External Factors

  • Cultural apathy or animosity toward the church
  • re-zoning, re-routing of roads, closing of town businesses
  • arrival of a mega-church
  • abundance of churches
  • change in ethnic composition
  • decline and aging of population
  • drop in socio-economic status; drop in available jobs, etc.

Internal Factors

  • Decreasing Worship Attendance
  • Aging Membership
  • Financial Stress
  • Ineffective Communication
  • Denial
  • Resistance to Change
  • Loss of Members by Death/Transfer
  • Lack of Pastoral and/or Lay Leadership
  • Loss of Unifying Confession and Values
  • Isolation from Community
  • Unclear Mission in the Community
  • Survival Mentality (wanting the institution to survive without any change)
  • Lack of Ignitor Events (events which cumulatively slow or stop the decline)
  • Lack of Viable Core (few volunteers or donors)
  • Conflict (unreconciled or mismanaged)
  • Triple Elder Effect (older church, older members, and older pastor; difficult to draw younger families)
  • Relational Dysfunction (unhealthy relationships)

Factors Precipitating Increased Likelihood of Closure

  • Critical Attendance Decline (dipping below a “critical mass” of worshipers)
  • Critical Lack of Leaders/Volunteers
  • Critical Income Decline (inadequate resources to support the church’s mission)
  • Fatigue (especially among pastor and leaders)
  • Attrition Due to Open Talk of Possible Closure


  1. Communicate openly with the congregation regarding the present challenges, confronting denial and asking for commitment to a new chapter in the church’s mission.
  2. Participate in a congregational mission formation process.
  3. Secure a loan or line of credit for operational expenses.
  4. Offer facilities for rent to secure additional income.
  5. Call a semi-retired or bi-vocational part-time pastor.
  6. Close for a time and rebirth the congregation under a new name, vision, and pastor.
  7. Ask neighboring churches to send one young couple each to reseed the congregation.
  8. Find a partner or partners for a dual or triple parish arrangement, sharing a pastor.
  9. Form a parish from a cluster of churches and share two or three full-time pastors.
  10. Find a strong mentoring congregation to support your ministry with funds and staff.
  11. Merge with a larger congregation and become one of its multiple sites.
  12. Merge with a cluster of congregations and rebirth as a new congregation on one of the existing sites or on a new site.


  1. Traditional Close (assets sold; remaining assets and proceeds usually go to district)
  2. Phoenix Close (assets to new church plant on site, often new pastor, new name)
  3. Merger Close 1 (merge with larger church; assets handed over to larger church; church rebirths as additional site of larger church, likely with new pastor and new name)
  4. Merger Close 2 (merge with cluster of churches; assets handed over to cluster; church rebirths as a consolidated new church with a new name and perhaps new pastor[s])