My Church's Precarious Future

Northminster Presbyterian Church, the church that I pastor, was chartered as an official Presbyterian church on March 21, 1954, with 123 members.  It’s located in the San Diego community of Clairemont (just east of Mission Bay and La Jolla), a community that emerged due to the tremendous need for housing in the years following World War II.  At that time, it didn’t take long for Northminster to grow into a vibrant congregation.

Northminster back in the day...Northminster back in the day...But that was a different time.  It was a time when churches could be planted by simply knocking on people’s doors, letting them know that a new Presbyterian church would soon be starting, and all those with a Presbyterian background were virtually guaranteed to show up (which is exactly how Northminster got started).

And show up they did—at least, in those early years.

Over the Years

Over the course of its life, my church has had its share of challenges.  It had to deal with—and heal from—a difficult pastor in the late 1970’s.  It has had to face the reality that the community of Clairemont has changed dramatically over the years.  It has had to realize that it’s membership is aging.  And it has had to accept the fact that membership and participation has declined significantly.

The fact is that both the community of Clairemont and Northminster Church have undergone a ton of change over the sixty years of their joint existence.

No More Easy Ministry

Here’s the thing.  For many years, Northminster existed in a context that changed very little; it was a time of continuous change This made ministry kinda easy.  The congregation knew the community, the people in it, and how to reach out and bless the community.

But as Northminster neared the end of the twentieth century, its surrounding community transformed.  The people changed and the culture changed.

As this happened, Northminster’s membership began to decline.  Whatever Northminster was doing or not doing, it became apparent that the church was no longer connecting with people in its community the way it once had.

Will this Church Survive?

As a result, the question for my church today is whether or not Northminster will be able to discover a new way of being the church in this place and at this time.  The world has changed.  And when the environment changes the only way to to adapt.

How has your church handled the changing culture and a changing community?  What has your church done to adapt to those changes?

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