Over the last couple weeks, I’ve heard dozens of stories about small churches focusing on the Five Practices, and about the new ministry initiatives that have resulted. A few of my favorite come from right here in Missouri.
For instance, Marvin McMurry UMC in St. Joseph began to think about outreach possibilities and how to impact their community. They decided to till up about a third of their lawn to grow produce for the hungry. They’ve been blessed with an abundant harvest of beans, radishes, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn which they’ve shared with the local food kitchen. I’ve heard of fruitful congregations, but Marvin McMurry is proving to be a vegetable-ful congregation!
The Corder congregation took two adults and four youth to work on a Mission Project in Kennett, focused on housing for migrant workers. The trip also included confirmation training, and so the church united Intentional Faith Development with Risk-Taking Mission and Service in their youth ministry. As their District Superintendent said, “You don’t have to have 30 people to have a successful Volunteers in Mission project!”
The Malta Bend congregation realized that without a community newspaper, their local church newsletter could fill an important need. They revamped their church newsletter and began to distribute it as the community newsletter instead. They include local high school sports schedules and other community announcements as well as info about their church. How cool! Imagine a family that doesn’t have a church home who begins to seek out a congregation in Malta Bend. Don’t you suppose the first place they would visit would be the church that announces their daughter’s volleyball games and highlights the successes of the children in the community?
The common element in all three stories is a growing outward focus to congregational ministry. There are many other stories I’ve heard from small congregations recently—from Virginia, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Michigan, and even Great Britain.
In some ways, I suspected that the churches that would find the Five Practices most helpful would be small to mid-size congregations. The surprise to me has been how many large and very large congregations are also using the Five Practices in remarkable ways to develop a church-wide common language that gives structure and direction to the work of the congregation as a whole. Kirkwood UMC in St. Louis, Providence UMC in Charlotte, Christ Church in Louisville, Platte Woods in Kansas City, First Church in Austin—these are just a few of the many large churches that have already immersed themselves in the language or have plans in the months to come for deeper engagement with the Five Practices.
How have the Five Practices stimulated ministry in your congregation? Do you have a story or a “best practices” idea you would like to share?
Yours in Christ,
We welcome you to Share Your Story!