Last is the new first. Least is the new great.
Doesn’t it stand to reason that in the Kingdom of God. . .
Small might be the new big?!
Did you know the average church in America hosts about 150 people per week? And half of the churches in America host under 75 souls?
Something struck us recently at Seedbed. We were talking with a small church pastor who brought to our attention that all the focus seems to go to the big churches. She asked us, “What would it look like for Seedbed to become a champion of the small church?”
We are ready to take a swing at that fence.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve asked for stories of churches whose weekly average attendance is 150 or less that are doing exceptional, extravagant, extraordinary, or just extra good Kingdom-of-God-on-Earth-as-it-is-in-Heaven kind of work.
We heard incredibly powerful testimonies of local church work in communities across the country, and we can’t help but share them with you. Keep doing what you’re doing. We’re behind you 1,000%.
Meet the Churches
Churches with weekly average attendance of less than 50
Balatan United Methodist Church
Pastor: Lori VonHoltum
Balatan is a small rural farm community of 630 people. they are representative of most rural communities.The way of life is changing, town is diminishing in size, young people are moving away. Sunday morning has less than 50. Yet every Wednesday night they have over 100 youth in their weekly youth event called Jesus And Me (JAM). Over 100 youth in a town that doesn’t have that many youth and in a small building that seats maybe 55. They come in from all over. Why? Two pastor’s and a couple of laity decided to put denominational differences aside – the Lutheran pastor and the methodist licensed pastor Lori. Together they have decided to put all their efforts in raising up youth in the faith. They have trained up countless volunteers as it takes the whole of both of these humble congregations to meet the weekly needs of that kind of ministry. Each week they open in worship all together at one church (standing room only) and then break into small groups with half of them taking the walk down to the equally modest Lutheran church. As a DS I can tell you they lead the 77 churches in my district in reaching youth and children. They do what churches in towns of 50,000 can not do. I attribute much to Pastor Lori’s heart for Jesus, her relationship with Pastor Dave (I think that’s his name) and her incarnational leadership – she’s one of them. She comes from the farm, and has a heart for rural church.
Elsah United Methodist Church, Elsah, IL
Pastor: Steve Barrett
The Elsah UMC averages about 22 in weekly attendance. After spending significant time in discipling work, the church decided to support its pastor through outreach to a local youth correctional facility. The church provides a pianist, pastor, hymnals, and Holy Communion supplies so a full worship service can be held weekly in the correctional facility. Since the Summer of 2016, 10 of the youth have received Christ as their Savior and 17 have been baptized.
Further, over the last year, the church has experienced 20% growth on profession of faith due to the church’s focus on hospitality, preaching, and discipleship.
Debra Heights Wesleyan Church, Des Moines, IA
Pastor: Jeremy Geerdes
Debra Heights Wesleyan Church demonstrates an exceptional commitment to demonstrating the love of Jesus to its community. In 2016, the congregation forged partnerships with three other community congregations, the local neighborhood association, and Des Moines Public Schools. In addition, the congregation hosted a 10,000+ community Easter egg hunt; partnered with another congregation to sponsor teacher/staff appreciation BBQs at two neighborhood schools and deliver more than 30 dozen cupcakes to a the school district’s bus drivers, IT department, and more; hosted a FREE sale to give away thousands of pounds of household goods; and donated almost $500 in gift cards to be used by neighborhood families to purchase school supplies. The church also opened its facility to a variety of community events and organizations. In addition, the congregation embraced a family of Ethiopian refugees, providing them with clothing, blankets, furniture, and more.
Holmes United Methodist Church, Reynolds, ND
Pastor: Rev. Sheri Fadley
In December 1988, the Holmes UMC produced their first Live Nativity Program at the Ollman Farm. Rev. Mark Ellingson wrote the drama and a crew of dedicated parishioners acted out the Christmas story in a barn out on the prairie. Every year for two nights just before Christmas, the congregation comes together to set up the barn, tend to costumes, and the animals. This is a “”cowboy”” version of the nativity story, as the magi ride in on horses! They connect with neighbors and friends to bring in their animals and wagons or sleighs.
