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Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.

Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.

These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.

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August 7, 2009

Planting or Pulling?

Question of focus.  We are all good at starting something new but horrible at ending it.
Planting Seeds
Our denominational membership is in decline (some might say free fall) and we have focused a lot of energy and resources on helping Presbyteries and congregations plant new churches.  PresbyGrow is the website for our Church Growth mission area of the GAMC.  Philip Lotspeich and his folks do a great job, provide great resources and are a wonderful resource for our church as we look to build health, new congregations.
However..... Not all of our ministries, churches, or camp/conference centers are viable in their current level of attendance, use or administration.
The normal pattern I have seen so far, and there are many exceptions and I think our Presbyteries, Synods and ministry groups are gaining moment in being pro-active -- is for our ministries to hold on to the bitter end and disappear. 
How do we empower and give tools and resources for "dying with dignity?"  We are here for one purpose, to spread the Good News - to live the life that Jesus Christ calls each of us to.  Our ministries exist to do just that thing.  Once we hit the "how are we going to survive?" stage - we have to take a good long look and one good question is  - is survival a goal?
Sometimes things run their course and our church and our call can much better be served by dissolving our ministries and using those resources elsewhere.
It's human nature to hold onto what we know and hold it up as the "best" experience or ministry and to think that the world will be a dimmer place without it.  I whole heartedly agree.  When something goes away, it is sad and leaves a hole.  But when something is able to gracefully die and emerge as something new - or it's resources are used to support something new - that is beautiful and more than fills that hole.
So how are we doing that as a church?  Do we have courses on "How to close your church."?  How to close your ministry?  How to merge with another?  How to talk to your neighbors about sharing ministry and combining?
This conversation is going to gain speed and be rampant these next 5 years I would say.  I sure hope we are asking those questions and putting as much energy into helping congregations and ministries die with dignity as we are with planting new congregations.
What do you think?