Monday, October 24, 2016

The healthy small church

This past weekend I was privileged to lead a "The Healthy Small Church" seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Grace Presbyterian Church. The event was sponsored by the host church and co-sponsored by United Faith Presbyterian Church. We had 52 people register for the event that included Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Methodists, and Church of the Brethren. I've led this workshop for numerous denominational groups across the United States and Canada and comes from my book The Healthy Small Church: Diagnosis and Treatment for the Big Issues. This is my best selling book to date and the seminar I am most often asked to lead.

Too many people view smaller churches in a negative light. They see small churches as unhealthy, outdated, traditional, old, set in their ways, unwilling to change, and so forth. All of these may be true for some churches, but they do not define all smaller churches. Many smaller churches are healthy and robust with great ministries that are making a difference in the lives of their congregations and communities. Even better, for those churches that may not be as healthy as they would like, they can change and become healthier.

The book and the seminar addresses some of the issues that can cause a church to be unhealthy. A church without a vision will not be as healthy as one with a vision that informs the decisions of the church. Worship services that do not lift up people and allow them to experience God in meaningful ways will cause a church to be less healthy. Conflicted churches and churches that are inward focused rather than ministry focused will not be healthy churches. The list goes on.

However, the book and the seminar not only pinpoints some of the issues that cause a church to be unhealthy, they show how a church can address those challenges in ways that will promote health. A healthy church will be a growing church, and a growing church will be more effective in its various ministries.

Judicatory leaders have purchased the book for every pastor in their area of responsibility. Churches have purchased it for their leadership boards and studied it together chapter by chapter. One congregation called asking if they could get a discount if they ordered 100 copies to give to every family in their church. (YES!) A Nazarene pastor in Michigan led his congregation through a study of the book and told me later about the positive impact it made on the church. I later was privileged to preach in that church.

Although the book title indicates it is for small churches, the word small changes for different denominations. A small church in one denomination might well be a mid-size church in another. Also, the issues and principles addressed in the book are applicable to any size church. I intentionally wrote the book using small church examples because few books are written specifically addressing the needs of the smaller church. Everything in the book is equally applicable to larger churches as well.

The folks hosting this latest event did a great job of promoting it and with making sure it was a successful. I thank both the pastoral and lay leaders of these churches for inviting me and making the day special for all who attended.

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