The Importance of the Small Membership Church
By Chet Harris
(The Wesleyan Covenant Association is Committed to the Small Church)
The intent of this article is to support and affirm the ministry of the ‘the small church.’ The importance of the small church to the Methodist movement has fallen into doubt by many in leadership. I have listed a series of affirmation to encourage the laity and pastors of small churches. This is the first of two articles on this very pertinent issue.
First, we cannot ignore the call of God to reach the spiritually lost with the gospel message of redeeming love and grace. We must not lose our fervor for evangelism. Church growth is a necessity and must remain a priority in the life and ministry of every church.
But there is a pre-requisite evangelism. We must possess an unrelenting love for Jesus and the Church. Every small church must examine if they have drifted away from the centrality of feeling a deep and abiding call to reach the lost with God’s redeeming love.
Second, small churches need to stop feeling inferior and believing that bigger is better. The key is to embrace deeper is better. Deeper in discipleship and community relationship with Jesus. Stop listening to the name calling describing the small church as a ‘family chapel’ or ‘hospice center.’ Negativity repeated by those outside the community of the small church will only serve to demoralize and eventually become tempted to believe the lie.
Third, historically the Methodist movement was built on the matrix of small churches. Think about the small church as part of a holy web of redemptive love ready to catch people free falling into a Christless eternity.
Fourth, the frontline ministry of every church is worship and preaching. The small church must excel in preaching and worship to touch the souls of the spiritually thirsty and lost.
Fifth, small churches cannot handle numerous ministries. They need to focus on one great need in the community and become known for this ministry. Minister from your strength, not weakness.
Sixth, small churches are rich in offering pastoral care. It is time to address the fact there are genuine believers/disciples of Jesus that need pastoral care. Affirm the fact some people require direct pastoral care from the pastor.
Seventh, there are ministers who possess the DNA to serve small membership churches and know how to offer positive and meaningful pastoral care. These ministers are gifted in compassion and nurture. Their salaries need to be supplemented or link two or three churches together to secure a great salary.
Finally, churches need to share resources. Example, vocal soloist, youth ministers, guest speakers etc.
The small church is of extreme value to the Kingdom of God. Let each of us support the small church in prayer and practice. I offer these seven points as a beginning point among those of us who believe in supporting the future of the Methodist movement.
All for the Kingdom,
Rev. Dr. Chet Harris
WCA Regional Director for East Ohio
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