Small and Mighty
A strength of the connectional nature of the church is the benefit of the outside perspe
ctive. We are not left to our own devices. We are not alone. The reason that the Tuesday Afternoon Roundtable has been so impactful is that it shattered the expectation that “this only happens to me.” The reason ongoing connection with the Committee on Ministry liaisons is so helpful is that they can say “yeh we are working with this other church that is going through something very similar. There is hope.”
A number of common themes have developed as I have visited, consulted, and resourced congregations in Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery. Many were and are wrong (thankfully.) I have never known a church that has said “we have five years left” to close even within ten years. The churches and the leaders of those churches that despair that “we are getting smaller and smaller and soon nobody will be left” are usually the ones that show the most resilience and continue to do impactful ministry that breathes new life into the congregation. “Struggling churches” are often churches whose expectations of ministry do not match the reality of the truly good work they are doing. In all of those cases, the best thing I can do, and we can do, is to burst those bubbles, affirm the ministry that is happening, and dream of what IS possible.
I have lost track of how many times I have sat in meetings and repeated “small church ministry is a valid expression of Christ’s ministry in this world.” That I have said it so much, betrays how pervasive the idea in that medium/large churches are the ideal for God’s kingdom. The vast majority of the churches in our denomination and across Christendom are small churches. The numbers are not even close. And yet, our perception is that medium and large churches are the norm. In this presbytery and across the church, there are more churches with part-time pastors, pulpit supply, and with elders leading worship than called and installed positions. This dichotomy is only going to grow.
What I hope will grow, as well, is our faith in the work of the small church and our ability to help them. They are small and mighty. They are nimble and can adjust to new realities in ministry faster than their larger cousins. There is more opportunity to serve in small churches than often is the case in larger churches. The spiritual gifts of prayer, preaching, and teaching are frequently more broadly utilized in small churches. Small churches tend to be more plugged into the needs of the community beyond their doors than the more insular communities of bigger churches.
What faith ministries is your small church doing today?
Rev. Tim Blodgett