Feature

Fresh Start

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“Fresh Start” is the process of restarting and strengthening churches by reinvesting the people and assets of a struggling and perhaps dying church. The purpose of the program, developed by the C&MA’s South Pacific District, is to forge a new congregation with the help of the team on the ground, the district, a healthy partner church and an excellent coach.

An example is Redlands Alliance Church, birthed in 1925 in the shadow of Big Bear Mountain in Southern California. Like many churches, Redlands Alliance Church had experienced its ups and downs. Not so long ago, many people attending the church came from the ranks of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), then based in Redlands. When MAF relocated, Redlands Alliance took a major hit. In addition, over the years it had strayed, as so many churches do, from the core Alliance call to reach and disciple the people of the community.

Fresh Start is changing all of that, and the Redlands church is alive with a new vision. But the decisions critical to getting the church where it is today required courage.

Fresh Start is a careful and prayerful systematic approach involving 12 steps a church must take toward a new beginning. Step one is to move from “desperation” to “holy desperation.” Every church in significant, long-term decline feels desperation. Holy desperation begins when members of the congregation humble themselves before God and realize they can no longer keep doing ministry the same way and expect a different result.

In Redlands the church was in pastoral transition. As they walked with the district through possibilities over a period of a year, the church’s leadership decided to move to Alliance Redevelopment status. With 50–60 active attendees, cash in the bank and a debt-free building, Redlands Alliance Church easily could have held on longer. But the Body agreed by vote, and Fresh Start was set in motion.

The South Pacific District formed a task force from the boots already on the ground and Grove Community Church in Riverside, Redlands’ partner church. The district also called on a couple with pastoral and church-planting gifts—Aaron and Emily Foor. They locked arms with the leadership, including Don and Suzanne Crawford, a semi-retired pastoral couple and former Alliance missionaries. These blossoming relationships were held together by a great coach, Steve Ogne. Steve worked with everyone—the team in Redlands, the district and the partner church.

It has now been two years since that first “sit down” with the “desperate” remnant of leadership in Redlands. The people have shifted their focus to the mission of reaching their community, and the result is a vibrant, attractive and growing congregation. Appropriately, the church has renamed itself “The Mission.”

God is expanding His Kingdom in Redlands. Along with the spiritual renewal, the church has undergone a physical renovation. The partner church has reported huge benefits itself, and the district has been blessed with a revitalized church and the desire to do it again.

All across America hundreds of Alliance churches are struggling, declining and even dying; yet they seek to stay alive. Just like individuals, these churches need to be born again. All across America there is a need for effective new beginnings and new churches, but there are few financial resources for facilities. All across America there are healthy congregations that would love to help with church planting and revitalization but do not know where to begin.

“Fresh Start” brings the declining church, the local district and healthy churches together to create fresh and effective churches characterized by strong vision, passion, leadership and the resources to once again take on God’s mission.

Fresh Start’s Twelve Steps

  1. Holy desperation and church redevelopment accepted
  2. The dying experience expected and a new dream anticipated
  3. Partner church identified
  4. New leadership and advisory team appointed
  5. Vision cast and prayer mobilized
  6. Ownership and pastoral care increased
  7. Facility renovations begin
  8. Detailed ministry plan developed
  9. Launch team and core group formed
  10. Missional presence established
  11. Launch activities planned
  12. Release, recovery and renewal anticipated

For more information e-mail the South Pacific District at info@CMASPD.org.

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