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Preparing for the Journey

Whenever we’re thinking about starting something, whether it’s a project, a job, or a vacation, it’s important to do some prep work. Generally, taking some time to prepare results in better outcomes. The same is true for this discernment process. By engaging with the material in this stage, your church will be able to journey through Crossroads in the best way possible.

Checklist for Stage 1: Preparing for the Journey


This checklist summarizes the suggested steps in this preparation stage of your journey. You’ll find a more complete explanation below.

  • Create a Crossroads Team to oversee the entire process.
  • Have the Crossroads Team read In Dying We Are Born by Peter Bush, a pastor who speaks about two kinds of death: (1) the dying to self that a congregation must undergo in order to remain vibrant and vital, and (2) the death of an organization, such as the disbanding of a church. The first kind of death holds great possibility for churches hoping to avoid the second kind of death. 
  • If you’re interested in more supplemental reading, check out our Digging Deeper page to see recommendations.
  • Contact Pastor Church Resources at [email protected] for help to identify and secure a facilitator. Pastor Church Resources maintains and supports a group of qualified facilitators, including pastors qualified to serve as interim Crossroads Pastors, providing interim pastoral ministry for six months while leading the congregation through a Crossroads Discernment.
  • Contact your classis, via your classis’ Stated Clerk, to inform them of your intention to engage this Crossroads Discernment Process. At a minimum, your classis can provide prayer support for your congregation. A classis may also offer your church the support of a Church Visitor to accompany your church at strategic points in the discernment. Whenever a church is engaged in such significant discernment, it’s worthwhile to remember and connect with the larger covenant community of which your congregation is one part.
  • Secure a facilitator.
  • Move onto the next stage Gathering Your Congregation
  • Consider having food/refreshments throughout the preparation process. It seems that things often go better when food and fellowship are in the mix.

To get started with this important conversation, the council should appoint a three- to five-person guiding team made up of both council members and congregants. This team will sort through the suggestions and guidelines described in this toolkit, make decisions about which ones may be most helpful or applicable in your setting, seek the blessing of the council, and then carry out and oversee the entire process. Ensuring that the congregation stays on track and crosses the finish line is a key task of the team.

Before any discussions begin about the future of your church, we suggest that everyone on the guiding team read In Dying We Are Born. Though the title suggests that a major focus is on churches that are dying and will close, this book also addresses how some churches need to dramatically change their culture and ways of doing ministry. The author contends that “all congregations, even ones that see themselves as healthy, need to be prepared to die, to take up their cross, so God can make them alive.”

You might want to think about having some group discussions on the book to help folks process the content before diving into the good and hard work of discernment.

Leading These Important Conversations

Contact Pastor Church Resources (PCR) at [email protected] for help to identify and secure a facilitator. PCR maintains and supports a group of qualified facilitators. Most facilitators will come alongside a church exclusively to guide the Crossroads Discernment Process. Some facilitators can guide the congregation through a Crossroads Discernment while also serving as an interim pastor, providing interim pastoral ministry alongside a Crossroads Discernment Process.  

If you’d like to find your own facilitator, pay attention to the qualities PCR looks for in an effective facilitator. Here are some questions to consider about the person who will facilitate. Does the person

  • listen more than they talk?
  • ask thought-provoking questions?
  • allow for some unrest/tension to take place in the conversation?
  • know when to tactfully “step in” and redirect the conversation?
  • have the ability to “take control of the conversation” when someone dominates or says inappropriate things?
  • keep the focus on others in the room rather than on what they think or have to say?

PCR looks for the following characteristics in their recommended facilitators.  

When it comes to challenging discussions such as the future of your church, the ideal facilitator is

  • pastoral—not necessarily an ordained minister but someone who can shepherd God’s people through a challenging moment with grace, hope, and truth.
  • missional—able to help the congregation think beyond themselves to consider their role in the kingdom of God. 
  • trustworthy—a respected leader with integrity who’s able to carry out the work in a way that honors God and blesses others.
  • without a personal agenda—able to walk alongside you in your conversations and discoveries—able to hold back their two cents and resist pushing their preferred outcome.

A Facilitator From Within Your Congregation?

You may think that someone in your own congregation, like your pastor or chair of council might be a suitable facilitator. While it is true that many pastors and chairs of council exhibit these qualities, we strongly recommend that the facilitator come from outside the congregation. Thinking about the viability of a church can meet with a lot of mixed emotions. Also, people from within the congregation have personal biases that cannot help but influence the process. Those emotions and biases are normal and to be expected. However, at times, they can also get in the way of having good and honest conversations. Even if you have in-house candidates who exhibit the qualities of an effective facilitator, that person is still not likely to be the best person to facilitate a Crossroads Discernment at your church. 

For that reason, we recommend that you contact Pastor Church Resources (PCR) at [email protected] for help to identify and secure a facilitator. PCR maintains and supports a group of qualified facilitators who can lead this complex, personal, and potentially emotional discussion.

Church Visitors’ Involvement

Church visitors are appointed by the local classis. One of their tasks is “church visiting,” which connects the classis to its local churches and their officebearers through strengthening, care, and accountability. They also help churches understand Church Order, navigate challenging conversations, and advise church leaders. Typically, church visitors are two-person teams—made up of two pastors or one pastor and one elder. While church visitors may take the initiative to contact churches, churches are also encouraged to contact church visitors for advice. The church visitors may be key allies and resources as you discern what’s next.

Conversation Participants

Since these important conversations are about your church and its next steps, all who are connected to the church in a significant way should be present. Defining significance can be tricky. Someone who attends once a month may consider themselves a full, active member and may want to have input, but they might not be familiar with many of the church’s ministries or the people who serve in those ministries. Their perspective might still be helpful, though. Be careful when deciding whom to include and whom to leave out. You’ll want diversity and as many groups as possible to be represented. And to move forward constructively, you’ll want to avoid unnecessary conflict and ill feelings from the get-go.

What’s important is that both the congregation and its leaders are part of the process. This isn’t just about what the leaders think. The church belongs to everyone, and everyone desires and deserves to be heard. The level of participation may vary at different points along the way. Generally, as long as people feel they’ve had a chance to say their piece, and have been heard, they’ll feel good about the process.

Once you’ve confirmed who the facilitator will be, please contact Pastor Church Resources and let us know who that person will be. This will allow us to continue to support this person.

Worship Resources for the Entire Process

There are a number of worship resources available as you work your way through the Crossroads Discernment Process.

If you find yourself stuck at any point, reach out to us—Pastor Church Resources. We’re here to help.

Once you’ve completed this Preparing for the Journey stage, go to the Gathering Your Congregation stage.