In recent years, we have extended our hospitality by making sure the fields are safe for parking and we are handicapped accessible. Thousands of people from all over have come out for the Live Nativity for 29 years. They have never cancelled a program, performing the dramas in -40* temperatures, snowstorms, ice storms, and even in rain! The congregation joins in by singing the carols as the story is told and the performers move from one part of the barn to another. Last year, I believe our furthest visitor was an exchange student from the Ukraine! Many congregations have live nativity programs, but often they are drive by scenes. With the Holmes Live Nativity, people experience the cold, the smells, the sounds of the nativity. Hot apple cider is served, wagon or sleigh rides are available. The drama group also brings the program into area nursing homes earlier in the month, which is something the residents look forward to every year.
There is something very special about driving out to the country on a cold winter’s night, seeing the myriad of stars in the sky, hearing the lowing of the cows, the donkey braying, and sheep baa-ing which brings Christ’s birth alive for those of us who are privileged to perform and for those families and friends who make the pilgrimage. Christmas carols like “”Away in the Manger,”” “”Silent Night”” and “”O Little Town of Bethlehem”” come alive and have fresh meaning for our visitors.
The Holmes Live Nativity has received a lot of local coverage from the Grand Forks Herald and the Fargo Forum and the local television and radio stations. One year, a picture showed up on the front page of the New York Times! It’s a joy to see Christ’s story travel so far from such a rural place. There are pictures on our Facebook page Holmes United Methodist Church.
The Christmas Spirit is definitely alive and well in this little church on the prairie!
Trinity Wesleyan Church, Seagrove, NC
Pastor: Josh LeRoy
My husband has been pastor of this small country church for almost 3 years. When we first arrived we were surprised by how well they loved the people in the community. So much is accomplished by this church especially when someone is in need. They rally up needed resources for the cause. They love big and we are blessed to be a part of it.
NewDay Community Church, Versailles, KY
Pastor: Gabe Lawson
They are home for people who have no home — drug addicts, homeless, abandoned, single moms, singles. Many conversions and baptism have taken place. They’ve also faithfully loved their young leaders/pastors. Their depth of compassion is astounding.
Tuttle United Methodist Church, Tuttle, ND
Pastor: Steve Behrens
In a town of 80 people this church host a VBS program each year that attracts over 50 children with about 35 volunteers also. They also have a Christmas program that has 30 to 40 people involved from preschool to adults. They now have branched out and are hosting a Christian education in a suburb of the capital city of North Dakota because there was no UM presence in the town. Right now they have 6 -8 children and 4 helpers meeting each Wednesday afternoon. Since there is no church they can use they meet in the conference room of a local contractor. They really are serious about reaching children. They also make clothing each year to send to missionaries in third world countries, sending 50 to 60 dresses and shorts each year.
Knox Knolls Free Methodist Church, Springfield, IL
Pastor: Tyler Boyer
“Knox Knolls had a house donated to it in an impoverished neighborhood of Springfield IL. They formed a missional community of female ministers there dedicated to loving their neighbors by feeding the hungry, mentoring kids, and making disciples. After receiving a grant the church just bought a second house in the neighborhood which is housing male ministers who are using athletics as a means to teach kids for Christ. Though it’s a small church they are impacting neighborhoods in Springfield in simple yet powerful ways for Jesus.”
“This congregation works together consistently to reach out into the community. It is a small church with a big heart for service and hospitality. It works to stretch beyond own walls to see their neighbors and actively open their time and resources to care for their neighbors wherever they are. This church hosts youth group and young kids church, collects shoes for family missionaries to disperse, prioritizes including kids from rougher neighborhoods, has an incarnational house ministry in the rougher part of Springfield. This Church hosts space for any to come see Jesus and experience God together, and just as you are.
