How to Bring a Dying Congregation Back to Life

How to Bring a Dying Congregation Back to Life

Are there any resources out there to help my congregation?  It’s dying!  It was once populated and thriving (okay, a long time ago.)  Now it’s shrinking so fast only a miracle will keep us open. We have a building and we have history.  What we don’t have is people and hope.

Concerned congregational leaders ask me this question, or some version of it, at every turn.

Please! Help us, but not in some complicated way that’s going to costs lots of money (which we don’t have) and take forever (which again, we don’t have). For those of you who have asked this question, there is good news: the revitalization hill is steep, but ascent is possible for those willing to make the climb – so testifies writer and pastor, Molly Phinney Baskette.

RGCHer book, Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back from the Dead, and Yours Can, Too tells the story of how she led a worshipping congregation of 35 back from the brink of closure. They are now a thriving congregation of 140 in worship.  Their giving has quintupled over the last decade, and they have recently completed a successful $600,000 capital campaign to renovate their beautiful, but old, building.

It took hard work, smart choices, and, I’m sure she would say, God’s grace.  Baskette has no desire to keep First Church Somerville UCC’s successful strategies a secret. This book does what it promises: it maps out step-by-step exactly how they did it.  It is a tool for small congregations who want to come alive again.

She writes in a lively, funny tone, never diminishing the urgency or difficulty of the work.  It is a narrative, NOT a theoretical manual. Inspiring and riveting, it makes good reading. While full of stories, resources and advice, Real Good Church is brief enough and real enough to merit the time it takes to read it.  There is no waste in this text: all her stories are there to clarify concepts and strategies and instill hope.

This toolkit is for any congregation, regardless of theology or faith.  Her examples tell their story (First Church is a progressive UCC congregation), but the strategy can be applied by any congregation that loves God and people. 

Just to give a taste of Baskette’s leadership method:  she calls herself a “doomsday Pollyanna” – determined to tell her folks the truth about the need to change, but bathing it in her own sense of hope that a future is possible.

For all those small congregations longing for another chance at life, this book offers an affordable, doable starting place. Frankly, it’s a treasure.

Katie Lindberg
CMG Consultant