WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
December 23, 2014
A weekly communication for:
WDC Churches and Pastors
WDC Executive Board, Commission, Committee and Task Force members
Any content may be used in bulletins and newsletters and forwarded to congregational leaders and members.
WDC Sprouts is also available at: www.mennowdc.org (Publications)
IN THIS ISSUE:
*What size is the right size of a church?
What size is the right size of a church?
by Gilberto Flores, WDC Associate Conference Minister
In Mathew 18:20 Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them,” (NIV). As we know, the context of this verse is about relationship. Jesus refers to what we have to do to keep our relationships in the midst of conflicts, and the right processes to heal our wounds. What inspires me to write today is concern with Jesus affirmation: “two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Here we have a high principle about the church’s nature: People together with purpose and Jesus at the center of their communion. The size does not matter to Jesus. Two or three is enough to begin this wonderful experience as people of God.
Small churches are facing hard times, and very often the lament is about their size. They forget Jesus’ promise: I am with them.
What does this mean? Because people meet in His name, then Jesus is there! If this is true, then the church has what really matters. The small congregation has the source of all blessings! As a consequence, the church can be an immense source of blessing for others. Obviously a small congregation has to pay attention to things that fit well with its size. Exactly in the same way a big church does. What a small church has to do, is try to respond to its call with efficiency and boldness, in accordance with its size. What a small church does not have to do is to sit back and do nothing just because of its size.
A small congregation can be effective as a witness of the Lord, even capable of spreading the good news beyond its community. At the same time it can be fruitful, keeping a joyful sense of spiritual community, maintaining all members active and committed with God.
A big church is a good thing, it sounds perfect to a society always interested in success. Brandon J. O’Brien said in his book The Strategically Small Church:
The prevailing assumption in ministry literature for the past few decades has been that all organizations—whether universities, corporations, or churches—are essentially the same. The principles that lead to success in one type of organization will yield the same results in the others. To be an effective minister, then a pastor doesn’t need to focus in theology or spiritual formation nearly as much as he should master the latest developments in organizational leadership.
The author quotes Reggie McNeal as follows:
The church growth movement presented a steep learning curve to church leaders, Ministers who had studied theology, biblical exegesis, and other subjects in classical seminary education now signed up for marketing seminars, and business courses, subscribed to the Harvard Business Review, and joined the American Management Association.
According to Eugene Peterson, this trend suggests that there is the Americanization of the congregation which turns “each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric.”
Personally I think there are some good things happening when people with entrepreneurial competencies develop strategies and structures to run this kind of church. But what is disturbing is the idea that one size fits all. And at this time the fashion is to move in the direction of Americanization of congregations as a religious supplier for avid consumers, like a corporation endeavor. And then some people could think that perhaps there is no future for small congregations, and then, even no future for pastors working at that level. But this is not the case. There is a space for creative, imaginative missional small congregations. There are four key factors to consider:
- People in the congregation agree to be together in the name of Jesus.
- Jesus is in the midst of that congregation as He promised.
- Small congregations are (if they understand this) God’s mission agencies.
- All people in church receive spiritual gifts to serve God and express God’s love to the world.
In any case, the church is a spiritual body, light and salt, a taste of God’s grace. This reminds us that Jesus is the one who makes it possible for a church to grow. The very existence of the church is in God’s hands. All that we do is subsidiary to what God is already doing.
Then size really does not matter. What matters is to understand what the church is and what its purpose is. Practice the presence of Jesus. Realize that the church exists for the sake of the world. From there a small congregation can do a lot. Here is a list to check on, you can add more if you please.
- Identify its assets: people are the main asset of a church. Other assets are financial resources, properties, and spiritual and human gifts, just to mention some.
- Partner with other small congregations to follow God into mission.
- Identify two or three things that is possible for small congregations to do and do it with a joyful attitude.
- Engage with the community and bless it with service.
- Because Jesus is in and with the church, throw away the inappropriate feeling of smallness.
What size is the right size of a church? Large or small, what really counts is if Jesus is there, and if we understand why God send the church into the world.
May God bless you and in this coming year may your small church be moved to begin to dream about great things. To God is the glory forever.
Jan 4 – Pray God’s blessing on Elizabeth Raid who is being ordained today at Bethel College Mennonite Church. She serve as a campus pastor at Mennonite Friendship Communities in Hutchinson, KS.
Jan 11 – Pray God’s blessing on our Texas pastors who met yesterday in Austin, Texas, around the theme, “Cultural Bridges and Borders,” led by Associate Conference Minister, Gilberto Flores.
Jan 18 – Pray for fruitful ministry for our rural pastors and congregations. Pray for the Rural Ministry Seminar meeting on Saturday, January 24.
