Congregations often have lifespans, and there are times when the church is best served when a congregation decides to terminate its visible ministry. The Christian Church Foundation, along with the congregation's regional staff, can help leaders determine how a congregation can be a wise steward of its remaining assets. Foundation staff members begin by listening to the ministries and witnesses the congregation has been passionate about in the past. They then work with leaders to develop a plan that can benefit those beloved causes now and in perpetuity.
Here is one example of a legacy congregation:
Facing declining membership, First Christian Church in South Bend, IN, sold its sprawling 35,000-square-foot facility in 2009 for about $600,000 – and turned its loss into a blessing. That Christmas, church leaders issued checks totaling $128,000 from the proceeds of the sale to three Disciples congregations and several local charities.
In addition, First Christian gave $257,000 from the sale proceeds to the Christian Church Foundation to create a permanent fund with earnings supporting the congregation’s chosen causes in perpetuity, including the Indiana region’s campgrounds, Christian Theological Seminary and other non-profit organizations.
First Christian of South Bend was started in 1850. The years have come and gone as the church saw its congregation decline from 400 on Sunday mornings to about 35 – not enough to support a large building and full-time minister.
The church building was sold to the Good Shepherd Montessori School, which had been renting space in the facility.
“The faith-based school has within their own guidelines that they will take 35 percent of their students on scholarship, including students from the homeless center in South Bend,” said John Chenoweth, president of the congregation. “So we wanted to help support their scholarship fund.”
Among the Disciples congregations that benefited from the sale of First Christian were Central Christian Church in Elkhart, First Christian Church in Mishawaka, and Southside Christian Church in South Bend.