Challenged Congregations Find Support

Challenged Congregations Find Support

by the Rev. Canon Britt Olson

As the economy continues to struggle and church attendance and membership decline, many congregations in the Diocese of Northern California are finding it difficult to maintain operations, staff and property. The stress and anxiety can be disempowering and may create paralysis and denial. Often the situation is not addressed until it reaches crisis proportions.

There are signs when a congregation is in trouble. Unpaid apportionment, the use of reserved funds for operational expenses, declines in attendance and participation, deferred maintenance or the absence of congregational representatives at diocesan events are just a few of the signals that a church may be experiencing difficulty.

When diocesan leaders notice these problems, they may ask the Church Support Team (CST) to get involved. This team is comprised of elected members of the Diocesan Board and Council and other representatives with specific expertise who can assist a church through a tough time. The current chair of the Team is Diocesan Board Vice President, Lynn Zender. Both the Canon for Administration and Finance, Bobbi Yeo, and the Canon to the Ordinary, Britt Olson, provide staffing from the Office of the Bishop.

Some areas where support and assistance can be provided are:

~ Negotiating a change in staff and clergy letters of agreement and employment

~ Developing alternative uses for buildings and other resources for income generation

~ Transitioning to new models of ministry and leadership

~ Re-negotiating loans and other obligations to more favorable terms

~ Identifying program consultation to energize effective practices which increase membership

~ Accessing additional funding sources for ministry

Click here to read more about the vision, mission and goals of the Church Support Team.

The CST provides information to the Bishop, Board, Council and Standing Committee. It has no independent authority and cannot close congregations, sell property or make clergy or staffing changes. It exists primarily to support and advise.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he exhorts Christians to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, and contribute to the needs of the saints.” Because we are one body, the Body of Christ, we “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” When one of us is hurting, we hurt together. The Church Support Team is available to provide assistance in tough times.

If your congregation would like to be contacted by the CST, you may find a list of members here: www.norcalepiscopal.org/cst.

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