Jan 25 – Pray for our Junior High Youth and Leaders gathering, “Know Jesus,” hosted by Hesston College and the Western District and South Central Youth Ministry Team, January 31-February 1.
- Western District Conference and South Central Conference are recipients of a $50,000 Leadership and Faith Transformation Grant from the Kansas Leadership Center, Wichita, KS. This grant will make it possible for up to 34 WDC leaders and pastors to participate in one of three leadership seminars being offered in 2015. Go to kansasleadershipcenter.org and click on program to read about the content and times for the seminars. The purpose, the application process, and the content of the seminars will be introduced at a seminar, “Leadership for Adaptive Times,” Thursday, January 29, at First Mennonite Church, Halstead. There will be a meeting for pastors from 3:30-6:00 PM with Thane Chastain followed by supper at 6:00 PM. Registration is $10 and includes the meal. To register go to: https://mennowdc.org/missional-leadership-for-adaptive-challenges-kansas-leadership-center-scholarships-launch/. Lay leaders and WDC leaders are invited for the 7:00 PM evening meeting (registration not required for evening meeting). (See two attached brochures for more information: “You Lead Now”, “Lead for Change”.)
- Summer is here! We know that you are all still in the midst of Christmas joy, and as a present to you all, we offer unto you the knowledge that the summer staff application for 2015 is available at www.campmennoscah.org in the Resources section. Tell your friends and tap those who have the gift of working with kids on the shoulder. Questions? Call us at 620-297-3290.
- WDC Offices are closed from December 24 through January 1.
Mennonite Church Announcements
- FROM AMBS Church Leadership Center:
Dare to “get down and dirty” with Scripture, writes Meghan Good, pastor of Albany (Oregon) Mennonite Church, in a post on The Circle, the new Church Leadership Center blog. Meghan will preach in Pastors Week worship on Tuesday, January 27, and lead “The Word Wore Red,” a daylong Leadership Clinic on engaging the Bible, on Monday, January 26. Read what she means when she says, “The Word Wore Red.”
Register for Pastors Week
See more Leadership Clinics
Also coming up:
“Upside Down and Inside Out,” a daylong workshop on Lent Planning is scheduled for January 17. Gain resources in both lectionary-based worship planning and broader questions and issues in congregational worship. Presenters include Rachel Miller Jacobs, Rosanna McFadden, Allan Rudy-Froese and Rebecca Slough. Learn more and register.
A webinar on the same topic will be held on on Thursday, February 5, at 7:30 p.m. Rachel Miller Jacobs will lead. Learn more and register.
See all of our upcoming Church Leadership Center events!
Visit our website
For more information contact: email@example.com
- Attached are the prayer requests from the member schools of Mennonite Schools Council, and the colleges, universities, seminaries and educational programs of Mennonite Church USA for January 2015. MEA also posts these prayer requests on its website. The prayer request of the day is displayed on our home page and the document is available at www.MennoniteEducation.org/PRAYERS.
- Eastern Mennonite Seminary has a large number of Ministry Leadership Awards available, ranging from ¼ – ¾ tuition for Mennonite and Anabaptist-affiliated students who show a sense of call and desire to serve the church. Students are encouraged to apply by February 1 for these awards. They will be chosen based on application materials. Students who accept these awards are still eligible for other forms of financial aid like the Mennonite student discount and the church matching grant. They must study full-time on the Harrisonburg campus of EMS. They also have one full-tuition award for a bi-lingual English/Spanish student who is interested in using their bi-lingual skills to strengthen Mennonite Church connections. Contact Laura Amstutz, 540-432-4268, emu.edu/seminary
- Ted and Company will be in Wichita, KS on Sunday, February 15 at 3:00 p.m. at the University Friends Church (1840 W. University Ave). People of Faith for Peace is an ecumenical group of peacemakers in Wichita who want to support Hesston College’s Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series (AVDS) where Ted and Company will perform “I’d Like to Buy and Enemy” on Saturday, Feb. 14. If you don’t have a chance to attend there (or even if you do!), Ted and Company will perform “Peace, Pies and Prophets” the next day, Sunday, February 15 in Wichita. “Peace, Pies and Prophets” is the same show as “I’d Like to Buy and Enemy”, but it includes a live pie auction and it is a fundraiser. Half the funds raised at “Peace, Pies and Prophets” will go to Christian Peacemaker Teams and half will go to Wichita Food Bank’s program, Food 4 Kids. For more information contact Alan Stucky, pastor of First Church of the Brethren Wichita at 316.263.0274 or firstname.lastname@example.org (A bulletin insert for this event is attached.)
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117
316-283-6300; FAX: 316-283-0620