Congregation's Ministry Lives On: Red Bridge Christian Church

Rev. Shanna Steitz, senior minister of Community Christian Church of Kansas City (a Bethany Fellows alum and fellow) holds a photo of Red Bridge Christian Church. 

Rev. Shanna Steitz, senior minister of Community Christian Church of Kansas City (a Bethany Fellows alum and fellow) holds a photo of Red Bridge Christian Church. 

Red Bridge Christian Church served the Kansas City, MO, area for 55 years, closing its doors in November 2015. Yet the impact of this congregation’s witness will extend in perpetuity.

Using the congregation’s remaining assets, church leaders created a legacy fund at the Christian Church Foundation that will assist ministers in both the sunrise and the sunset of their careers.

Income from the fund will be split between two ministries: Bethany Fellows, a mentoring program for ministers just starting as congregational pastors; and the Fellowship of John Residents’ Council at Foxwood Springs, a senior living community in Raymore, MO.

“Red Bridge had a long relationship with Foxwood Springs Living Center, which opened as a continuing care retirement community center of the National Benevolent Association in the 1970s,” said Kirby Gould, Foundation vice president who helped the congregation develop its legacy plan. “Red Bridge supported its ministry with contributions to help residents in need of financial assistance through the Fellowship of John program. Many members of Red Bridge moved to Foxwood Springs in retirement, thus enhancing the church’s relationship with the facility even more. Although ministers and other church-related servants may benefit from the Fellowship of John program, the support Red Bridge will supply into perpetuity will benefit all of God’s children in need of financial care.”

Kim Gage Ryan, director of the Bethany Fellows, says annual income from the Red Bridge fund will provide a program scholarship for one young minister. “The Bethany Fellows mission is to serve congregations by helping young pastors transitioning from seminary to sustained congregational ministry with a strong and healthy pastoral identity.

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“This will let a young minister in his/her earliest years participate in Bethany Fellows for the full four years,” Ryan said. “This program includes two retreats a year, peer connections, available mentors, cultivating spiritual practices and learning congregational best practices.

"When Bethany Fellows began, research indicated that up to 40% of new pastors were leaving ministry within their first five years,” she said. “Of the 160 alums and current participants,up to 90% of Bethany Fellows remain in congregational ministry and another 9% are serving the wider church. The Red Bridge gift, along with many others, will allow the Bethany Fellows ministry to bear great fruit – both now and for the future of the church in ways we can only imagine and hope.”

Ministry on the church’s former property also is continuing: The facility was a gift to the Kansas City Autism Training Center, which uses it to help individuals with autism. The Center has completed major renovations to the structure and equipped it to better serve as a training facility.

“This is a form of resurrection,” Ryan says. “All three income recipients are expressions of that resurrection hope. While Red Bridge is no longer active, its ministry will continue in the lives of young ministers serving other congregations, people receiving quality care in their retirement years and in the ongoing teaching of young minds.”