Two articles came across the web this week that address the difficulties a small church faces in serving the surrounding community.
In the article, “What Is Your Signature Ministry?” the point was made that a small church should identify what its ministry is:
“Often churches try to do too many things, being all things to all people without doing any ministry with excellence. Churches are filled with good people who are full of the best intentions. It is through those good intentions that we sometimes trip ourselves up. Small churches try to do too many things for too many different people.”
Any decision about what the church does must be based on honestly knowing what the members are capable of doing and doing well.
The article makes a difference between a good idea and a godly idea:
“A good idea comes from someone’s brain, and there are a lot of good ideas out there. A godly idea always comes with a leader and servants attached. If there are no leaders or workers, the idea is not yet in God’s time.”
The definition of a godly idea can guide the decisions that need to be made. Katon and Schroeder, authors of the book Small Church Check Up, say:
“It is ironic that many of our new larger churches have discovered the magic of doing one or two things really well. Many of our other churches (often, declining churches) are still trying to be everything to everybody. Vital, small churches do one or two things really well and are known for them in the community.”
In our efforts to be the best small church we can, identifying our “signature” ministry is essential. That does not mean we give up what we try to do, it simply means trying to identify what we do best.
The second article that provides advice that is related was “This Lent, Don’t Give Up Your Neighborhood.” Rebekah Simon-Peter posted this article that was published through the UM News Digest.
Simon-Peter does not reference small rural churches, but she does make a point that should help identify a ministry the church can meet. She writes,
“The church is nothing without neighbors. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re all about community. The community that is calling you now is right outside your door. Not across the world.”
She goes on to explain how in the movie Sister Act, when the nuns stepped outside the door of their gated building, their focus changed.
Undoubtedly we are not in a large urban setting, but the church does sit in a community and whatever ministry the church does, needs to be connected to the community.
Any decision about the ministry of the church needs to include an open, honest discussion about who we are, what we can do, and what we need to do for our community.