Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Eric Peterson, DMin
Bill Gibson, DMin
United Methodist churches in the United States must address the problems of ineffectiveness and insolvency caused by decreasing human and financial resources combined with increasing costs of owning and maintaining real estate. My work addresses these problems by first exploring the history of sacred space in the Christian context. Then, by assessing the development of sacred space into church-owned property, and then considering the proliferation of church-owned real estate, especially by the United Methodist Church in the United States. Finally, I will consider the current trend of church closures and the bleak future of churches as primarily brick-and-mortar entities. The problems indicated by the trend of church closures due to the burdens brought on by their property, and the correlating concerns about the future, are being alleviated in creative ways by a growing number of churches. They are simultaneously becoming more engaged in their communities and better poised for future ministry in a fast-changing cultural landscape. Solutions include new and different ways to utilize land and buildings, such as sharing, repurposing, and rebuilding. Churches that address the problem with creativity that is theologically grounded, community minded, and ministry focused will acquire, develop, operate, and maintain their property in such a way that the land and buildings will not diminish ministry, but rather facilitate and fund ministry for generations to come. My work culminates in a weekend conference that includes presentations by pastors and church leaders who are implementing creative solutions now and an opportunity for participants to exercise their creative, problem-solving muscles on the host church as a real-time case study. The outcome of my work will be a greater willingness and ability for church leaders and pastors to take steps now to stem the tide of churches dying and closing by turning their property from ministry and resource drains into generators.
Lee, Eric, "Building for the Future: Sacred Space Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" (2021). Seminary Doctoral Programs. 432.