I’ve only been a part of this church for just over 2 years, and it is the closest thing to family I have outside of my blood family. The way we all love each other and also love Jesus by loving others outside of this building is a real beautiful thing. We have many ministries started up by members themselves. Like our Ladies Eat Cake night once a month where all the women gather and learn and build each other up. Our children and youth groups we have on Sundays, our Fill The Fridge once a month to help those in more need than ourselves when it gets close to the end of the month and food stamps run scarce. And my favorite ministry is what we’ve started calling Reside Ministry. My roommate Nicole and I live on the opposite side of town as our church in the inner city area where we reach out and are available to our neighbors. Then we just recently started a guy house doing the same thing just one street over. And our church backs us up fully on these endeavors. It’s amazing. The ways we see God moving in our church is unexplainable. I’m so thankful and gracious to get to be a witness to it as well as be involved in it. I don’t like to pick church favorites, but if I did it would be this place. 🙂
Oh gosh. Where do I begin?? When I was attending Lincoln Christian University I needed to find an internship and quick! One of my professors told me about an email he had received from Tyler Boyer about needing a female for a fall internship. Talk about God thing! There was introduction to KKFMC. When I finally got approved and visited the church and met the Laurel House girls I was ecstatic! I was to be the first intern for KKFMC Laurel House. What’s Laurel House? Well, it’s basically taking the concept of “loving thy neighbor” to its very core. Laurel House sits on the corner of, you guessed it, Laurel and Pope. This neighborhood isn’t the best of neighborhoods and some would even say it’s part of the hood. However, living in the house, you tear down that wall of insecurity and misunderstanding to realize that these people really are just people. (This isn’t to say that Laure House/KKFMC don’t take precautions.) LH is a place that is simply a house with girls living in it, loving their neighbors in a godly way. Since my internship in the fall of 2015 we have added Gregory House! Which sits on Gregory not too far from Laurel. Gregory is where the guys live. (Okay, truth be told only one guy lives there right now, but we are patiently waiting for God to provide.) Knox Knolls not only showed me love and compassion during my internship they showed me God in the deepest way. They still do continue to do that and I want the whole world to know that KKFMC isn’t just a small church, it’s a community of believers who love each other, love their neighbors, and love God. This is why I have continued to go to this church and that’s why this little church is a BIG deal.
Although Knox Knolls is small, our church makes a BIG impact in the community. We have two houses in a lower-income class neighborhood in which the residents practice incarnational ministry. We treat each other like family and love bringing new people into our family.
South Gorham Baptist Church, Gorham, ME
They bring healing and no judgement to God’s people.
Ever Present, Batavia, NY
Pastors: Jason and Michelle Norton
Trying to bring all the churches in Batavia into UNITY!! On August 25-26 we are calling for all churches to participate in the here and now festival, praying to our Father for a REVIVAL in our city that we desperately need! Elevation Worship will be joining The City of Batavia. This event is free so they are working on sponsors. They also believe in our God given gifts to be used!! They have asked our youth (12yrs-17yrs old) worship band Kingdom Come to lead worship once a month for their church to release each one into what God is calling them to fulfill. Praise God!! We have been blessed by them & the vision Our Father has given Jason and Michelle!!!
The Warehouse, Darien, NY
Pastors: Rich and Jessica Ohlson
Rich & Jessica pick up children in Batavia every Saturday night & bring them to The Warehouse. They serve them dinner, play games, give them clothes and give them food to take home! Their own children lead worship and Rich gives the kiddos a MESSAGE.
His ministry is called Ride to Recovery and his testimony is amazing! He takes the kids biking and they also have a camp!!! Amazing people!
Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Gholson, TX
Pastor: Jimmy Sansom
Our church motto is prayers answered here, and we are working to fulfill that motto by providing a FREE weekly food pantry to anyone in need regardless of financial status. Just last week alone, we distributed 18 pallets of dry goods, breads, pastries, produce, and milk/juices to 153 households in our area! This does not include our in house food pantry that is open to those in need as well with no questions asked. Our door is always open!
