with leaders in proximity to you.
2. Start with level 1 without any commitment to ongoing support.
3. Move to level 2 or 3 after the church is assessed and affirms their need for a revitalization process.
Discover how church partnerships are helping to strengthen at-risk churches by visiting HopeForChurches.org to read additional articles and stories. You can also begin a conversation with the Church Strategies Team by emailing email@example.com.