Background & History of Fresh Start Ministries
By Rev. Robert A. Humphrey, Founder
The year was 1976 and everyone in the United States was gearing up to celebrate the 200th birthday of the United States of America. It was also a time when church denominations in America were busy starting new churches on the North American Continent. But while America was growing and new churches were being started, many established churches were discovering that the 1950’s and 60’style of ministry was becoming less effective.
Since few, denominations were addressing the demise of older congregations there were very few resources available to assist struggling churches. The burden of these once vibrant churches weighed heavy upon the heart of Bob Humphrey who at that time was the Director of the Conservative Baptist Association of New York State. He observed that while there were organized and intentional programs for starting new churches, there were no formal plans or programs for assisting declining or plateaued churches.
In 1976 he introduced a program called “Wee Care”. The concept was that a formal ministry program of resources and plans would be in place to assist small (wee) struggling churches and this program would be on the same level of importance as the establishment of new churches.
A medical model was adopted to address the variety of dysfunctional ailments afflicting churches. It was felt that a church body should be as important as a human body and before giving advice, a comprehensive assessment should take place.
During those early years the resources for helping struggling churches were limited to revival and renewal meetings. It was often common for church leaders to ascribe the anemic condition of churches to sin and a poor spiritual condition. Although these are often contributing factors they are not universally the only factors.
Over the years Bob developed and tested church assessment tools and after twenty years of church health and growth consulting and the assessment of dozens of churches in America a formal program called Fresh Start Ministries was launched.
A comprehensive Fresh Start Consultation manual was published by ChurchSmart Resources located in St Charles, IL. The manual contains assessment resources and diagnostic tools that Bob had effectively used in his consultations with churches for decades. Trained church consultants can use these tools to assist churches in determining both the causes for ill health as well as the practical and strategic steps a church can take to change its future.
Fresh Start resources have been adopted and adapted by several denominations in the United States and the materials have been translated for use in South Korea. In 2006 Bob handed the baton of Fresh Start consultation ministry to Gordon Penfold.