Monday, July 31, 2006

Rural Church: The Connection Between the People of God and God's Spirit in a Depopulating Rural Community

From a Rural Church Pastor:

I serve a rural United Methodist Church in north central Kansas - a county
seat community.

The two characteristics of this community are:

1.) The impact of agriculture on the economy. The three major employers
beyond the government are agriculture related. There is a farm implement
mfg., a farm chemical business, and the Coop. The government is a key
piece as we have public schools, state, county and city government
employees as well as the support checks funded by the gov't - Social
Security, social services and farm subsidy.

2.) The family / church relationships that are generations deep in the
community. Since many families in this community are several generations
deep, the impact of family history is an integral part of the way in which
families relate within the community.

There is a significant Roman Catholic population that is balanced by a near equal population that relates to the protestant churches in the area.

These dynamics in a part of the United States that is depopulating and
being significantly impacted by the drought changes the way in which we
are able to do church.

In light of the above thoughts, there is still a place for the church as
it continues to seek that relevant connection between the people of God
and God's spirit.

Congregational Characteristics of Growing Small Churches

A recent study of rapidly growing congregations with an average Sunday attendance of 70 or less identified key congregational characteristics.

Specifically, the most rapidly growing small Episcopal congregations in the United States are places that:

  1. Report that they are spiritually vital and alive
  2. Have a clear sense of mission and purpose
  3. Have many members in the congregation who work for social justice
  4. Inculcate strong values and beliefs
  5. Focus on deepening members' relationship with God
  6. Keep the surrounding community well informed about activities taking place in the congregation
  7. Help members struggle with tough questions
  8. Are fun places to be.

What about your congregation? Where do you see these characteristics in the community in which you serve, and in what ways can small congregations creatively strengthen these traits?

Let us share with and learn from one another to the end that our congregations are even better equipped to grow, strengthen and send forth servants of Christ.

Faithfully in Christ in whose name and mission we are all united,


Thursday, July 27, 2006

What is a small-membership church?

Welcome to the small-membership church blog! While the definition of a small-membership church varies from denomination to denomination, for the purposes of this site a Sunday attendance of 70 people or less is used. Nearly half of all congregations in the Episcopal Church (the denomination in which I serve) fall into this category.

Small membership churches are located in a variety of different settings. In the Episcopal Church 30% are in rural and open country (in the Episcopal Church the Diocese of Virginia has the greatest number of congregations that fall into this category), larger town or small cities (50%), downtown (5%), older residential (7%), older suburb (6%) and newer suburbs (2%).

Their membership may also be growing (26.5%), stable (26.7%) or declining (46.8%).

Those that worship in small membership churches have a great deal to offer the broader church. Additionally, leaders with in small membership churches are a creative and gifted lot, and have much to share with other leaders in similar circumstances. Connecting with others can often be the biggest barrier. It is my hope and prayer that this site will become a place where people can share and learn and gain inspiration from others who serve through small congregations.

Faithfully in Christ, in whose name and mission we are all united,