A church that decides to close is often torn between a desire to see God work through imagining new ministry that reaches their changing community and the reality that this new work will take time, energy, and resources that they don't have at their disposal. A Legacy Impact Plan is a way to translate the values of the church and your sense of God’s call into assets that are given to bless others. The CRCNA Advancement Office, partners in developing Crossroads, can provide assistance to your team as you navigate the technical, legal and pastoral complexities of your plan.
Your council, or a sub-committee appointed by the council, should take their time to develop a Legacy Impact Plan that reflects the values and mission that have sustained your church. If the church disbands before this work is finished, the work may be carried on by the appointed trustees.
Tasks for Committee
Review your church’s existing bylaws to confirm how the assets are to be disbursed. The council/trustees have a fiduciary and legal responsibility to ensure that the assets are disbursed to another charity and/or charities with similar charitable purposes.
Collect Your Learning
During previous stages of the Crossroads Discernment Process, you would have captured some of the values and priorities for the church’s mission. Review those learnings as a group.
Enrich Your Awareness
If you haven’t already, consider inviting Resonate Global Mission to conduct a demographic study of your community. What you learn in a demographic study may help you discover missional opportunities you had previously overlooked.
Listen to Your Congregation
CRCNA Advancement can help you devise a strategy to receive congregational suggestions for how assets should be distributed. They can then help you balance those suggestions with the values and missional priorities the church named during the Crossroads Discernment Process.
Listen To God
As a group (and perhaps also as a congregation), read Acts 1:6-11. Dwell in this passage, as you did in the Listening to God activity. As Jesus gets ready to end his ministry on earth, he tells his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NLT). The gospel began spreading into new locations as well as to different types of people who heard it. God’s people in Jerusalem, who shared much of the same religious history and traditions for centuries, usually didn’t associate with people from Samaria and other nations. As the gospel went out into new places and was shared with new people, the methods and models of ministry had to adapt to new contexts.
Invite Partners into the Discernment
Having listened to God, you may have a sense of the call to be witnesses in your own community (your “Jerusalem”), in your region (both to culturally-similar “Judea” and culturally-distant “Samaria”) and the world (“to the ends of the earth.”) CRCNA Advancement can help you implement a strategy for receiving feedback from partner organizations who seem to reflect the values, missional priorities and demographic opportunities in front of your church.
You might consider the following: In person or in writing, share with several key partners some of your values and missional priorities. Then, invite those partners to reflect on questions like these:
Tell us about where you see God working in your ministry right now.
What do you anticipate God may be doing next in your ministry?
What is one dream that God has given you for this ministry that additional funding could make possible? How much funding would it take?
Note that your classis is an essential partner for reaching your “Jerusalem,” “Judea” and “Samaria.” Meanwhile, your denomination is often an essential partner for reaching “the ends of the earth.” Be sure to invite representatives from Classis, Resonate Global Mission and the CRCNA to help your group discern ways to extend your church’s mission and vision. Note that church order asks the church to “consult with classis” if any assets need to be distributed.
Ask Discernment Questions
As a group, ask each other questions to help bring clarity to your Legacy Impact Plan.
Do you see any themes in what you’ve heard from these partners?
Do any of these partners stand out as people or programs that God is asking you to bless?
How would you describe the legacy of your church, if you blessed these partners in this way?
Write a Plan
Any plan should have the support of the council and the congregation.
The distribution plan should clearly identify who has direction and control over the funds (i.e., which leaders in the church, such as “current members of council” or “the trustee committee” are empowered to make decisions about the distribution). The CRCNA Advancement Office can help connect you to the right strategic institutional partner who can steward any assets you hope to distribute over time.
The plan might include a statement of expectation that would note how the funds will be used, as well as an expiration date for the plan to be put into place. The date would ensure that the funds won’t remain unused for an extended period of time—if the plan for the distribution of funds should happen to fall through.
Check it Twice
It’s highly recommended that professional advice be sought regarding the sale of the church building and related assets. This includes legal, tax, and real-estate advisors.