Woodland – Bold Springs United Methodist Church, Cairo & Ochlocknee, GA
Pastor: Charles Whatley
Our mission is “growing in love, sharing in worship, and reaching out in prayer.” So we focus on one mission project each month, meet together every fifth Sunday, and have a “road trip” chair to plan outings for members. We share in worship by including the congregation in leading worship; every Sunday at least 20 people lead parts of our worship in two churches with about 40+ in worship! And we coordinate the National Day Of Prayer for our county, place prayer request boxes in businesses and in every school in our country, started a school administrators’ prayer breakfast in August and a community heroes prayer breakfast in September, sponsored a 24-7 prayer site for Inauguration Day and plan several 24-7 prayer sites during the year, publish a rather extensive prayer list, and we end every worship service with a prayer circle at the altar praying for the requests from the prayer boxes.
Pueblo Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA
Pastor: Rich Sander
Pueblo Free Methodist is a church plant that grew out of an intentional faith community on the Westside of Santa Barbara. This group of people took incredible care to build relationships in a predominantly Latino and Spanish-speaking neighborhood that is often overlooked by the greater Santa Barbara community and is the neighborhood with the highest level of poverty in our city. They are building the church alongside core members of the Westside community and they have waded through the beautiful awkwardness of navigating cultural differences and world views to establish incredible cross-cultural relationships that are so counter to normal operations in Santa Barbara. Pueblo Free Methodist is a light in our community and have set such a great example to the rest of us of what it means to devote ourselves to our neighborhoods and establish Jesus communities that are accessible and hospitable to those around us.
Ayikuma Methodist Church, Accra-Dodowa-Ayikuma, Ghana
Pastor: Evangelist Vincent Nartey
Even without a great number the church lives up the mandate to train and prepare the its members for heaven not neglecting the duty of winning souls to the Lord.
Agormeda Methodist Church, Accra, Ghana
Pastor: Very Rev. Raph Quaye
Even without church buildings they still meet and worship religiously and dutifully.
Huckleberry Springs, Knoxville, TN
Worship leader: Chris Boyens
A formerly closed UMC building acquired by the cemetery trustees and reopened as a non-denominational church starting services in August 2017 with around 12 people has grown now to an ave attendance of 25-30 people (with about 1/3 children). The greatest news though is that only about 4 people in the entire congregation were in church previously. They have SS, Wed night Bible study, plus other times of gathering. This week there are full Holy Week services. They did food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas; they had a trunk or treat and will be having a community egg hunt. These folks are serious about sowing the Word!
Churches with weekly average attendance of 51-100
Scipio United Methodist Church, Scipio, IN
Pastor: Dereck Fields
This church is located in a small rural community that has a huge drug (meth) problem. Its weekly worship attendance was down to only 35 or so and now it’s averaging around 60 people a Sunday. Although I’m not a member of this church, when I was working with them on a ministry outreach project, it became very clear to me that they truly care about those outside their congregation. They have a young mom’s support group, a significant VBS ministry, participate in the community’s food bank, and are intentionally building relationships with the unchurched through these outreach efforts. The church is preparing to launch a Thursday night worship service–that will include a free meal, children’s ministry, and special bands–for those they know will not come to their early Sunday morning service in their sanctuary. So, they’re building an outdoor shelter house in which they’re going to start the new Thursday service so that outsiders will feel more comfortable.
First Methodist Humboldt, Humboldt, TN
The average age is over 70 but always steps up for community service. Dollar ministry where we take money collected and randomly given away, in the form of gas or grocery, at Easter and Christmas.
Home Church, Nashville, TN
Pastor: Jason McAnally
They have located themselves in the midst of the largest area of government housing in the country. They are a church plant starting with this kind of vision.
