New Beginnings Assessment Services
"Congregations are struggling to sustain current programs and ministries. The pews are emptier on Sunday morning. Membership is growing older. The once proud buildings show signs of wear and tear. The cost to maintain them pulls money away from outreach and ministry. Our neighborhoods have changed."
This was the opening statement of a presentation to a group of churches at a workshop during the recent ‘Aha Pae’aina. The presenter of the workshop was New Beginnings Assessment Service. New Beginnings is a program developed by our denominational partner, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ has bought a license to use the New Beginnings program among our congregations and conferences. New beginnings has been used by over 1,000 churches.
The opening statement is dilemma facing many churches across the country. It is also the exact dilemma facing our congregation. Research predicts that if we do nothing, about half of UCC churches will close in the next 30 years. Do we want Nuuanu Congregational Church to be the half that closes? I think not.
New Beginnings is a process that helps churches answer one question: “What is God calling our congregation to do and be in this time and this place?” New Beginnings invites and calls our church to choose our future by taking an honest look at our present condition and dream together.
New Beginnings started as “Graceful Exists” but learned that many congregations when faced with the decision to close became bold, they did not want to close, they are a family, they are a community, and the church is more than a building. Given that insight, they chose to “Do a New Thing”. The interesting point is that this program was meant to deal with closure but on the contrary, it instilled a desire for renewal. It is this positive outcome that attracted our attention to consider this program. It is an excellent process to help us assess our church’s current position and to redefine or re-focus the mission of our church.
The process usually takes 6 to 8 weeks. New Beginnings Assessment Service plans to be in Hawaii around August 22 to begin the assessment process with churches that have signed up.
The New Beginnings is a three phase process:
- Phase 1 is an on-site assessment: building inspection, financial review, tour of the community, meeting with the pastor and moderator, and an Appreciative inquiry with congregational leaders. After the assessment the church receives a report detailing the churches resources, demographic strengths, and potential for vital ministry.
- Phase 2 provides training for 8 to 12 key leaders within the church. These individuals learn to interpret the assessment report and prepare them to guide the congregation through a discernment process.
- In Phase 3 the key leaders that received training in Phase 2 conduct small group meetings, moving the congregation toward a “big picture” decision about what God is calling the church to do and be and this time and place.
Our church is facing issues such as slow receipts of contribution, uncertain funding for our programs, unanticipated repairs to our buildings, unanticipated tree trimming cost, and possible tearing down of Hale Ohana. We have also begun discussions on developing a senior day care program. With so many issues that will have an impact on the future of our church, Council has elected to participate in the New Beginnings program.
With more details forthcoming, we encourage everyone to participate in the process so we carry forward the proud heritage of Nuuanu Congregational Church. If you have any questions, please contact Wayne Kodama, NCC Coordinator for New Beginnings. For more information on the UCC New Beginnings Assessment Service, please go to http://www.ucc.org/new-beginnings/