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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Wonder of the Small Congregation

The so-called “Church Growth” movement of the late 1980s and 90s suggested that pastors would desire to have large congregations. One author, tongue in cheek, suggests that we be ranchers instead of shepherds. The question that was never asked was, “Is this a good thing?”

Interestingly enough, this so-called “Church Growth” movement also encouraged pastors to think of themselves as CEOs or Chief Executive Officers of their congregations. Although that might be a good corporate model, this model fails theological and doctrinal discernment. Not only are pastors not educated to be CEOs, their members are not educated to be ministers. So, in essence this model fails because pastors are working outside their calling and members are working outside their vocations as well.

From a personal career perspective, I began serving as an associate pastor in a large congregation, a congregation of over 1200 members in a small town of just over 2000 people. My second call was to a congregation of about 450 members in a larger city, and finally, my third call was to a congregation of just over 300 members in a suburban area. As I have moved to smaller congregations, I have notice that I am better able to know and shepherd the smaller congregation much better. A larger congregation is simply too much to handle.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point (p. 179) made note that once a company reaches 150 workers the productivity declines. Our abilities are limited to about 150 relationships at any given time. To translate this information into the church perhaps we would do well to begin new smaller congregations rather than desire larger congregations which are truly unmanageable.

Certainly there is the draw of being a member of a large congregation because of the offering of programs and many times because of the offering of anonymity, but perhaps we need to ask the question, “Is church about programs and anonymity?” And from the perspective of some men, there is the draw of power and prestige in leading a larger congregation, but is that what the office of Holy Ministry is about, power and prestige, or is it about service?

Perhaps we would do well to instruct and encourage young people in the joy of service, i.e., as in the days of the Peace Corps, in the draw of careers such as nursing, the medical field, and the like, including the service fields of being pastors and teachers.

Perhaps we would do well to think in terms of having smaller congregations in which pastor and members might actually know each other and then have circuits of congregations work together for larger programming. Perhaps we would do well to let pastors do what they have been trained and called to do, i.e., preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, forgive and retain sins, visit the sick and shut-in. And perhaps we would do well to encourage the parishioners to do what they have been called to do, live lives as priests, that is live lives in their vocations offering their lives as living sacrifices, as examples so that when they are asked, they will be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them. Perhaps this small, individualistic idea might work best for making disciples of all nations.

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