As the Fellowship Community “stays in…while reaching out”, the 2 or 3 Network (aka “Wee Kirk”) will do the same! The richness of small membership church ministry will reach out beyond “Wee Kirk” borders! We’ll be reaching out to share this UNIQUE ministry with folks in other denominations.
In July 2014, the National Wee Kirk Planning Team met to seek God’s face and will. Using design theory, combined with much prayer, energy and imagination, leaders from around the country discerned that God was calling this to be a movement with a strong networking component. We decided to create unique venues by region to allow for the highest possible effectiveness. (And yes, venues will be offered technologically, too). We considered that the name “Wee Kirk” (Scottish for “small church”) could seem limiting since it represents our heritage in relation to John Knox – and perhaps not the heritage of others. Two bright, thoughtful, creative small membership church pastors invented the name “2 or 3 Network”! In an earlier blog, Rev. Dr. Tee Gatewood, Montreat Wee Kirk Conference’s Barnabas Gathering Leader and Rev. Jim Deal, Moderator of the Pacific Northwest Small Church Conference, addressed the importance of Matthew 18:20 for the small church: “that promise from our Lord, reminds our small churches that Jesus is present with them.”
They added these insights:
Running through the back of my mind was the need to expand the reach of our ministry to non-Presbyterian churches. Presbyterians like “Wee Kirk” because it reminds us of our Scottish heritage through John Knox. But honestly, the name might be a barrier to a small Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist church participating. And what we have in the Small Church Ministry is so unique, so special, that we want to share it with all kinds of small churches!
ATH: What makes “2 or 3 Network” an effective name in relation to the goals of the ministry?
First, it is not too long. The whole name is only five syllables. But even more than that, I believe it speaks to the needs of the small church. Small churches, and their leadership, can tend to feel isolated. Part of the genius of the small church conferences is not what happens during the formal programming (listening to a good speaker, participating in meaningful workshops and inspiring worship), but what happens over the dinner table, as small church leaders get to know each other, “networking” for more effective ministry.
Because it reminds us of the promise of the Jesus I think the name cuts against the reigning cultural assumption that bigger is always better. That assumption is so deep and so wide that it hard for small church pastors and people to really believe that God is both with them and is using them in his mission for the good of his world. I encounter this every year at our conference. CLP’s and Pastors in Barnabas feel discouraged, defeated, and doomed because they are not big and more than likely never will be. Going back to the promise of the Lord reminds us that it just isn’t about us, our strength or our numbers. The hope of the church, big or small, is in the ongoing work of Jesus. All of that for me is bound up in the name and could make it an effective means of drawing in small church pastors and people.
ATH: How do you see the “2 or 3 Network” addressing concerns of small membership churches and their leaders in the near future?
Christians on the whole, and small churches in particular, face daunting challenges: an aging population, an increasingly rapid pace of change, and marginalization by the larger culture. The temptation, and perhaps this is especially true for small churches, is to retreat into the past. Yet the call of Christ is to engage our communities, to love our neighbors, and to spread hope, joy, peace, and love. More than anything, I believe the small church network can offer a sense of hope to small church leaders. As they hear about the creative ways in which other small churches are ministering effectively, small church leaders are emboldened to go back home and try new ministries appropriate for their unique contexts.
I think that we will continue to provide quality events where Pastors and Elders are encouraged, fed and given the space to rest and fellowship. That is where this whole project got started and what has given it traction. If the Fellowship Community can integrate some of the event participants into ongoing relationships of accountability and mission then that would really take what is already good to the next level of faithfulness.
ATH: What do you hope will happen as “2 or 3 Network” expands beyond PCUSA into the Reformed Community and perhaps beyond?
I hope that small churches everywhere will become healthier, more effective, and more focused on their mission. I also hope that barriers will be broken down, as leaders discover that regardless of the denominational name on the door, what we have in common is so much more important than whatever divides us. Perhaps God will use the 2 or 3 Network to help bring about Christ’s prayer for his disciples in John 17, that “they might all be one.”! I also think one of the great contributions of our Presbyterian heritage is thoughtful theology. All churches everywhere could become more effective by thinking more deeply and critically about theological matters.
That small member congregations will go even deeper in relationships of equipping and encouraging across denominational lines. I think that many small member churches have been post-denominational for a long time. Not necessarily due to theology or ecumenical interest but due to necessity. For example, our local ministry that provides food to the community draws people from the Catholic church including Baptist, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Methodist. Building on those kind of experiences the 2/3 network could provide a deeper recognition of shared ministry for smaller churches.
ATH: What else would you like our FC readers to know about the paradigm shift we are making?
A few years ago, Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book, “The Prayer of Jabez”, based on 1 Chronicles 4:10. The essence of that prayer is that God would “expand our territory of ministry.” We believe that God is calling our small church ministry to “expand its territory” beyond the PCUSA, and even beyond Presbyterianism? Why? Because no other group, in any denomination, has such a ministry specifically geared and equipped to minister to the unique needs of the small church. We have been blessed by our small church ministry, and now we feel called to share that blessing with others. For too long, we have taken our talent for increasing the effectiveness of small churches, and we have buried it within Presbyterianism! It is time for us go and trade that talent into the marketplace of ideas and multiple denominations, so that the blessing may increase. As it was for the servants, this venture is not without risks. However, we believe that God is blessing this expansion of our ministry. And how can we not minister to the great need for effective churches of all sizes? The field is white with the harvest!
And so it is!
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.