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Etowah, Etowah, TN
Pastor: Wayne Hickman
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Etowah is small church with a large outreach. WMUMC has a food pantry which is by and for the community of Etowah. It is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am to Noon every week. They serve over 200 people a month. WMUMC has a after school program Monday through Friday from 3-6 pm and have around 32 children involved with the program. In the summer, they offer care the children from 7:30 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday for eight weeks during the summer break. WMUMC has a sports outreach with Upward Flag Football and cheerleading, Wesley winter basketball and Wesley sports soccer. The flag football had 87 participants and twelve teams. The soccer had around 38 and the basketball had 20, these two programs are only pre-K to second grade, while flag football was up to fifth grade. The weekend before school starts in the fall we have a back pack giver away loaded with school supplies for the children. We provided around 80 back packs. For Halloween, it is called Street of Treats, we gave out candy and handed out Bibles to all who came by, we provided around 20 Bible to families. One of the recipients accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. We support foreign missions with food buckets and back pack for schools also. The UMW (women’s mission society) Help with providing meals for the homeless in the adjoining town of Athens, TN. Plus they support many local and foreign missions monetarily also. Thank you.
Stevenson’s Chapel United Methodist Church, Russellville, KY
Currently without a pastor and with layspeakers filling in
We are a small country church surrounded by cornfields but we have the most amazing attendance with younger families and their children. I walked into this church almost 6 years ago as a Michigander who had moved south and I’ve never left yet. We have had some big struggles the past year with our Pastor of five years being assigned to another church and we have had to have layspeakers fill in for awhile now. We can only afford a part time Pastor but our hearts are for a shepherd that will poor into us like we have into each other and into the community. We strive to make our church a safe place for all kids of all ages to attend and we can have as many as 20 older youth on Sunday nights and almost as many younger youth. We have a thriving adult bible study and we have managed to pay our older youth’s camp fees completely for three years in a row by church-wide fundraisers and personal sponsorships. Our church has a heart for Christ and a heart to reach the broken and show them the love and mercy of Christ. My 12 year old son recently said when leaving a United Methodist Women’s meeting “I love those meetings because I feel like I am surrounded by a bunch of grandmas.” Stevenson’s Chapel may be small but they are mighty and take you in like you’re family and I am so thankful to them. Whenever a member of the district comes to our church they are amazed at all the children we have for our size. God keeps sending us these families and we are so thankful.
Rhems United Methodist Church, New Bern, NC
Pastor: Rev. Connie Stutts
Rhems United Methodist Church is a church with a heart for the refugees from Myanmar (Burma). Through their abundant generosity of heart, refugees have found a place to call home. Worship reflects the fruits of this gift of generous hospitality as new neighbors become friends, church members, and leaders in the church at all levels. Scripture each Sunday is read first in the Burmese language and then in English. The worshiping congregation fully reflects a community of faith that celebrates the expansion of the Kingdom of God that empowers all God’s people to thrive. The church received a $14,650 grant to begin a program to empower refugees to serve as leaders in the church, “Raising Refugees as Leaders.” The church offers ESL Classes, Citizenship Classes, Exercise Classes, and Dance Classes that have brought together two cultures into one beautiful movement. Rhems UMC has been designated as a “Thriving Rural Communities” Church.
Center Church, Richmond, VA
Pastor: Stephen Poore
Center Church in Richmond, VA is a unique Christian community in the city of Richmond, for the people of Richmond. Center Church is focused on “”empowering individuals towards a life giving journey with Jesus.”” Center church intentionally partners with inner city schools, local literacy programs and practical assistance in local housing projects. Center Church’s focus is taking the church outside of its physical walls as opposed to getting people to come to church.
Center Church routinely takes a rest from Sunday worship and the congregation will serve an area of need in the city. Center church is a small but vibrant expression of faith that represents a diverse demographic, that anyone can engage with a tag line often said around the church is “”you can belong before you believe.”” Center Church is making a big difference in the city of Richmond, specifically because it is different.
