The Need for Heritage 21
Across the United States, many churches planted in the 20th century struggle for survival and are at a critical point in their life cycle. These circumstances are being experienced by many church fellowships, including the Churches of Christ. For understandable reasons, the fellowship of the Churches of Christ has not prepared itself to respond wisely and proactively to these new circumstances. Across the last decade at least one Church of Christ congregation closed its doors every week, often without much thought about their stewardship responsibility or how their closure could financially bless the future of our fellowship. A growing number of our congregations are experiencing:
An aging membership and shrinking attendance;
reduced missions and other outreach ministries to attract new members
difficulty in making productive decisions;
leaders wondering if they can revive their congregation, or if not, what they should do next; and
congregations wondering where they might seek information to help them navigate these difficult circumstances.
The Heritage 21 Foundation was established to assist congregational leaders asking important questions about the future of their congregation in the two following areas:
Educational Resource—to help congregations assess their health and future potential within the heritage of the Churches of Christ in the United States.
Repurposing Physical Assets—partner in selling under-utilized church properties and using the proceeds to fund new church planting, evangelism, and ministry.
The Heritage 21 Mission
The H21 Foundation provides education and resources for Church of Christ congregations to assess their health and future, evaluate the best stewardship options of their physical assets and make good decisions about the future of the congregation. If a church decides its best course of action is to close, the Foundation provides the church a trustworthy partner to protect and sell its property and assist with legacy decisions on how to redistribute its church assets in legal and God-honoring ways. In addition, the Foundation will help the church counsel its members through emotional pain, transition issues, and the preservation and celebration of its history.
The Heritage 21 Services
Over the past several years, Heritage 21 has studied and gained an understanding of the conditions and opportunities associated with churches in the latter years of their life cycle. Because this is a relatively recent phenomenon in our fellowship, few congregational leaders actually have a grasp of these issues or what can and should be done in response to a congregation’s later life challenges. By providing strong, fellowship-wide educational resources, Heritage 21 works to assist our fellowship in comprehending these powerful cultural and lifecycle trends, how they impact individual congregations, and what options leaders should consider. Through developing a stronger educational voice for our fellowship, Heritage 21 provides a valuable resource for the future of the Churches of Christ as we come to grips with the changes in the world around us and how they impact our congregations.
The Heritage 21 Foundation provides a process and resources for individual congregations to objectively assess their situation, deal with the emotional and potential conflict issues, protect their physical assets, and make the best decisions for their future. Our first objective is to assist congregations to become stronger and to continue to be good stewards of Christ’s Church.
While it is our hope that declining congregations can be infused with new life with a viable future, that is unfortunately not the most typical outcome. If a particular congregation decides its best course of action is to close, we are confident that God can use those circumstances for good (Rom 8:28) and that Christ’s Church can be blessed if it is done thoughtfully and with wisdom. The Heritage 21 Foundation has the resources to be a trustworthy partner to counsel a congregation through the emotional decision-making process, help the church celebrate and preserve its history, protect and sell a congregation’s property, assist in finding a good church option for remaining members, and assist with legacy decisions on how to redistribute its church assets, as directed by the congregation, in legal and God-honoring ways.