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Posts Tagged ‘small church self-esteem’

Snow, Jan 17 2016I came across one of the loveliest words of encouragement for small churches that I have read in a while.  Rachel S. Gerber, a denominational minister for youth and young adults for Mennonite Church USA, and participant in a tiny Mennonite fellowship, titled her post this way:  To small congregations: You are enoughShe has important things to say about the deep faith formation that occurs when children feel deeply loved in a small church.  They know they belong, and they know they are needed.

Noting that congregations often fall prey to “if only” thinking (i.e. if only we had more children and bigger and better programs, we could attract more families), Gerber declares, “Let me tell you: Programs rarely make a difference.  But genuine encounters with people always do.  Authentic faith formation is always rooted in relationships, not in the flashiest curriculum or best-decorated children’s wing.”

I love the way she closes her post, too: “To my dear small congregation, you are not lacking.  You are such an asset.  You are enough.”

That’s exactly what I want to say to my own small congregation.

Click on the title, read the whole post, and be encouraged to keep on keeping on, in the name of Jesus.

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…and proud of it!

Do you ever wonder where the folks are who are enthusiastic about small church ministry?  I find myself wondering how many of us there are and where they are.  Here’s a blog that’s a gathering place and a source of encouragement for small church enthusiasts.  It’s called New Small Church, and its creator is Karl Vaters, a longtime small church pastor in California.

Here’s some of what led Karl to launch this venture: “I’ve read all the pastoral ministry books and attended all the seminars, just like you. And I’ve found great help from many of them. But, after a while, I started getting frustrated with the books and seminars because all the “can’t miss” principles for growing my church … did miss.

“My church stayed small.

“But it was (and is) a good church. And I was (and hopefully still am) a good pastor. So I started asking myself some questions about Small Church ministry.

  • “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be like this?”
  • “Why can’t I find help to understand how to do that?”
  • “Why does it feel like I’m on my own, learning by trial-and-error most of the time?”

He went on to write a book entitled The Grasshopper Myth.  The blog builds on the book and is a way to make it a conversation and not just a monologue.  I read the book and recommend it.  This author is deeply respectful of congregations of every size and of those who serve there.  What’s the “grasshopper” in the title all about?  Check out Numbers 13:32-33.  You can order the book on the site, or access it from amazon.com.

Click on the website name above to explore.  And here’s a post Karl wrote that was published recently on Qideas: Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.

Many thanks, Karl!

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Publicity photo from the television program Th...

Publicity photo from the television program The Andy Griffith Show. Pictured are Don Knotts (Barney Fife) and Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Andy Griffith Show is a favorite of many in our small congregation.  Recently some of us watched an episode of the show entitled “A Date for Gomer.”  Thelma Lou’s cousin Mary Grace unexpectedly comes for a visit.  The problem is that the Chamber of Commerce Dance is set for Saturday night, and even though she and Barney already have a date to go together, Thelma Lou won’t think of leaving Mary Grace home alone.  She insists that Barney find a date for Mary Grace.  Barney balks.  In appearance, Mary Grace is what many would consider “homely.”  Barney exclaims, “She’s a dog!”

Because Thelma Lou won’t go to the dance without Mary Grace, Barney seeks assistance from Andy, who is already set to go to the dance with Helen.  They decide to ask Gomer to be Mary Grace’s date.  Gomer keeps asking, “What’s she like? Is she pretty?” and they keep insisting, “She’s sweet.  She’s nice.  Real nice.”  Gomer agrees to go.

Our plain, simple small church is homely in the eyes of some.  Second rate.  They seem focused more on what we are not, and what we lack, and it feels as if they don’t appreciate the grace and beauty and blessings hidden in our quiet, humble package.  Sometimes people say the same thing about us that Barney and Andy said about Mary Grace: “The people are sweet.  The people are nice.  They’re real nice.  But…”

I understand younger people’s desire to go where there are larger numbers of young adults and children, and where it is possible to offer more age-specific programs for them.  I understand that they want to be with people their own age.  I understand that they are looking for a place they can enjoy.  But there’s something to be said for the blessings that come when multiple generations worship and live closely as the family of God together.  There is something to be said for making a commitment to understand one another across generations and for struggling to work together as a company of disciples, that spans the ages from cradle to grave–and beyond!   Yes, it takes special effort to work together in this way.  This is definitely the narrower, less popular road.

In the TV episode, Gomer goes into the date with Mary Grace with open eyes.  When the guys arrive at Thelma Lou’s house to pick up the gals, Gomer’s “Hey, Mary Grace!” is warm and sincere.  He smiles and chunks Andy on the arm.  But then Gomer realizes that there is something he’s “got to do,” so he abruptly hurries out.   It later becomes clear what Gomer is up to.  He believes Mary Grace deserves to be “adorned” just like Helen and Thelma Lou, so he searches high and low to find a corsage –he pronounces it “cor-say-ge”–for her.  Adorned with this token of grace, Mary Grace shines.  In Gomer’s eyes, plain, simply-dressed Mary Grace is pretty, and she is definitely someone worth spending time with.  He sees the grace in her, looks on her through gracious eyes, and treats her with grace in his own Gomer Pyle way.

May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who see deeply through God’s gracious eyes.  May he raise up people of all ages to answer the call to live as intentional, covenant communities together, where Christian nurture flows from one generation to another and back again. May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who want to follow Jesus and serve him, each other, and a hurting world together, side by side.

I admit it.  This is my prayer. I hope God brings somebody to Morton who hears the call to be an anchor for a young adult generation, someone who envisions a multigenerational family of God, someone who wants to be in the company of us who are older, and someone who wants their children to grow up knowing us older saints well.  Our hearts and our arms long for these young adults and their children.  May God help us who are older to listen to, respect and make room for them.

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