Martin Chapel Fellowship, McMinnville, TN
Pastor: Carol Ann Richardson
This young Methodist Mission Church was birthed out of a need that Carol Ann, Lay Minister, discerned while visiting those incarcerated and those in need of drug and alcohol rehab. She recognized that after being released from jail and rehab they needed a safe haven to be nurtured in a loving Christian church. The motto of Martin Chapel is “Building Relationships Not Religion. We are better together”.
Martin Chapel started out a few years ago with a handful of people and today attendance is around 55. A eclectic group of sinners attends this church growing in the knowledge and grace of Christ, learning to love our neighbors as ourselves and being transformed more into the image of Jesus.
Martin Chapel works very closely with the Hope Center in Warren Co., TN. It is a place that provides HOPE for those who seek to live a better and more productive life through recovery and the improvement of life skills. It is a place where people get a hand up, not a hand out. It’s all about giving HOPE to those in our community. They offer a variety of classes and support groups in the daytime and evenings. Carol Ann, the Pastor at Martin Chapel is also the Volunteer Director of the Hope Center. She works tirelessly as a Pastor and Director of the Center. Carol Ann frequently along with church members visits jails and makes arrangements for those in need of rehab. The love of Jesus shines through Carol Ann and the congregation as they strive to live out the Christian life! Everyone is welcome and loved and no one who enters the doors of Martin Chapel leaves without a hug and kiss from the Pastor!
Riverview First United Methodist Church, Riverview, FL
Pastor: Rev. Merritt A. Waters
It’s Restore Food Pantry reached out to over 20,000 People in Need last year (2016).
Southside Wesleyan Church, Gas City, IN
Pastor: Rev Brent Miller
In the last four years Pastor Brent has lead this congregation in a turnaround from only 30 people to pushing 100 in attendance. They’ve got a youth group pushing 30 students and an AWANA program reaching over 40 families in this community. They’re not big, but they have a HUGE impact in the economically depressed community. If it weren’t for Southside, there are a number of families who would have no hope or help showing them there is more to life than the rat race.
The High Ground, Radcliff, KY
Pastor: Teanna Allen
We give people space to discover Jesus. We have monthly hangouts that allow people in the community to come see for themselves what true community is. Its a low threat , authentic environment where we come with all our brokenness & worship our amazing Creator together & help each other heal & transform. I have seen numerous lives changed since I got here two years ago, including my own.
Milwaukee Charge United Methodist Churches, Conway, NC
Pastor: Susan Harrison
The Milwaukee Charge UMC is actually four small churches that work together for big impact in their communities. Each is a big deal for doing something for the community to the glory of God. Severn UMC, located in a town with only a peanut factory, part-time post office, town hall, a few houses, a cafe open for lunch to serve the factory, and a few churches, has average attendance of 5-7. They have no gas station, bank, or stores. A Severn member has led the charge in providing creative teacher appreciation gifts to 120 teacher and staff throughout the Spring (weekly last year, biweekly this year). Each gifts includes a hand-drawn note of appreciation with a creative quip to go with the small gift (candy, supplies) and a sticker with appreciation from the each of the churches (always representing Jesus!). Severn members were key leaders in the charge VBS last year and are present at every event of the charge. They also helped their sister church Woodland with a financial gift and manpower when Woodland’s church flooded with a frozen pipe in 2014. Members are also active in community leadership and volunteer at the elementary school. Severn recently celebrated their 200th anniversary with a homecoming-style event that brought in the entire community and filled the church.
