Our culture has bought into the “Bigger is Better” mindset – we drive bigger cars than even the Europeans, we want bigger houses, and to build bigger fortunes. Sadly that mentality has spilled over into the Church! However, bigger is not better, it’s only more. Happily, small does not equal second-rate! When small membership congregations use their size to their advantage, they have vital ministries – and their success is no longer measured by attendance in worship! (Stories abound; alas, for a future blog!)
This fall the Wee Kirk Ministry sponsored by PFR (soon to be known as the “2 or 3 Network” sponsored by the Fellowship Community), has met in five regions of the US. Small membership church leaders have flocked together – knowing that at a Wee Kirk event the loneliness/isolation of their call, the stewardship challenges they face, the DNA of small membership church ministry (people-centered, non-programmatic, flexible and informal, having a matriarch &/or patriarch, operating on kairos/people time) would be not only keenly understood, but also addressed.
I’m not promoting Wee Kirk/ the 2 or 3 Network; I’m celebrating it! As the Fellowship Community forges ahead, the small membership church can teach the rest of us all that we need to know about Community! Authentic community exists naturally in small membership congregations. It’s in their nature. Just ask! And guess what? Sustainable community is built at the “Wee Kirk/the 2 or 3 Network” events! Just last week I had dinner with three pastors’ families serving in their first call. They met at a Wee Kirk event and hadn’t known they live in close proximity (due to state lines and presbytery borders)! Now they are fast friends, family friends, and life and ministry supporters. What a wonderful gift for the short term and long haul!
The Fellowship Community gives “place” to people and congregations.
As the U.S. culture and the Church constantly change around them…
The Fellowship Community is a safe, orthodox place to land.
As small churches seek biblically-based, orthodox materials to use for discipleship,
The Fellowship Community will provide recommendations and resources.
As small churches want to be consistently faithful while seeking ideas for reaching out,
The Fellowship Community will offer resources!
If small churches feel isolated and need advocacy,
The Fellowship Community will stand with you – especially via The 2 or 3 Network!
Be watching for “2 or 3 Network” (aka “Wee Kirk”) events coming to your region in 2015. Rumor has it that one of those events will be launched with a Michael Card Concert and that another region has added a “Barnabas Gathering” for TE’s and CRE’s serving in their first call.
Why the name “2 or 3 Network”? Let’s ask one of those who created it – two “small church” practitioners – one from the West Coast; one from the East Coast. Both pastors. Both Wee Kirk Conference Leaders, serving on the National “Wee Kirk/2 or 3 Network” Planning Team.
ATH: What was in your mind as you created the new name “2 or 3 Network”?
Rev. Dr. Tee Gatewood, Montreat Wee Kirk Conference’s Barnabas Gathering Leader:
As we talked about what to call this new network of conferences and relationships I kept going back to the basic promise of Jesus, that where two or more people get together in his name, he will be there in their midst. I hope that connection is obvious; at the least, more obvious to a wider audience than the name Wee Kirk, which I still like.
Rev. Jim Deal, Moderator of the Pacific Northwest Small Church Conference:
As we contemplated a new name for our ministry, I remember thinking, “Keep it short!” The best names always seem to be short (“Amazon”, “Google”, etc.) Yet it also needed to relate to small churches. And the verse which many small churches cling to, which trumpets to the world that they are not TOO small, is Matthew 18:20. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” In a world that values size, power, and influence, small churches can feel inferior. That verse, that promise from our Lord, reminds our small churches that Jesus is present with them. Jesus could have said, “Where two or three hundred are gathered in my name,…” – but he didn’t. It only takes 2 or 3. Small churches have two or three people, so they have the Spirit. What more do you need?
Anne Hillborn is a member of the Presbytery of Charlotte, where she has served as an Associate Pastor for Adult Ministries and Missional Development, respectively. Anne has a Doctor of Ministry degree is in Christian Spirituality and Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary – a program she which designed and presented to the Seminary! Her passion is Spiritual Formation and she is enjoying the challenge of writing and teaching online Doctor of Ministry classes in the field.
In 1984, she and her pastor husband Scott attended their first Wee Kirk Conference – a lifesaver for them as they served their first small church in a surprisingly cross-cultural situation. There she sensed “the call” to serve God in the Wee Kirk ministry. In 1986 she joined the Montreat Wee Kirk Conference Planning Team where she served as a team member, director and moderator. In 1997 she was the moderator for the inaugural West Coast Wee Kirk Conference. From 2006-2011 she served on the PFR board to advocate for leaders in “the majority church” in the world as they actively engage in diminishing barriers between faith and unbelief. A member of the Fellowship Community board, Anne continues to advocate for those same small membership church leaders.