In The Christian Century, the Rev. Carol Howard Merritt writes about “Zombie Churches”
Closing a church is like eating the last slice of bread—somehow if you eat the last slice, you’re responsible for consuming it all (never mind that someone else ate the last 27 slices). A church can be declining for forty years, but if a pastor comes in and starts to talk about closing a congregation, then she closed the church. Many people don’t want to be that pastor.
Many members feel anxiety as well.
They bring it up when we need to stop having certain programs. (“But if we stop having Wednesday night dinners, our church will close!”)
When they need to let go of personnel. (“If we don’t have a full-time janitor on our staff, then we might as well pack it up right now!”)
When they need to hire staff. (“I know we need a youth leader. But we can’t afford one. If we get one, then we’ll have to use the money and the church will close!”)
And so people talk around it or allow it to be a threat. (“We have to do what she says. If we lose her pledge, we might as well say goodbye to the whole endeavor!”)
In all of it, we allow the anxiety to loom in the air like a toxic gas that we think we smell but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.