Practical Helps

Dynamics of a Smaller Church

No two churches are exactly the same. Location, leadership, history, heritage, role in the community, congregational diversity, cultural setting, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the will of God for the congregation–all of these help form the character of a congregation.
In recent years social scientists–sociologists, psychologists, and historians–have studied carefully the dynamics of local churches.

Notes on the Revitalization of Rural Churches

I am pleased that NAMB has launched an initiative aimed at revitalization of churches. While my understanding of their program is limited, it seems to build off of the one that FBC Houston has successfully practiced for the past 30 years or so. Its plan is to have a large church with significant resources to partner with a neighborhood church in a city which has grown weak.

Picture Album of the Church

In the transitional period when a pastor leaves and before the new one comes, it seems to me to be wise to spend some time getting back to basics by studying what the New Testament teachers about the nature and work of the church. This morning we will look at five pictures Paul uses in his letter to the church at Ephesus to help them understand the basic nature of the church.

Practical Help: Introduction

Many small rural churches leaders express a need for help in putting together the work of their church. They want to honor God with vital worship; they want to see the members grow spiritually; they want to reach the unchurched; and they want to see the community about them become a better place. Unfortunately, this is often not what happens.

Practical Help: Events

The life of many smaller churches is enriched by a set of annual events. Carl Dudley has made much of this in his writings about the culture of small churches. Dudley identified four categories of events in the life of a small church. They are as follows…

Practical Help: Projects

Pleasant Hill is a project-doing congregation. It usually has fewer than 30 in Sunday worship. It is growing older. Yet, the people there want to do ministry. They amaze me at the string of ministry projects they do. Let me share but five or six.

Practical Help: Steps

With most events are projects there are about 10 very basic steps that need to be taken. For your convenience I have listed these steps below:
Step 1: Identify a need or set of related needs. Talk about it with other people, in your church, but not necessarily limited to them. See if they share your belief that it is an important need. Children around here need to know more about the teachings of the Bible, our faith, and the Christian life.

Practical Helps: A Church Looking Toward the Future

My goal in this article is to provide guidance for a local church in addressing four basic questions. (1) The general will of God. God’s general will for churches is revealed in Scripture. What moral characteristics and behaviors does God demand of all Christians in a church family relationship? What purposes and goals does God expect church families to pursue? What activities of church families does God approve?

Sure Fire Mission Action Projects

When the word got out on the denominational “grapevine” back in 1986 that a committee was to be formed to work on how the denominational programs and agencies might address the real needs of smaller-membership churches more effectively, I volunteered. The end results…

Where Are You Headed?

A major frustration for the conscientious pastor of a smaller rural or village church may be the way it goes about doing its work. Characteristically, the older, smaller congregation is either in a “maintenance mode” or in a “rescue squad mode.”

And now, presenting the small church!

There are a growing awareness that smaller churches, those with fewer than 40 in average attendance, are a different “breed” than even those twice their size. They are tough, resilient and “hard to kill.” They are survivors. Their standard of success if different from the standards of the denomination or of society.

Harmonica Instruction for the Musically Challenged

Small 10 hole (chromatic) harmonicas come in a variety of keys. C is the key of choice for most beginners. To play along with guitar players a G is the most common choice. (Most guitar players find the G chord to be the easiest one to play. So they will want you to use a G harp.) I think the sweetest sounding harmonica is the D.

Identifying Your Place in Rural America

Rural America has changed significantly in the past 30 years. Anyone who has been involved in the life of rural and small town communities is very much aware of this change. Certainly in any gathering of pastors of rural churches one hears long refrains about change.

Some Thoughts on Leadership in Smaller Membership Churches

Leaders have:

Putting an Event Together

1. Define the purpose
2. Identify the target group
3. Estimate number of participants
4. List resources needed

Seven Keys for Rural Small Church Growth

1. Know how Jesus Looks at your church
2. Know your job as a church
3. The foundation is prayer and waiting…

Rural Evangelism

Southern Baptists and other Evangelicals have produced several fine training programs to help folk be effective witnesses of the Christian Faith. I have profited from the training.

Some Sociological Keys to Small Church Growth

1.Bury “Bertha Betterthanyou”
A moral hierarchy drives many potential converts away.
2.Be “centered” more than “bounded”. Many small churches do not have enough persons continuing in their traditional church “field” to sustain the church.

People Groups and “Stackpoles” in the 21st Century

“Voluntary”groups (people groups) come together around a “stackpole” or organizing principle. For19th century Baptists in the South, our theology was the primary stackpole around which we formed congregations.

Dr. Gary Farley was the Director of Missions for the Pickens Baptist Association (1997-2017). From 1984 to 1997 he worked at the Home Mission Board in the Rural Church Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that role he published many articles pertaining to rural church and community life. Many of these articles have been collected here as a small library. We invite you to freely distribute these materials under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.