The Crossroads Moment: “Can we go on like this?”
There comes a time in the life of many congregations when the church wonders, “can we go on like this?”
Perhaps, membership has declined or baptisms are rare. Maybe the neighborhood has changed and programs are struggling to meet their original intentions. Possibly, the budget is tight or the pastor recently left.
If any of these dynamics are present, you may be at a crossroads moment. At a crossroads moment, wise leaders will wonder if these unsettling dynamics are God’s way of getting us to consider a significant change of course: a change that, for many of us, may be hard even to speak out loud.
- Is it time to close our doors?
- Should we merge with another congregation?
- Could we close and begin a new ministry?
- What would be required to take one more shot at renewing this ministry?
It’s important to deal with these questions honestly and well. But it’s easy to deal with them poorly. Churches at a crossroads moment can often feel anxious and alone, willing to follow the loudest voice, whether it’s the voice of God or not. That’s why Resonate Global Mission and Pastor Church Resources (PCR) developed the Crossroads Discernment Process.
What is the Crossroads Discernment Process?
Crossroads is a process designed to help your church discern whether God is inviting you to make a significant change to your ministry. With the guidance of a Crossroads facilitator, small and large groups in your church will reflect on what God has done in your past and what he is doing in the present in order to discern what God is calling you toward in the future. You’ll consider your options in a way that is Spirit-led, Kingdom-oriented and strategically supported by your classis and denomination.
Who is Crossroads for?
This process is designed for churches whose leaders sense that the viability of their congregation may be an important issue within the next five years and that a significant change is likely required.
How does Crossroads work?
A facilitator, working with your church’s council-appointed Crossroads Team, will lead your congregation through five phases of discernment and action. At the heart of each phase is a group activity or two, chosen from among a large menu of activity options. These small or large group activities engage the whole congregation in the discernment process across all five phases.
Gathering Your Congregation
You’ll develop skills to practice listening well to God and each other.
Engaging the Past
You’ll invite the congregation to tell the story of your church: celebrating God’s faithfulness while also acknowledging and dealing with some of the sin, pain and grief you’ve encountered.
Naming the Present
Listening to voices throughout the congregation and community, you’ll identify the opportunities and challenges facing your church at this time.
Discerning the Future
Having laid the critical groundwork of the previous three stages, a church can look to the future with hope in God’s kingdom and an eye toward missional imagination. In this stage, your group will gather, clarify and prayerfully recommend an option for your congregation’s future. Most Crossroads Churches discern options within one of four main categories:
- Remain in place, mostly in current form
- Remain in place, but pursue intentional, deep renewal
- Close and seed a new ministry
- Close and distribute assets to bless other kingdom causes
Once the council and congregation have voted on a next course of action, your group will help initiate the first next steps.
What does Crossroads look like:
At each stage, the facilitator and your church’s Crossroads Team will meet to plan an appropriate activity for the congregation. After engaging the congregation at each stage, the Crossroads Team and facilitator will then reflect on key learnings, share those with the council or congregation and plan for the next stage.
Most churches attempt the process at a pace of at least one stage per month, though churches may decide with their facilitator to move more quickly or slowly depending on what God reveals to the church in each stage.
- Engaging the Past: A Night to Remember
- Naming the Present: Appreciative Inquiry
- Discerning the Future: Gathering and Clarifying Your Options
What makes Crossroads unique?
Crossroads was designed and is supported by the denominational covenant community that shares your church’s vision and mission. It is based on the best wisdom and tested practices of CRC ministries, PCR and Resonate, working in CRC congregations. PCR contributes expertise in process, group dynamics, and the grief work that must be considered when you ask and answer these kinds of questions. Resonate contributes expertise in helping groups imagine new and deeper expressions of God’s mission. The process then connects churches back to their classis and denomination for the support and encouragement required to discern well and with hope.
How much does Crossroads cost?
Most of our recommended Crossroads Facilitators charge $2,500 (US or Canadian) to cover the cost of a basic facilitation through the five stages. Though much of the facilitation can happen remotely, most facilitators and churches would prefer to have some meetings happen with the facilitator in person. In such a case, the church is also responsible to cover the costs of facilitator travel and lodging. The church is also responsible for the cost of any materials used or facilities rented for the congregational activities. If the church and facilitator agree to spend more time on any one stage, they should negotiate reasonable compensation for the facilitator’s time and expertise.
Churches can contact PCR at firstname.lastname@example.org to apply for a grant to cover some or all of the costs to engage the entire Crossroads Discernment Process with the guidance of one of PCR’s recommended facilitators. The CRCNA is committed to ensuring that finances will not prevent any church from engaging in this process.
Though the typical Crossroads Facilitator will only lead your congregation through the Crossroads Discernment Process, some Crossroads Facilitators are pastors who are willing to serve a church as both an interim pastor and a Crossroads facilitator. A Crossroads interim engagement typically lasts six months. Contact PCR at email@example.com to connect with one of our Crossroads Pastors.
Can We Do This More Quickly?
This process was developed out of decades of experience with Resonate Global Mission (formerly Christian Reformed Home and World Missions) and Pastor Church Resources (PCR), consulting with Christian Reformed congregations at Crossroads-like moments. In our experience, the churches that took the time to engage all three preliminary stages felt much more hopeful and committed to whatever was decided and acted upon in the last two stages. That said, if your church has already resolved to close and only needs help to engage that process in an orderly way, contact PCR at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with an expert who can guide you through the tasks of closing your church.
How do we get started?
If you’re interested in learning more, contact Pastor Church Resources (PCR) at email@example.com. We can help you identify and contract with one of our recommended facilitators.