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But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

One of our 2018-21 initiatives is to encourage and support congregations and individuals in refreshing existing and developing new outreach ministries in their communities. How will you and your congregation connect with your community?


Dr. Phil Johnson, DCO, Asst. to the Pres., Mission Formation  952-223-2161  Email Phil

Dr. Phil Johnson, DCO, Asst. to the Pres., Mission Formation
952-223-2161
Email Phil

Dr. Johnson works with leaders in existing congregations and ministries to better align them with God’s mission. He assists pastors and congregations in developing intentional, purposeful engagement in their communities. His goal is a long-term process of mission formation and outreach leadership development.

Dr. Johnson’s reading recommendations:

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Built on the Rock: The Healthy Congregation by Ted Kober

Note: this book will be used in our spring 2020 leadership summits!

“Church leaders and members [will gain] an effective prescription for building and sustaining healthy congregations. . . . Churches [will] identify the root cause of their condition and regain church health.”

Click here to learn more about Built on the Rock.

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The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations by Don Everts

“As society has changed, it seems we have become more uncomfortable talking with people about our faith. We are reluctant conversationalists. . . . [But] spiritual conversations can actually be a delight. With original research from the Barna Group and Lutheran Hour Ministries . . . this book offers fresh insights and best practices for fruitful everyday conversations.”

Click here to learn more about The Reluctant Witness.

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Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to be an Everyday Missionary by Greg Finke

“[M]ove you and your people from merely thinking about being everyday missionaries to launching. You will feel both relief and hope as you gain insights into how to recognize where Jesus is already at work in your everyday world and join Him.”

Click here to learn more about Joining Jesus on His Mission.

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Gospel DNA: Five Markers of A Flourishing Church by Michael Newman

“Is it possible for the Christian church in the United States to become vibrant and relevant once more? Looking at a uniquely American Gospel movement as a case study, Gospel DNA traces five markers that lead to a flourishing church. Hope is closer than you may think. It’s time to reconnect with Gospel DNA.”

Click here to learn more about Gospel DNA.

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Prayer by O. Hallesby

“Is your personal prayer life giving you problems? Read this book. It will clear your mind about your need for prayer and strengthen your will to do it. Beyond all that, it will simply flood your soul with goodness and love of God!”

Click here to learn more about Prayer.

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Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

“[A] faith-based companion to the best-selling leadership book of all time--The Leadership Challenge. [This book] offers practical guidance and inspiring examples about how Christian leaders can have a powerful impact in their workplaces, communities, and congregations by bringing their faith into their leadership.”

Click here to learn more about Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge.

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Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What by Peter Steinke

“When tensions emerge in a congregation, its leaders cannot be as anxious as the people they serve. . . . Knowing how to deal with anxiety and how to work through complex challenges can lead a congregation to new insights, growth, and vitality. “

Click here to learn more about Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times.


The mission formation process

What is a mission formation process?

The mission formation process is a long-term plan that helps congregational leaders more intentionally engage the people of the congregation in the mission of God.

What are the keys to a mission formation process or plan?

A successful mission formation plan should include . . .

  • A clear focus on the mission of God that is rooted in the Word and the Sacraments

  • A clear understanding of your community

  • A clear understanding of the congregation’s needs, interests, strengths, and resources

  • A written plan with realistic resources and support

  • Someone (or a small group) who provides support, encouragement, accountability, and communicates progress along the way

Why do we need mission formation?

Congregational decline is more common than we might care to admit. Click each heading below to learn more about factors that contribute to the decline of a congregation and to learn about options beyond closing a shrinking church.

External Factors

  • Cultural apathy or animosity toward the church
  • Re-zoning, re-routing of roads, closing of town businesses
  • Arrival of a megachurch
  • 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 or 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 and / or 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

Alternatives for churches considering possible closure

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

Closure models

  • Traditional close: assets sold and remaining assets and proceeds usually go to the District
  • Phoenix close: assets go to a new church plant on-site, often with a new pastor and a new name
  • Merger close #1: merge with larger church, handing over assets to the larger church and rebirthing as an additional site of larger church, likely with a new pastor and a new name
  • Merger close #2: merge with a cluster of churches, handing over assets to the cluster and rebirthing as a consolidated new church with a new name and perhaps new pastor[s]