Woodland is the next largest church on the charge, with average worship attendance of 10. In January 2016, this church was struggling financially and not very active outside of Sunday morning. They were challenged to step up as a church, and they responded by forming a new community-wide Bible study group and voting to let community activities meet in the church. A diverse (black, white, Quaker, Baptist, Methodist, rich, poor, Democrat, Republican, active in church and inactive) group of 11 from across the community completed Alpha and now an average attendance of 15 at Disciple Bible Study, which includes not only the Woodland community, but also members from two of their sister churches. 80% of this church’s Sunday worshippers are in one of two charge Bible studies. This church is also active in efforts initiated by the new mayor to revitalize and unify this little rural community of 700. Church members worked together with others across the community during 2016 begin summer fun days in the low-income housing and in the community park for the area children, an Easter parade, Easter Egg Hunt, Thanksgiving meal for 175 senior citizens, Day of Prayer, Veterans Day, a walking group, National Night Out, Christmas Caroling, craft sale — all new in 2016. New activities this year include a Couch to 5K Program, May Day, Woodland Heritage Day, a quilting group, arts and crafts events, more youth recreation, adult exercise, and senior adult activities. Members also deliver meals on wheels and help raise money for community needs. The church is also beginning to work on developing a community garden on the church grounds, meeting with and seeking interested community members, research and training, and meeting with potential grantors, in order to address the nutrition and health needs of the community, which has no grocery store other than a dollar store and no major grocery store in the entire county.
Bethany is the next larger church, with average attendance of 25, and with a particular ministry with senior adults. Bethany members (and members of Woodland) deliver meals on wheels, collect food for the area senior center, volunteer at the fire department, visit and care for nursing home-bound members, and host games two afternoons each month in their community center for the senior adults in the community. Bethany members also designed and painted the set and background for VBS at Zion and an 80 year old member helped lead the 4 year olds!
Zion is the larger and most rural of the churches, with average attendance of 28. Zion has a particular emphasis on ministries with children and their families. In 2015, Zion took children and their families Christmas caroling in a trailer around the community. In 2016, Zion hosted an Easter Egg hunt, Christmas caroling, and their first VBS in over 15 years, inviting children from throughout the community. We expected maybe 20 children for VBS, and we had 66 almost every night through the week, and 45 adults from all four churches in the charge helping with leadership.
As a whole charge, we have another Bible study group of 13 that meets at the parsonage, and that also includes members from throughout the community. The charge churches have helped the schools with backpack meals for children in need in the past, but that program is not currently active. Instead we are collecting personal care items and food for the middle school students.
I am submitting this for the entire charge, rather than for individual churches because while each church has its own emphasis and opportunities, its own part of the body of Christ, they work together to support and help each to fulfill their callings, financially, with manpower, and by participating in the events. The Northampton County area, particularly the eastern part of the county, is small and rural, but these four churches work together to serve Jesus and make an impact in the community with their unique gifts and calling!
Ginter Park United Methodist Church, Richmond, VA
Pastor: Dr. Dennis Lipke
Ginter Park UMC ministers to the community of its location which includes two Sunday Worship Services and an active program for children and youth. We share our facility each Sunday with Christian Missionary Fellowship who offer worship to their constituents. Our Food Pantry and Clothes Closet respond to the needs of some of our neighbors, and we also host CARITAS [a group of employed homeless individuals housed in our Social Hall] for a week every year. The Bon Secours Care-a-Van [provides health care for the uninsured] is hosted on our site at least once a month–and recently twice a month while their other venue is under renovation. Our Pumpkin Patch is both a fundraiser and an outreach program [providing coats for local individuals] in the fall. We are currently developing the possibility of sponsoring a Refugee family through Church World Service. [PP] Shalom Farms [a group that works with communities to insure access to healthy food and the support to lead healthy lives] occupies the first floor of Smithdeal House [a former parsonage developed for community offices] and Embrace Richmond uses part of the third floor of our Education Building. Stepping Stones Career Training School is almost finished renovating a major part of the third floor of the Education Building and will soon be offering technical training to provide young people with skills to enable them to become productive citizens. [PP] We are celebrating our 100th Anniversary [100 years of service to the community of Ginter Park] 1917-2017
Caldwell Friends Church, Caldwell, ID
Pastor: Donald Brown
They truly love people. They love them where they are and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives instead of trying to force change on them. They involve youth in ministering, singing, collecting offering, and more. They have a nice balance of men and women in leadership and create places of ministry for a variety of spiritual gifts. This is a very special small church that is making a big difference in people’s lives.
