The following was written by Sam Fisher, DSA, Olive Crest UMC, Omaha, Nebraska.
Small membership church development rose to the top of the conversation this past weekend as the first Great Plains Conference Small Wonders event was held in Salina, Kansas. In the Saturday morning worship service, Bishop Scott Jones urged clergy and laity from small membership churches to start looking at the whole picture. As he reflected on the story of the prodigal son, three words rang in Sam’s Chapel at Kansas Wesleyan University (KWU): awareness, action and trust.
We cannot be a church thinking “the 1950s will come back,” Jones said to the more than 125 in attendance as he began to address the ever-changing ministry settings. As he spoke on the necessity to have “alive and vital” congregations he also challenged churches to assess, “Who has God given us as a reachable population?” A question that once answered requires action. Churches are often stifled by the “We tried it once, and it didn’t work” failures. As we grow our conference and look at transforming our communities, doing something is better than do nothing. We have to start “learning from our mistakes, and encourage people to fail.” In what seemed to be a quiet resolution to a well-given message, Jones concluded with the word “trust.” In some situations we have lied to ourselves and we have refused to “face the brutal facts.” We need to be a people willing to trust that “God will take our feeble offerings and make wonderful things happen!”
It was apparent throughout the remainder of the day that the message did not fall on deaf ears and that people were called to action by the energy and inspiration they received from the conference as a whole. Thirteen workshops were available on a variety of topics such as youth ministry, young adult ministry, conflict in the family-sized church, understanding diversity in the Hispanic community and advocacy for women.
Flint Hills District Superintendent Claudia Bakely said the event was helpful, with the workshops packed with good information. “Honestly, one of the best parts is connecting with folks. Flint Hills was well represented,” said Bakely. She said she was glad she encouraged her district folks to go.
Bakely said, “I will be even more prepared to do that again next year because I went, too.”
“A second Small Wonders event will take place in Nebraska,” said Micki McCorkle, coordinator of small membership church ministries. Small Wonders is targeted to congregations with average worship attendance of 75 or fewer. McCorkle expressed thanks to KWU for the use of their campus.
Photo: Karl, the technology assistant from Salina, works with Stephanie Caro on computer connections. Caro, a senior consultant for Ministry Architects, opened the Small Wonders event on Friday night with a message titled, #epicfail. She engaged the group by giving everyone a rock and asked them to hold the rock all night and ponder three questions about stumbling blocks in their lives. You can follow her blog, one of Ministry Architects consultants’ most-read blogs, at http://morethandodgeball.com.