Although I have much to say--or think I do--about the small church, I am certain that many others likewise have much to say. Indeed, it is my hope that this site can become the product of many minds contributing to the development of small congregations.
No two congregations are alike. What works for one may not work for another; but there are many things happening in small congregations that others can learn from, and I believe we can be helpful to one another by sharing those things that work for us.
Unfortunately, much that is written about the church simply does not work in very small congregations; and that can be frustrating. When I hear of a success somewhere else, I am intimidated--until I discover that the congregation is much larger than mine.
So, if you are a pastor or a member of a small congregation--especially those with an average worship attendance of fifty or less--and there are events or traditions or practices in your church of which you are proud, please feel welcome to share them.
I am also certain that each of us has many questions and problems we deal with. We should be sharing those also. We may not have immediate answers for one another, but even the practice of sharing our concerns, of opening ourselves up, can be good for the soul.
Another dimension to this website that I would like to cultivate is the expression of ideas that we wish would work, that we would like to see work, that we are completely sold on, but somehow they just dont get done. They seem to sit on the back burner forever.
Either the congregation is not interested, or is not prepared, or the pastor wont support it, or whatever. I can think of several of these, and they will likely be showing up on this site at some time. I really dont think Im alone in this matter.
Another invitation I would like issue: Those of us working in and for small congregations need to be able to be in touch with one another. We need to know how to establish e-mail contact. This site could include an e-mail directory of pastors and parishioners in small congregations.
Links. Every website has them, and links can be infinite in number. Indeed, there are, without exaggeration, tens of thousands of Christianity-related websites. But which of those can be the most helpful to the very small church? You can help me with this.
Obviously, much that is of value to the mega-church has little application to the very small congregation. Mega-churches have more folks sitting in the choirs that small congregations have sitting in the pews. They have staffs to implement programs and budgets to carry them out.
I have my own ideas regarding what kinds of links might be important to us, but I would most certainly entertain the ideas of others. Let me know what categories are of interest to you. Let me know specifically what websites are of interest. Well put them on the site.
As noted on the home page of this site, it is dedicated to those congregations with an average attendance in worship of fifty or fewer. This is an arbitrary figure. I have discovered that in my denomination in my part of the country the median churches have about forty-five in worship.
In other words, more than half of our congregations have fifty or fewer attending worship services. Yet, this majority is, I believe, underserved in creative ideas for spiritual growth. It would seem that we are expected to be served by the same advice given to churches with two hundred or more in worship.
If your congregations worship attendance is larger than fifty, maybe even seventy-five, you may still consider yourself in the small-church category, and thats fine. Welcome to the club. But as we share our ideas, we need to also share our demographics.
When I read a report of what a particular congregation is doing, and wonder how on earth they are accomplishing certain tasks, it is helpful to know that they have a staff, a large budget, and four times as many parishioners as my largest congregation.
I am rather certain that this invitation is being read by at least a few who feel intimidated about sharing about their congregations. If most of what we read comes from seminary professors or pastors of mega-churches, that is understandable.
But that is part of the reason for this site. The small church needs to be heard from. The seminary professor who knows the academic world quite likely can only claim a flirtation with the small church, and many of them cannot claim even that.
The pastor of a mega-church, or even a medium-sized church, may never have served a small church. Or, if he or she has, it may have been so many years ago that he or she has lost touch with its cares and concerns. They may have been there, done that, and forgotten about it.
The best folks who can meet the needs of the small church are those who are members or pastors of small churches sharing their wisdom with one another; and I do not mean credentialed academic wisdom, but rather any kinds of creative thinking that can enliven our congregations.
There are those who may be reluctant to share with others regarding their church because they lack a seminary degree, or even a college degree. This is nonsense. What we need to share more than anything else are our experiences, our cares, our concerns, our dreams and visions.
But for those whose education is on-going, have you read any good books lately? Have you read any that would be helpful to the small church? I have found myself getting very excited by books that speak to my small congregations, and put off by books that dont.
If youve experienced excitement in reading such books, pass along that excitement; share it with us. Maybe youve found a book that others know about that would be helpful to them. You dont need to be a literary critic to get excited about the possibilities of what youve read.
Nor should we necessarily limit ourselves to what we think religiously "appropriate." I have discovered that I can learn a great deal about ideas that could have an impact on my ministry by reading in fields outside of religion. We do not live in a vacuum.
I serve a three-point charge. That is, I preach to three congregations in three different towns every Sunday morning. Obviously, each of these congregations has a part-time pastor; and I imagine that it is rare for a congregation with a worship attendance of fifty or fewer to have its own full-time pastor.
I mention this because sometimes part-time pastors and/or student pastors think of themselves as being unqualified to share about their churches because their status is not "full-time." Again, I think that is nonsense. Anyone involved in a congregation in any way is qualified. Period.
As a matter of fact, I would love to hear from children and youth, and I would love to hear from the elderly. Age should not be a barrier; education should not be a barrier. If you care about your small church, that is all that matters. Ill be looking forward to hearing from you.
One last note. If you know of those who may wish to participate in this project who do not have a computer, encourage them to write letters. Snail mail works for me, too. My address is P. O. Box 602, Sheldon, MO 64784. Keep in touch.
E-mail to John R. Harrison
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