One of the most common questions I get is, “How do we know when to close a campus or a church plant?” This is really hard to answer since every situation is unique and every church has a different definition of success, but I thought I’d share the thoughts I sent to the last church who asked.
I know how challenging it is to face possibly closing a site. I don’t know that there are any hard and fast rules or guidelines as each situation is very unique. The questions I would be looking at include:
1. Is the site financially self-sustaining? If not what are the compelling reasons other sites or churches should be paying the bills for this particular site? Are we reaching a demographic that simply can’t pay their own way, or is this really a sign of poor health of this campus?
2. Are we reaching people with Gospel at this church that would not/could not be reached by another site or church?
3. What is the core challenge at this church? Do we have a leadership problem? (Then let’s bring in a new leader) Do we have a location problem? (Then let’s try a new location) Do we have a programming/ministry problem? (Then let’s change the programming or improve the ministries) Or do we have a systemically unhealthy site that simply can’t make it?
4. If we reboot, what will be systematically different about the “new” launch? (If we try the same things we’ll get the same results)
5. If we close the site what will be the Kingdom impact? Are there people coming to faith who won’t come to faith? Are there people who will be lost in their spiritual journey because the site is no longer there? Are there community outreach projects that will cease to operate?
Closing a church that isn’t healthy and has little or no prospects of becoming healthy is a positive thing. All organisms have a life cycle and the life cycle of this site may be over. One of the biggest mistakes I see churches making is continuing to pour time, money and emotional resources into a site that is on life-support at best. The bottom line is really a cost/benefit analysis on the best leverage of the Kingdom resources you have available. Jesus did this on regular basis when he would move on from a town before healing every single person. He knew that he had limited time and limited earthly resources.
What are your thoughts? When is it time to close a church plant or a campus? What lessons have you learned along the way?