Since the economy went south a couple years ago, small churches find themselves struggling to stay alive. Donation amounts have decreased immensely, leaving some churches with no other choice but to close their doors after years and years of worshiping. LaVergne Presbyterian Church is one of those churches, who will no longer collect canned goods for the food pantry or recite the Apostles’ Creed.
The congregation with only seven-members voted last month to finally disband after 124 years of service. “There wasn’t any malice or fighting,” said the Rev. Jeanne Hoechst, who split preaching duties with another part-time pastor. “Everyone was exhausted.” When the congregation decided to close, it was one of the smallest churches in its entire denomination. According to the Tennessean, of 10,560 congregations in the Presbyterian Church, only 194 have between one and nine members. Most Tennesseans belong to congregations with fewer than 100 people, and many of those actually number fewer than 50. A 2010 survey on church giving showed small churches endured a heavy 40 percent drop in donations during the economic crisis. With far less money for building maintenance and fewer people volunteering, more congregations are considering to close down.
Four Methodist congregations in Tennessee have closed this year, and 16 Tennessee Baptist Convention churches closed last year. All were very small and had well under 100 members. It has been extremely hard for church leaders to close down their congregations. “In our culture, failure carries a stigma, especially for leaders,” said Israel Galindo, dean and professor of Christian formation and leadership at Baptist Theology Seminary. “Add to that the notion that failure equates to a lack of faith when contemplating closing a church, and you can see the difficulty.” Not only is it hard for church leaders and attendees but also for the communities that these church closings are occurring in. Many compare their church closings to the death of a friend. Many have hopes that the tenacious and steadfast faith of church members won’t be forgotten (source) (picture 1) (picture 2).