Small-ish churches – say, 50-100 or so folks on any given Sunday – make up the bulk of my denomination. I don’t have a stat for that, though I’m sure someone else does. When I think of moving back into (paid, active, employed kind of) ministry down the road, it seems that this type of congregation is a likely call. Demographics, mine and the denomination, make it seem likely. So I’ve been paying attention a bit to conversations about small churches, leadership in small churches, and even the gifts of small churches in my reading and in talking with friends.
A couple recent conversations have me thinking about networking, and how that works in smaller communities. In big, mega-sized congregations, it seems that leadership networking thrives on connecting people into small groups, and then creating enough cohesion among the small groups that its still a larger community.
But smaller congregations work differently, and we’ve known that for a long time. One option for the leadership is the organizer model – which at its best gets people motivated and connected with their passions, and at its worst comes off as “what can you do for me” leadership, where people are used rather than known.
Enter Jason Byassee and his post over at Call & Response. He caught my eye with the phrase “creative friendships.” There are some sweet stories in there about people whose openness to resources and relationship are able to meet people and accomplish ministry that otherwise might not have happened. I think he means creative in the sense of generative: that one form of leadership builds friendships from which life-giving ministry can emerge. There isn’t an agenda at the start, other than the notion that when there is work to be done, more minds, resources, connections and brains are more helpful than doing things “all by myself.”
There is a sense of memory, engagement, and paying attention here that speak to me and what I wish for the church. Not just because of the ministry that can be accomplished but because I think we are called to live that way with one another. When “this is how we should live” and “this way of living together would have some good results” overlap, its worth paying some attention.