I read an article recently about churches that are closing, and, while it is sad, it’s not always bad if there’s another one to take its place. It does not have to mean defeat.
We are fortunate at the WMU Foundation because we get to meet people who love missions and do whatever it takes to be on mission with God, even if it means doing the right thing at a sad time like the death of a loved one or the closing of a church. Let me give you some examples.
In my first year at the WMU Foundation, a church contacted us about wanting to set up an endowment to support their longtime passion of helping the children of missionaries go to college. The church was in the process of selling their building and closing, and the WMU in that church wanted a portion of the funds to support MK scholarships because of their passion for MKs during the life of the church.
What was born from that effort was the Charleston Heights Baptist Church Scholarship.
Each year, we are able to provide scholarships to children of Southern Baptist international missionaries with ties to South Carolina. That church’s passion of helping MKs continues despite the closing of their church.
Another example is Fellowship Baptist Church of Smyrna, Georgia. The WMU there led the church to be very active supporters of the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, specifically the Willet Cottage. At their closing, they set up a scholarship with us, and every year we are able to provide a scholarship in the church’s name to a child who grew up in the Willet Cottage.
These are two good examples of ways to continue your church’s missions passion into the future even when having to close the doors of the church itself. I have one more story that I consider the gold standard for all churches to follow.
First Baptist Church Center Point in Alabama was founded in the 1800s and served the community well for 130+ years. They were active in all aspects of Baptist life at the associational, state, national, and international levels. They supported local, national, and international missions efforts and led the way in sharing the love of God in their community.
As time moved forward and their community changed, they found themselves with a large facility that they could no longer fill. Despite helping to create a Hispanic church that met in their building, the large physical plant was much more than they needed. As their membership declined due to moving for health reasons and a community that was changing dramatically, they sadly determined that the only option was to close their doors.
Thankfully, their leadership heard God and moved forward. They were able to sell their building to a Black congregation whose building had burned recently. The insurance payment for that church was less than the value of the building that FBC Center Point was selling, but the congregation realized that the building could continue to be used to reach their community for Christ—so FBC Center Point agreed!
And that is just the beginning of the story.
The pastor of FBC Center Point and the church administrator were committed to lead their church family to finish well. They consulted with several other experts and officials in their association and came up with an amazing plan. They would not only sell the facility to another Baptist church but also donate some extra land and a huge storage building to the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association for them to store their disaster relief equipment.
The church also used the money from the sale of the building to set up a permanent endowment with the WMU Foundation that would support four ministries that the church had participated in during its existence: Samaritan’s Purse, the Gideons, The Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, and Serving You Ministries that works exclusively in the church’s community.
They also did two more important things. They gave their legal charter to the Hispanic church they had started. This meant that FBC Center Point would now become Iglesias Bautista de Center Point, and they set up a fund to finance the Hispanic church for the next three years!
The only similar story I can think of is The Giving Tree. However, I think this story is even better because the people in Center Point, the state of Alabama, the country, and the world will all benefit from their decisions, and the WMU Foundation was privileged to be a partner with them in this Kingdom endeavor.
If your church is facing a similar decision, let me encourage you to finish well. We will gladly put you in touch with experts who can help, and we will help you identify and fulfill the missions passion God has placed in your hearts.
Written by David George, WMU Foundation president.