By: Carl Ellis On 6/20/2012
Are we forgotten and deserted, or did we forget and stop believing?
This past week, as the Center for Small Membership Churches Vacation Bible School team was setting up for Vacation Bible School, a member of another denomination said to me, “My denomination has forgotten our small church and does not care what happens to us.”
My first reaction to the member’s comment was, “That’s not true. I know people in your denomination who are helping and working with small membership churches.” However, I realized that the feelings resonate with many small membership church members and pastors. Right now, it seems like all the talk, all the hype, and all the dollars are going to start new churches or reviving big churches in the suburbs. Many in small membership churches feel like an old abandoned school that everyone has forgotten.
My second reaction, “It is true small membership churches are not getting as much money as the new church starts.” Many denominations, including the United Methodist Church, realize the population shift from rural areas to urban areas. Money needs to be raised so new churches can purchase land and begin building. And to add insult to injury, not only are children of rural families moving to metropolitan areas, they are asking us to send money with them to start the new churches.
My final reaction, “The problem is not we are forgotten, but we forget our importance.” We who work, live, and worship in the small membership church forget our value and have stopped believing in our importance to the community we serve. We equate our value with how much we get in the way of programs and dollars from the conference. In reality our value is not determined by the dollars or how large our numbers, but remembering we are important and valuable to God and those we serve.
Unfortunately, at times we see ourselves as insignificant and good for nothing and fail to live up to our potential as disciples of Jesus Christ. But, God calls us to serve right where we are and we have an important job to do as we fulfill our purpose and role as disciples of Jesus Christ. This lesson was taught to me by Joe, who was the custodian of a small elementary school in Kansas. Joe was not as well educated as the teachers at the school or as wealthy as most of the citizens of his town. However Joe was the person who many students turned to for help and advice. And he was the person students made certain they went to visit when they returned home. In our small communities we have many children, of all ages, who need us to be and live as Jesus disciples.
As we move into a new day and age, we have a choice to make. We can choose the easy way where we complain about how unfair it is that new and large churches seem to get all the money and help. Or we can choose to roll up our sleeves, participate in conference programs designed to help us grow as disciples, and be active disciples for Jesus Christ.
Yes, there are times when we are going to feel forgotten by the conference and our self-worth will be low. But let us never forget we are God’s children and we are God’s churches. God does not desert us. God sent the greatest gift Jesus Christ who died for us. And today God sends the Holy Spirit to empower us to be disciples. We have, we are, and we will make a difference for Jesus Christ.
May we, who live in small membership churches, never forget that we are not forgotten and that we are important to God!