"Celebrating a Small Church"

Recently I read an article from Theology Matters written by Tee Gatewood entitled “The Call to Love the Small.” It was a wonderful article from a pastor of a small church reflecting on the challenges and advantages of small church ministry. It also focused on the importance of the small church in God’s love and work. The article was too large to reproduce here but I would like to pull out a few of the major observations and apply them to Brookings Presbyterian Church and our ministry together. Are we a “small church”? According to the article, the median church size in America is 75 participants. While the average congregation is larger because large churches and mega churches raise the average membership number significantly, the median represents that there are as many churches with less than 75 participants as there are those with 76 - 5,000+ participants. This article seems to be written for us since our membership is currently 79, although admittedly we have many participants who are not members, balanced by some members who are no longer able to participate on a regular basis. “Is the small church important to God and God’s kingdom?” While it is true that our world seems to envy the large and pastors often seek to serve in “high steeple” congregations, the story of God’s work throughout scripture declares that God loves to work through the small. The choice to begin the work of blessing the people of the earth through one person, Abraham, and the selection of unlikely candidates to be God’s instruments such as Gideon, Moses, Ruth, David, many of the prophets, Mary, and the apostles, reveal again and again that God loves to use the underdog, perhaps because the presence and power of God’s Spirit is apparent when success cannot be attributed to our greatness. The incarnation itself is the supreme revelation of the way God works, the coming of the Christ as an infant, to grow as a suffering servant, and to teach in parables like the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son that the small and insignificant are important to God. Jesus also taught the parables of the mustard seed and leaven to proclaim that God’s kingdom comes through small beginnings, even as Jesus started with a handful of disciples and even when large crowds gathered to him, he chose 12 apostles. “What are the greatest challenges facing the small church?” How do I keep this short? 1) Leadership – it is often hard to find pastors that are willing or can afford to serve a small church. Small churches also find that the burden of service on elders, deacons, teachers and others can become heavy if the rest of the membership does not join them in the task of service. 2) Stewardship – beside the need for stewardship of time and talent mentioned under leadership, one of the greatest challenges is financial support. The cost of maintaining and operating a small church can be almost as great as the cost to maintain a much larger church, but with fewer financial stewards to help meet those demands. 3) Program – some people seek a church that offers options tailored to their interests, something small churches often cannot provide. Church basketball team? A Group for the newly married? Small support or fellowship groups for specific ages, interests, or challenges can be a draw to attract new members but are difficult within the context of a small church and a small community with limited diversity. “What are the advantages/strengths of a small church?” 1) As mentioned above, one of the advantages is that God loves the small. Our call to be a blessing to the community of Brookings is not negated by our lack of size. God will bless us and use us as we respond to God’s call. 2) Service – while one of the challenges of the small church is that of a smaller leadership pool, the flip side is that every member is important. It is easy to get involved, to be a committee member, deacon, elder, choir 3 The Messenger Newsletter Articles and input are welcome for the July issue. Please submit them to Pat Van Ooyen by Monday, June 24th, 2019. Or send your email to: secretary@brookingspres.com. Don’t forget to put “Messenger” in the subject line…. SOME WISE WORDS If you have to choose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you will always be right! Congratulations to Abby Frazier on her graduation from Century High School on June 8, 2019 in Beaverton, Oregon. The announcement with her photo is on the bulletin board in the hall. (continued from page 2) member, coffee host, dishwasher, gardener, bulletin folder, ambassador to your neighbors, etc. 3) One of the greatest advantages of the small church is Community. In large churches it is impossible to know everyone in the church family and often the congregation is divided into numerous smaller congregations according to the service one attends, the age group or special fellowship group one belongs to, or participation in a small group ministry. In a small church it is possible for us to know the names and faces of everyone who gathers regularly to worship each Sunday. While we wish we had more children and teens, our fellowship time is not segregated by ages and service; opportunities like the Community Kitchen, Choir, and our Adult Education Programs are open to everyone. I hope you see our congregation as a family. That is what we are called to be, and in a small church we have the opportunity and call to take advantage of that strength, to know and be there for one another during times of joy and times of challenge or grief. “How can we maximize the advantage of our smallness?” We must minimize the challenges and enjoy the strengths of our size: 1) Remembering God’s love for each and every person, we must continue to be an inviting and welcoming church. We do not want to be a closed family and so we must recognize that there are many in our community who thirst for family, who would like to experience God’s love, and invite them to join us. 2) Stewardship is critical – giving of time and treasure is one of the keys that determine whether a small church will thrive or cease to survive. 3) Help us maximize our greatest strength. If you do not know everyone in our congregation, join us for the fellowship time and sit with those you don’t know. Join one of the education, service, or fellowship opportunities so that you can meet and get to know others on a deeper level. Jesus said that all people will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another; that is a challenge to share our love with our community, but it is also a reminder for us to be certain that we know and love those who are in our faith family. Yours in Christ, David