Small Church Fund

posted Feb 28, 2013, 7:14 AM by Middle PA District

The membership and attendance numbers continue to show that none of our 55 churches has a sustained growth pattern. Any growth pattern is cyclical – it rises, falls, rises…depending on a number of many different factors. Let me preface the numbers that I am about to share by saying that not all of our churches report their statistics regularly. So given the data we have one can surmise that approximately 23 of our 55 churches have a membership of 100 or less. Yet I believe it is the average attendance figures that paint a more realistic picture of active participants. From those numbers we see that approximately 40 of our churches have an average attendance of less than 100. Of those, 21 churches have less than 50, and 6 churches have less than 25. 

Contrary to the business world thinking, small does not equal an unhealthy or dying congregation. Generally speaking, several of our smaller congregations have a thriving spiritual health yet don’t have the financial or people resources to sustain or secure pastoral leadership, or to provide the programming and ministries necessary to help them in their efforts to grow numerically. 

The Small Church Fund was developed in 1998 to assist congregations with approximately 100 persons or less in worship to develop a ministry they would not be able to do otherwise. This fund was depleted several years ago. Through their visits with congregational leadership from congregations of all sizes, the Coordinating Team has recognized the need for such a fund. 

Inspired by the testimony and vision of one of our own Coordinating Team members, Rich Allison (Lower Claar – Area 1), the Coordinating Team is expanding the vision of the Small Church Fund: Paying it Forward. What Rich has helped us discover is that sometimes a congregation not only doesn’t have the financial resources to develop a ministry or attend to facility needs, they may not have the people resources or the skilled persons (spiritual gifts) within to help attend to those needs. Or sometimes we’ve struggled with a problem or concern so long that a second opinion or pair of eyes to help assess might reveal new opportunities. The Small Church Fund will continue to embrace its original intent, yet we are also working to have people with various skills available to come help congregational leadership assess the need in an effort to find the best solution. Several people with various skills (spiritual gifts) have already committed to being available to help us in the assessment. 

As we step in to assist and provide support, we also want to then challenge the assisted congregation to pay it forward, as they are able. They may pay it forward by giving a financial gift back to the Small Church Fund or they may have a spiritual gift to share and become part of the Small Church Fund support network. Paying it forward is not expected in order to receive Small Church Fund support, but it is our belief that if assisted congregations and others pay it forward in some small way, the Small Church Fund will be available to the needs of the Middle Pennsylvania congregations for years to come. God continues to shower blessings upon us and when we give, we provide an avenue for others to share in the blessings of God. 

Please contact the District Center to inquire about the use of the Small Church Fund.