WHEN SOMEONE IS dying, most of us know how to offer support. We don’t question their treatment choices. We bring them meals and rake their leaves and shovel their sidewalks. When a congregation closes—or dies—such acts of kindness are no less important. As a Lutheran interim pastor who has led two congregations to “holy closure,” I offer some suggestions for how to accompany a congregation as it ends.
Don’t make a decision to close more difficult by questioning it. A closing congregation has likely tried all the stewardship programs, read all the church-growth books, and revamped its outreach program a hundred times. For any number of reasons, none of those worked. Members feel as though they have failed in mission for God. What they need from the wider church is compassion and a reminder that Christians are people of resurrection who believe that life can spring from death. In fact, sometimes something needs to die so that something else can be birthed in its place. They will struggle to believe that, and you can remind them as often as they need to hear it that closure can be a faithful choice.