Books for congregational study:
Twenty-Eight Members Strong: a Story of one Small Church Finding its Missional Purpose (coming the end of 2015)
This book focuses on the story of one small church as they contemplate their future. The topics of focus are universal for all congregations: the real purpose of the congregation and its mission; saying yes to new ideas; building use; being a visible witness in the community; and the changing role of the pastor. This is a powerful story with great implications for congregations of all sizes. However, this book focuses specifically on the smaller membership church being a healthy and vital community of faith and witness.
The story of “St. Marks” is based on the work I did with a Presbyterian church when I was working as Associate General Presbyter for the Presbytery of New Covenant. I was assigned by the Committee on Ministry to moderate their session beginning in the fall of 2008 and continuing through the summer of 2011 when I moved to New Jersey. Though their story is true, my purpose in telling it is not to merely tell what happened, but to highlight the moments in their story where we see the transformation of this small church. The names of the congregation, the people, and some other details have been changed to, as they say, protect the innocent.
The eight chapters of this book are designed to be used with the leadership of small to medium-sized congregations. The chapters are relatively short and easy to read and digest. Each chapter presents a piece of the story of St. Marks followed by commentary that highlights the transformational and missional concepts at play in the story. Each chapter ends with discussion questions for group reflection.
Chapters will be blogged here weekly beginning in September 2015.
- Chapter 1: A Different Animal — St. Marks thinks the judicatory wants to “close” the church. This chapter focuses on how to begin assessing a congregation’s context, energy, mission, and call.
- Chapter 2: Simply Church — St. Marks’ leadership acknowledges they are close to burnout. They are a very busy and active congregation that is busy repeating last year’s programs. This chapter covers concepts such as: churchianity vs. Christianity and the importance of determining a congregation’s mission, vision, values and beliefs.
- Chapter 3: Paula’s Prayer — Beginning with the question, “tell me about your prayer life,” this chapter tells the story of confession and redemption. The concepts focus on the importance of prayer and the difference between “being church” and “doing church.”
- Chapter 4: “I Need This Church!” — The mission of the congregation comes into clearer focus when one elder tells what he believes God is calling him to do and be. This chapter explores the heart of understanding missional church.
- Chapter 5: Next Year Bring Hymnals! — What happens when one elder whimsically mentions that she’s always dreamed of having an Easter Sunrise Service at her home on the bay? This chapter focused on being permission-giving, authentic, and reaching out to our neighbors.
- Chapter 6: Nothing Can Separate Us — A tragedy calls one member to ministry he may or may not be ready for. This chapter describes the importance of lay leadership, the deploy/debrief style of mentoring, the “with-me” principle and how a congregation becomes a visible witness of Christ.
- Chapter 7: Preaching Class — The elders get ready for on-going spiritual leadership of the congregation. This chapter addresses the changing role of the pastor and some alternative models to pastoral leadership in the small church.
- Chapter 8: To Sell or Not to Sell, That is the Question — The question that had been on the agenda for the church for three years was about selling a piece of the church’s property. This chapter discusses the concept of right-sizing and faithful building use.
Wendy S. Bailey © 2015 (do not reproduce without permission from the author)