Having spent the last month traveling around Baptist Churches in South Australia I have seen an array of ways in which Churches engage with their local communities and it has confirmed what I have suspected for a while.
When it comes to authentic community engagement: size does NOT matter.
BIG IS GOOD:
One of the strengths that larger community-minded churches are able lend to community development is what one pastor referred to this week as a “raft” of services. This raft approach provides community participants an array of entry points and support services. This allows the congregation to respond to community strengths and needs in a way that is flexible and responsive to the individual. Because of the volunteer-power (and often fiscal resources) available in larger churches there is often a lot going on it one place creating a community of services through which people can be referred and engaged. If a large church sees an opportunity they are often well placed to take it up. This can be a great thing but can also tempt such churches to try to short-cut good slow community development and instead lean heavily on programmatic approaches and
Seeing these multifaceted community ministries (you know the ones that require an A4 page to list all the programs on offer) can be daunting to smaller congregations.
It can seem to smaller churches that they are hamstrung by size. They may be able to prove one service or meet one need but not all needs and they are always struggling to find volunteers to staff programs (and often these volunteers are older and/or weary)
Taking a strength based approach to our community ministry however allows us to be less focused on programs and more intentional with culture (and culture can exist in any group no matter the size).
SMALL IS GOOD:
My encouragement to smaller churches is; instead of focusing on what is missing (eg. we need younger people with more energy to do the more active work) focus on where you strengths are and how members of your congregations can they be empowered and blessed to lead from their strengths. For example we often think having an older congregation is a weakness, but what if it is a strength?
While a larger Church might feel self-sustaining; a smaller group might see the opportunity to take a more collaborative approach- to get out into the community and find partners with whom they can contribute. This less silo-ed approach is ultimately more conducive to long term community development.
Smaller Churches stumble when they believe that they must meet all the needs of their community. Alternatively they have the opportunity to resist the temptation to meet need and instead find and work within those pockets of strength and resilience already present within the community.
So whether you community is large or small can I encourage you to go out these, find where the Spirit of God is already at work- be brave and be courageous!
To receive updates by email click the “follow me” button in the top right hand corner.