Small churches

FINDING NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
THROUGH THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Author
Carolyn Fenner Moss D.Min.
Abstract
This Doctor of Ministry project explores the relationship between Christian community and new technologies in the context of a small, rural, family based Presbyterian congregation. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced technology usage to Slippery Rock Presbyterian Church. This paper describes the demographic, economic and historical context of the congregation. Then, it explores definitions of Christian community, with an emphasis on boundaries that shape Christian communities. It continues considering Old and New Testament Scriptures as they relate to community formation. Finally, the paper presents a project that examined the potential formation of Christian community using a devotional study presented on a Facebook group during Advent 2021.

Encouragement for the small church: Equipping rectors for fruitfulness in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney

Author
Stephen Anderson D.Min.
Abstract
Of itself, church smallness is neither an anomaly, a mistake, nor a virtue. In God’s providence and design, small is normal, and may in fact bring significant strengths. However, no prior research has investigated the distinctive dynamics and challenges faced by rectors of smaller parishes in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, and despite extensive training pathways there is very little leadership development that focuses specifically upon the small church. This mixed-methods research project integrates theological and sociological insights and discoveries in order to equip and encourage these servants of Christ to persevere in fruitful ministry over the long term.

This dissertation presents a complete biblical theology of fruitfulness. Coupling this to the “Robinson-Knox” ecclesiology imbibed by nearly all Sydney Anglican rectors, a “purpose-of-churching” scale is derived to help stimulate theologically consistent models of ministry. At the heart of this project, the Nominal Group Technique is used to generate a list of the Top 7 challenges encountered by a pool of experienced small-church rectors. In light of this robust list along with critical insights from the secondary literature, four follow-up interviews are conducted on location.

This pilot research project includes major findings in three key areas. The full, biblical definition of ministry fruitfulness protects and encourages the small-church pastor, especially when tied to the proper purposes of churching. A perceptive analysis of typical small-church culture arising from the secondary literature equips the rector to lead in ways indigenous to actual church size. At the heart, the Top 7 list of small-church challenges renders a “thick” diagnosis widely applicable by such rectors to their ministry settings. As this project concludes, a fresh, rigorous, semi-linear coaching framework for emerging and established rectors serving in small Anglican parishes is proposed for initial implementation.

Stepping into the unknown : how imaging tools can help rebuild the church for a changed reality

Author
Rudolph Hendrik Van Graan
Abstract
After a discussion on the meta-shift in mainline churches in the United States, the trauma associated with decline, and suggesting building blocks for the future, the author offered three imaging tools, the Vision Board, SoulCollage® and the Visual Faith Project, that might help search committees and leadership teams in small and vulnerable congregations in the United Church of Christ discerning a vision and tangible goals for the future. Although these tools are focused on the individual, the author showed how each one of these tools could be used in the context of a group or a congregation as a whole.

[Note about entry: Abstract submitted to the Atla RIM database on behalf of the author. The text appears in its entirety as it does in the original abstract page of the author’s project paper. Neither words nor content have been edited.]

Cultivating God's farm : using agricultural and biblical stories and seasons to re-seed hope in small rural churches

Author
Rebecca Leigh Collison
Abstract
Through linking agrarian, biblical, and small rural church stories from the lens of farming the land, spiritual growth can be initiated and hope restored to the struggling small rural church. This project was conducted through small group study and discussion in small rural churches in a district of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church. Specific attention was given to one small church over a two-year period where qualitative and quantitative growth was realized as the individuals reclaimed their roots in God’s story and planted seeds of hope through rich layers of shared faith and stories.

[Note about entry: Abstract submitted to the Atla RIM database on behalf of the author. The text appears in its entirety as it does in the original abstract page of the author’s project paper. Neither words nor content have been edited.]

Youth Ministry Planning Tool for Smaller Churches

Author
Nathan Opsata D.Min.
Abstract
This major project created a step-by-step process to help youth ministry leaders plan their youth ministry year. The planning tool was especially designed to guide volunteer-led teams of smaller churches through the planning process in a systematic and complete way by recognizing the strengths and limitations of smaller churches and volunteer leaders. The main deliverables of the step-by-step planning process were to evaluate existing programming, divide the leadership team according to gifting, and to develop a set of guiding documents, including a directory, programming calendar, weekly template with job descriptions, and teaching schedule.

Five smaller evangelical churches were given the tool prior to planning their programming. Interviewing leaders from these youth ministry teams revealed that the tool was helpful in each church, especially for evaluating the success of programming objectives and generating ideas of changes to make. However, the step-by-step process did not allow teams to easily select which components they wished to use and was difficult to adapt for solo-led youth ministries. Furthermore, some ministries and leaders resisted implementing the systems-approach, especially formal job descriptions, in their smaller, family-style ministries.

Developing the spiritual formation of a core group of lay leaders serving in the postmodern, urban context of the Lakeview Neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Author
Jon Richard Pennington
Abstract
The purpose of this project was for at least 7 of Chicagoland Communiy Church's core team of lay leaders to demonstrate significant improvement in their personal spiritual formation. Not only would this benefit the participants, but also it would raise the discipleship capacity of this small church in a challenging center-city environment. This purpose was accomplished with a modest level of success through 'scaffolding' teaching sessions, a sermon series, technological tracking of spiritiual discipliens, multiple forms of evaluation and testing, individiual meetings, and structured pastoral counseling sessions.

The Calling of a Part-Time Pastor Developing a GuideBook for Small Church Pastors in the Reformed Church in America

Author
Warren R Seibert
Abstract
This thesis project is focused on providing assistance to smaller churches in the reformed Church in America in the process of calling a part time pastor. The goal is to produce a guidebook for leaders of these small churches addressing the unique challenges of ministry in a small church with a part time pastor. To this end, the role of part time ministers is explored, both historical and contemporary. This work include personal interviews along with a review of related literature. Theological issues regarding the call to ministry of part time pastors, the mission of the church, and small church leadership are explored.

A Model for Small Church Leadership to Support Thier Minister's Self-Care

Author
Jeremy S Allard
Abstract
The complexity of vocational ministry is difficult to manage and maintain. Balancing the complex nature of the church, relationships, family life, spiritual and personal life provides the minister with a struggle that rarely ceases. Pursuing self-care within this environment can provide relief to the struggle but is difficult to do alone. The study seeks to provide a model for local church leadership to support their minister so he or she can successfully manage ministry and personal life through self-care practices. The project identified ministers employed in Stone-Campbell churches with a weekly attendance of less than 125 in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A survey was sent to these ministers asking what types of support they receive from their congregation and leadership. The results of the survey identified five ministers who received the highest support. These five ministers were interviewed to determine the relationship between the church leadership support and their self care practices. The biblical and theological review examined the imago Dei's relationship with the elements of self-care with a priority towards spiritual formation. The literature review identified six strategies for successful self-care practice. The interviews identified three relationships that influence the practice of a minister's self-care. These relationships are the foundation to the model for how church leadership can support their minister's self-care.

Bringing New Life to a Small Congregation: A Paradigm Shift From Surviving to Thriving

Author
Stephen A Brinkman
Abstract
This project focused on bringing new life to struggling, small congregations and argues that the accelerated decline in small congregations is often due to an identity crisis in a quickly changing world. Through qualitative research, a paradigm emerged that offers a way to recreate a strong sense of identity, while integrating adaptability into the culture and renewing the health of the congregation.
Subscribe to Small churches