Riverdale is a small rural community in the San Joaquin Valley of California. In 2021 the Riverdale Church of Christ courageously and thoughtfully faced the reality of their declining number of members and the older age of their remaining members. They realized that with only a few senior people still attending, the life cycle of their church, like many congregations begun in the 20th Century, was coming to an end. They made a wise stewardship decision that it was best to cease meeting, sell their building, and distribute the proceeds for more effective kingdom purposes. Their few members dispersed to attend other nearby congregations.
In December of that year, their minister Henry Ramirez, recalled seeing a Heritage 21 ad in The Christian Chronicle and reached out to Chronicle President Erik Tryggestad to seek contact information. Heritage 21 shared with Ramirez our mission and experience as a volunteer board in helping churches like Riverdale. We sent them information to help them think through the closure process and how Heritage 21 could serve them. By April 2022, the church and Heritage 21 entered into a simple Property Agreement to ensure clarity on how the church and Heritage 21 would work together and to document how the net sales proceeds be distributed to bless other kingdom works.
During this process the church was surprised at the complexity of this modest transaction. Heritage 21’s experience navigating challenging personal, legal, and real estate issues was a tremendous blessing to them in their situation. Among those challenges they faced were:
(i) searching and reviewing the condition of the property title with the church having no property records;
(ii) reinstatement of the suspended corporate status with the state’s taxation and corporate authorities;
(iii) resolving duplicate federal tax identification numbers;
(iv) bringing their membership and director meeting minutes up to date;
(v) removing a decades-old lien against the property;
(vi) determining the optimum listing price;
(vii) selecting the most appropriate real estate professionals;
(viii) negotiating a sales price above the listing price due to competing offers;
(ix) dealing with a serious termite infestation discovered after entering into a sales agreement;
(x) minimizing the closing costs and convincing the title company to close before all the corporate suspension issues were resolved; and
(xi) counseling about what to do with the church’s historical records and tangible personal property.
These and other challenges are not unusual for small, declining churches, but they do have to be resolved before the property can be sold and the corporate entity dissolved.
The sale was successfully closed in 2023 with the result that over $125,000 was repurposed for kingdom work at a neighboring congregation and through the work of Heritage 21, pursuant to the terms of the Property Agreement. This collaboration between the Riverdale Church of Christ and Heritage 21 turned a complex and tough situation into good stewardship and a cause for rejoicing.
This positive ending would not have happened without the courage of the Riverdale members to face their reality and finish strong, or without the expertise of Heritage 21 to diligently pursue solving their numerous challenges. The legacy of the Riverdale Church of Christ now lives on through their re-investment in the kingdom in the 21st Century.
Dr. Mike O’Neal, secretary