By David T. Chafin
The little congregation of First Christian Church in Ravenswood, West Virginia, had fallen on hard times. They had a dozen of faithful members in attendance, but all of them were aging quickly. The community had taken a downturn years before, and options for growth and renewal were not showing much promise.
The congregation held enough properties, stocks, and cash to continue their gathered presence in their old decaying building. However, they were concerned that at the rate they were going, regular budgetary income was not going to allow them to preserve their assets for the future of ministry in that place.
After careful analysis, the trustees of the congregation worked with the Christian Church Foundation to create a permanent fund and a “Last Will and Testament” describing their intentions and desires for an ongoing ministry for the church -- even after they ceased to meet in the old building on the corner of Sand and Gallatin.
Enacting a vision for the future
Within a year or so, the group determined they could no longer expect to meet for worship and Sunday School as they had for so many years. It was time to execute the Will.
The congregation’s wishes were immediately implemented, allowing the continued support of the local hunger ministry, Week of Compassion, and the Christian Church in West Virginia. Two of the congregation’s members transferred their membership to the Parkersburg congregation, and all of the others were received as members of the Regional Church.
An “estate sale” was conducted and more funds were raised. The proceeds from sale of the parsonage and stock portfolio, along with much of the accumulated cash, were added to the permanent fund at the Foundation.
The church building was kept in the care of the Region. Today, the building houses a recovery ministry and serves as a space for community groups to gather. The small home adjacent to the church building is held locally, as well. An immigrant family has lived in the home for many years as they settled into the community, and they fondly remember joining the congregation for worship periodically. Their youngest child was blessed and dedicated in the church.
Former members of First Christian Church remain a vital part of Ravenswood’s life, and continue to provide salt and light in a place where God’s presence is much needed.
For one historic congregation, the ending of a full, rich era of life in ministry will bless coming generations in ways that its faithful members had dreamed, planned and took action for. This is the life beyond life that the gospel speaks of. This is faithfulness that has no known end.
If you would like information on creating a legacy plan for your congregation, contact us at (800) 668-8016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.