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
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.