It's always dangerous to mention a book before reading it all the way through, but I'm going to take the risk. I've started reading Terry Dorsett's newest book Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church. Although we've never met, we have become friends through social media and through our common love for smaller and bivocational churches. I started reading this book last night, and I'm excited about the encouragement I've felt just from reading the first couple of chapters.
Some question how effective smaller churches can be in reaching a younger generation. We often talk about the graying of the church and how difficult it is for many of our existing churches to reach new people for Christ. Well, it is difficult, especially if we continue doing the same things we've always done. However, Terry points out that it's not impossible as he mentions some churches that are doing this very well. I haven't read enough of the book yet to know all he's going to say about how to best do that, but just reading about smaller churches that are successfully reaching a new generation is exciting and should encourage the leaders of these churches that their churches can reach that generation as well.
It's probably not a coincidence that earlier in the day I started reading Terry's book I was with the pastor of a church that long ago celebrated it's 175th anniversary. When he went to the church three years ago it was struggling. Attendance and finances were way down. There were no young people in the church at all. More people were spending their time looking back at the "good old days" than were looking ahead to the future. In three short years the church has tripled in attendance, its finances have improved dramatically, and there are about three dozen young people involved in the life of the church. A number of their parents have come to faith in Christ as well. The church is now considering what it needs to do to sustain this growth and continue it. You may be thinking that it's a good thing that church found themselves a young pastor with a lot of new ideas that could turn that church around. Actually, the pastor is almost 70 years old, and his new idea was that the status quo wasn't acceptable. I might also mention that he had never pastored a church before and had no formal ministerial training.
Many smaller churches are struggling and some will not survive. We're told about 100 churches in the US close their doors every year, and I would assume most of them are smaller. They offer all kinds of reasons why their churches can't reach new people for Christ, but the sad truth is the real fault lies in themselves. Countless other smaller churches such as those mentioned in Terry's book and others I personally know prove that smaller churches can reach the next generation with the gospel. The smaller churches that are dying claim they don't have the resources to reach new people, but it doesn't take a lot of resources; it takes a new mindset. It requires that these churches begin to understand the people who live in their communities, it requires that these churches get outside the comfort of their buildings and begin to engage people where they are, and it requires that they love unchurched people as much as Christ loves them. I can assure you that when you do these three things the resources will follow.
Even though I've only read the first three chapters, I think Terry has provided the smaller church with a great resource in his latest book. I'll do a review in my next e-newsletter after I've read the entire book, but it looks like it's going to be a winner.