1. Susan Annette Smith
    March 8, 2018 @ 6:19 pm

    I agree with you but I am bothered you did not include the small rural communities that are akin to the urban inner core. I struggle with the same problems, and in the small congregations the problems are multiplied due to age and expense. Just once, I would like an open and honest conversation about finding solutions in these settings.
    “What is Your Signature Ministry?” by Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder was published in Leading Ideas, March 7, 2018, is the first article I have literally stumbled upon that makes sense. Why can’t small churches in desperate settings find solutions? I fear the small, rural churches are simply going to die off as the loyal congregations dwindle away due to natural circumstances.
    I keep thinking one option is for larger churches to serve as a hub from which a team of local pastors work to meet the ministry needs within a region–preferably a county or along the school districts’ boundaries.
    At the very least it is time for our denominations to develop think tanks that focus on innovative ideas. My primary teaching experience was in alternative education and we need alternative approaches to the traditional churches. Where are the think tanks? Where are the lateral thinkers? Where — oh yes, they are in the megachurches. I wonder if they would consider adopting a small, dying rural church?
    I have a host of ideas but have no way to move them forward. I am so frustrated that I cannot see a way to make a change; and after 10 years, I fear the proverbial burnout serving a community of people I love and hurt for as I watch the struggles drain everybody of all their energy for Christ.
    Please keep us in prayer.


    • elizabeth a. woods
      March 11, 2018 @ 9:52 pm

      My husband has pastored small rural churches in Kansas. The ones who raise funds for our Youthville (now named “Ember Hope”) have a soup/sandwich supper and small-very small-bazaar before an evening of music. The musicians are not particularly from the church but known to the wider community and across the county. They are so interested with the outreach of Youthville they give their time to raise money for this United Methodist Mission for displaced youth housed at our Youthville campus. The spokes person for Youthville, “Brother Yo”, a pastor who used yo-yo tricks in his talks about the outreach and help all ages of youth receive would be part of the evening.
      The members of the church would each take an age/sex/need card for one of the children at Youthville. They would buy the present, wrap it, attach the card and a card from themselves for a Christmas Greeting. An offering would be taken. When Brother You left his car was packed to the ceiling and trunk full of gifts for some of the children at Youthville. His travels home were accompanied with many prayers for safe travel and for all the children of Youthville.
      All the churches we served packed kits and buckets for UMCOR. They would be assembled for shipment to the Louisiana Sager-Brown site. People might do this throughout the church year so a certain kit was done each month. People knew not only were they helping other people, but they might also be in need of a kit and UMCOR would be there for them.
      Neighbor Helping Neighbor was a group of small churches who would gather, sort through requests from people and set up times to do the job needed. One group would prepare a simple meal for the whole work crews and take the meals to the sites of the work being done.
      The person requesting the job done would buy and pay for the paint but the crews provided brushes, rollers, ladders etc. If it was a yard/lot clean up then the person requesting would provide some of the clippers, rakes, hoes, wheelbarrow, etc. If they didn’t have much some of the workers for the job would bring along their own.
      It might be a job where people couldn’t wash their windows any more and a crew from the churches would wash windows, clean screens, and help the place become ship-shape.
      All ages were on hand and it was teaching the very young to be helpers, too.
      Now some people are making Quilts Of Valor. Others make small quilts for people in the Hospice Care of their communities. Or Quilts for newborn babies. Others knit or crochet scarves, hats, gloves for any children in need of these things in the public schools. The teachers will talk with the group and give the sizes and come back to pick up the items.
      Others church families buy needed under ware, socks, gym shorts, some T Shirts, school supplies, personal hygiene items and take them to the school main office where the students in need come by and pick out their personal needs. It’s done in a way which offers dignity and care for each student in need.
      Some churches have gone together and house with other denominations the families of Family Promise. One church is the designated homes, selected by the Board of Family Promise. The rest of the churches make meals, act as hosts and hostesses for the evening meals, maybe bring some age appropriate toys, some stay the night as helpers if any of the families have emergency needs. (All these activities are within the guidelines of the Family Promise Board.)
      Some times churches are open during tornado seasons at night to be a tornado shelter for any in the community. Safe rooms are designated.
      There are other ways churches serve. I hope some of these might help your small churches.
      Also, my husband agrees with your thought larger churches should partner with the smaller churches by sending some of their ministers to minister to their congregation and nurture then because there can be some beautiful ministries grown from this shared pastoring
      Hope some of these ideas help. As ever, a grey haired minister’s wife, Elizabeth Woods


  2. Claudia Roberts
    March 9, 2018 @ 9:08 am

    First UMC Casper was my home church in the 1960’s. I was last there in August 2016 when I attended my 50th high school reunion. (NCHS). We learned how to serve our neighbors even then. Thanks for continuing the good work. Blessings, Claudia


  3. Diana Obe
    March 10, 2018 @ 10:27 am

    I think part of the reason for church lack of community is that people tend to form relationships at work, or in another type of community setting based on similar interests and not necessarily through their church, and in the business of life let church fall by the wayside unless it is a Sunday visit. Children used to keep us in community in our neighborhood. However, with military transfers, there are no longer any children about. Doors remain shut and not a soul is seen on the streets or in the yards, unless a peddler comes by or one is going from house to car, or walking a dog, or doing some yard work. Our church does have many different groups, appealing to many different needs of support, hobbies, and service to the community which helps make connections, but not necessarily in a neighborhood. “Cell Groups” used to be a big thing down here, and the various groups would meet in homes which facilitated relationships, but not so much now. Perhaps “neighborhood” is being or should be redefined in this day and age??) Our church does work hard on addressing the needs of the community in many ways, such as backpack programs for children at school who can’t afford school lunches or in the summer, don’t have many food sources. In high schools, there are dozens of homeless children attending that need food and clothing, and so on There are members tutoring grade schoolers in inner-city schools, street ministries, jail ministries that bring people together. So Church is in action in many ways, but not traditionally so. We see many inner-city churches doing much outreach in their neighborhoods, but a street barbeque, or music, or other idea to create a gathering. I understand in smaller towns these methods may not be effective. Would love to hear how the different churches brainstorm this issue.


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