Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Phil Newell, DMin
Dan Lioy, PhD
Leonard I. Sweet, PhD
This project provides a framework for churches at a turning point or near closure to “ReStory” and consider legacy options for their future including a restart, repurpose, or reallocation of resources. This is the key insight of this project: Churches that tell their past and present stories are well positioned to stay connected to a future vision that meets the needs of the community through creative and innovative means.
I am a pastor in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church. In this context, I have witnessed the closure of dozens of churches in both urban and rural settings. Denominational leaders hope to find an effective way to address this growing trend while still pursuing the mission of the Church.
For years, church revitalization has been centered on a model of learning and importing best practices. The thought has been that, if churches could simply be closed, sold and resources redirected, the mission of the Church might thrive. I have discovered that a story-based approach can guide those conversations in a less threatening, more legacy-affirming way.
We must talk about the reality of death and resurrection, legacy and purpose in ways that are informed by the hope we have in Christ. A ReStory asks three basic questions:
1. What story are we telling ourselves now?
2. What story did we live in the past?
3. What story does God dream for our future?
By involving the church in a process of storytelling, the ReStory project increases the level of buy-in and belief among church leaders and members. As this project has developed, it has become increasingly focused on helpful ways to adjust the language used to talk about churches in decline. After a successful ReStory process, other ministry partners will be used to implement the ReStory.
Youngman, Mark, "ReStory Your Church" (2022). Doctor of Ministry. 458.