Leading churches

Life in the Small Church

Living out many levels of "family"

In America’s small towns, in its mountain communities, county parishes and rural expanses, you’re usually only a blink away from actual family. You see each other at school sporting events, at reunions, even in the fields and factories—often every day of the week. You pitch in and help at a moment’s notice when there’s a need.

But still, what does it take to create a sense of deep spiritual family in the middle of a busy lifestyle full of family obligations? Two EFCA pastors offer a taste of the opportunities they face daily in their small churches.

Paulo Freire, Pastor, Hope Evangelical Free Church, Sussex, NJ

At times, in a small church, it is difficult to move away from the brother who is bothersome or to embrace the abrasive sister. Yet the small church gives ample opportunity to apply the Romans 12 precept of “one another.” It has been in this small church context that I have experienced true Christian camaraderie, brotherly love, patience over tolerance, sincere forgiveness and long-term friendships. I have witnessed people sharing in each other’s lives and not able to sneak away to another more comfortable group because that group simply did not exist. It is difficult for any pastor to watch people struggle, but it is wonderful to see Christians face their frailties and sins together because they have to—because it is the only alternative.

Dave Coddington, Pastor, Guys Mills Evangelical Free Church, Guys Mills, PA

Part of the fun of ministering in Guys Mills is finding out just how the “family trees” are interconnected. However, this can hinder progress in relationships because, after all, everyone already knows one another. And if they know all that they care to know, how can we go deeper? If our church is at some point able to launch a small-group ministry, it won’t be because our church family needs another opportunity to be with their family. It will be because we sensed a need outside ourselves to go deeper with Christ and to invite others, even those outside the family, to go deeper along with us. If we can see the deep commitment of the family become focused on the mission of God’s family, there will be no stopping this small rural church from accomplishing big things for God.
Diane J. McDougall

Diane J. McDougall has served as editor of EFCA publications, both in print and online, since 1997.

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