Not Forgotten

"Small towns....are amazing fields of opportunity for young people with a blend of ambition, humility, and entrepreneurial spirit to build careers, assume leadership, and come to love a place and a people."
- Charlie Cotherman on rural ministry


What If?

Brad Roth has written a new book (Herald Press), God's Country: Faith, Hope and the Future of the Rural Church.  It was recently reviewed in Christianity Today.  The gist of it seems to be the suggestion that rural churches which often evaluate themselves on the basis of what they are NOT would do better to see themselves as caretakers "of a different sort of abundance:  space for prayer".

Pointing to leaders in the early monastic movement who viewed their monasteries as special houses for prayer, they left the city for rural places to pray on BEHALF of the city and the global church.

I haven't read the book yet, but I can't help but wondering, "What if..."


Specialty, Not Penalty

A tweet by Thom Rainer led us to an important article related to this subject HERE.
SO worth reading if you haven't already seen it! 
(Just click on HERE above to read it for yourself.)

"Being a small church pastor isn’t my penalty for something I’ve done, or am doing wrong. 
It’s my specialty. My niche. And, since embracing it, 
it’s becoming an area of great joy and passion – even expertise,"
says the writer of this article, Karl Vaters

Now, here's an interesting sidelight!
Since  retiring from a small church pastorate 
and moving to a part-time position of Visitation Pastor in a larger congregation, 
I find it interesting that the larger congregation is re-naming
 its Sunday School classes as "Small Churches"!


Returning to Small Churches

It's been a long time since we posted. Late last year, Gary assumed part-time responsibilities as Visitation Pastor in a church averaging around 600 in attendance.

Interestingly, the church is in the process of evaluating and reshaping its adult ministries.  A a result, what were formerly known as Sunday School classes have been renamed "Small Churches".  How interesting is THAT?  A more official explanation of that change and its implications will follow.

Meanwhile, we've come across a small post that should be of encouragement to pastors of small churches and their parishioners as well.  If you click HERE, you can read it for yourself!


Check it Out

Now HERE'S a link you should read if you're interested (as we are)
in "real" and healthy small churches! 
Here's #5 in a list of "lessons" about health in a small church:

5. Health looks the same in churches of any size  Whether your church is big or small, growing, shrinking or static, this list needs to be considered.  We have a lot more in common than we think.


Churches withIN Churches

Much has changed in the past months including the fact that one of us (Gary) has taken a part-time position as Visitation Pastor of a larger-than-small church.  What has NOT changed is our heart for the small church. Interestingly, the church in which we now worship and serve has begun to call its Sunday School classes "small churches"!

This recent Facebook post by a friend reminded us of our heart for small church ministry:

"Go to the nearest, smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff." -Eugene Peterson.
Then, this morning a Twitter post linking to 12 Reasons I Love My Smaller Church appeared on our feed. Simply written, it makes a strong argument for vibrant small churches - whether separate entities or churches WITHIN a church.  It includes this statistic from a 2016 Barna survey:

…the largest group of American churchgoers attends services in a more intimate context. Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members. More than one-third (37%) attend a midsize church of over 100, but not larger than 499. One in 11 (9%) attends a church with between 500 and 999 attenders, and slightly fewer (8%) attend a very large church of 1,000 or more attendees. (www.barna.org)


Dr. Tim Keller Weighs In

Our journey since retiring from ministry in a small, rural church found us returning to one of the churches we visited earlier.  Sharing communion, singing gospel songs, and hearing testimonies of God's faithfulness brought joy to our spirits. 

This morning, the following excerpt from a post about ministry in small churches by Dr. Tim Keller caught our attention. 

Young pastors should not turn up their noses at such places, where they may learn the full spectrum of ministry tasks and skills as they will not in a large church. Nor should they go to small communities looking at them merely as stepping stones in a career. Why not? Your early ministry experience will only prepare you for 'bigger things,' if you don't aspire for anything bigger than investment in the lives of the people around you. Wherever you serve, put your roots down, become a member of the community and do your ministry with all your heart and might. If God opens the door to go somewhere else, fine and good. But don't go to such places looking at them only as training grounds for 'real ministry.'

Read more HERE!


Real Church #12

 After a "week off", during which we returned to Grace Fellowship in El Paso, IL,
 we visited a church in our general neighborhood.
 The worship service is held in the beautiful, old sanctuary.

We particularly enjoyed the choir's selection.

The pastor (below) led the service and introduced the guest speaker for the morning.
 Before leaving, we stepped into a classroom where the Tabernacle was being constructed
out of Lego blocks!

Positive Features of this Real Small Church
(In addition to those listed above and as we experienced it one hour on one Sunday morning.
Not to be confused with the other 167 hours in the week.)
  • Friendly congregation
  • Beautiful communion service
  • Lay participation
  • Choir
  • Well-kept facilities and grounds
  • "Joys and Concerns" time


Back in the Saddle

 "Back in the saddle" ever so briefly,
 Gary delivered the sermon at Real Church #6 (Pathway Christian Church in our hometown)
in the absence of their pastor.


"Planting" in Real Small Communities

Two examples of Real Small Church planting in Real Small Communities!  Check out the stories--
Why not?
This is exciting stuff! 
And while we're at it:  here's a blog post  with  a great perspective
about pastoring small churches in small communities.
(The whole blog is worth a look!)