Asbury United Methodist Church, Rural Retreat, VA
Pastor: Bill Scheonenman
This small church almost closed 11 years ago with an average attendance of 9. This church is thriving and growing average attendance now is 52. It has a wonderful chores Sunday school program now and a awesome women’s group and nursing home ministry. This church is salvation driven and continues to be a light in the community after some years of not shining so bright. Professions of faith ND baptism have been regular occurrences as well as the focus here for the last several years.
Kendricks Creek United Methodist Church, Kingsport, TN
Pastor: Stephen Hopkins
This church has been around since 1886; the community has changed a lot since then moving from predominantly rural farmland to a wealthier suburban area. Kendricks Creek has stood throughout that time as a voice of hope in the middle of this community. Though probably the smallest church in this suburban area (in part because of it’s physical size and location), this church has a significant local and global impact. A few local ministries include outreach and work with local abused women’s shelters, the Jubilee Project in Sneedville, TN (the poorest county in the state), and partnership with the Hope House in Kingsport, TN (This agency provides support for pregnant mothers and seeks to provide a community based support system for mothers considering abortion. KCUMC does work on the physical house and offers an in-house Bible Study for clients of the facility.) On the first Monday of every month, the Church offers something called “”Cooks Night Off!”” This evening is focused on the low-income residents of our community (of whom there are few, but in close proximity to the church). A free community meal is offered in conjunction with a food pantry and clothes closet.
One of the coolest things that this church does is their “”Cross Ministry.”” A group of roughly five older gentlemen, all over 70, cut small wooden crosses in one of their sheds, put them on a string, and sow them across the community. Over the last five years, they have literally cut hundreds of thousands of crosses. From a church averaging 80 people on a Sunday morning, these crosses have been sown across the entire world – literally in all seven continents. Crosses have been handed out on Short-Term missions, long-term missions, cruises, vacations, trips to the grocery store – you name it! This ministry physically embodies the purpose of Seedbed. Of course, the physical act of handing out the cross is never isolated – it serves as an opportunity to talk about the significance of that cross. The men and women of Kendricks Creek are doing their part (and not surprisingly, looking to do more) in sowing for the next Great Awakening.
One more thing, in the next few weeks, we’ll have completed our “”prayer room.”” We took an under used classroom (it was where the offering was counted) and are converting it into a room for travailing, intercessory, and devotional prayer. You might say that we drove out the money changers… : ) It looks great so far and we can’t wait to see the finished product.
Rose City Church, Pasadena, CA
Pastor: Dan Davidson
I always tell people that, while our church is small, it is filled with some of the best people you’d ever hope to meet. But Rose City is more than a good community. It’s a missional community that cares deeply for its community. Rose City’s flagship ministry “Rose City Coffee”, aims to mentor and train homeless and transitional-aged youth. We also serve our direct neighbors who face homelessness and have found housing and other resources for many persons facing homelessness.
We also are deeply integrated in the lives of working people, holding seminars, training, and opportunities for faith and work integration. Over the last year, we have also begun renovating the second story of our church building into a shared workspace. The hope here is that normal people and business leaders can be blessed and supported by the faith community, and the other way around. Part of why I am nominating Rose City, therefore, is to see this vision become a reality.
Though small, Rose City Church is a “”big deal”” because together we have built a Spirit led, and Christ-following community that shares the love of God in remarkable ways.
University AME Zion Church, Palo Alto, CA
Pastor: Rev. Kaloma A Smith
The University AME Zion Church has made dramatic contributions to the Palo Alto community in several ways. The church has been the leading voice for racial reconciliation in the city and addressing the issue of Digital Inclusion. In the last 18 months, it has consistently and methodically worked in the city and other community partners to address the issue of race and implicit bias.
The effort started with community forums which were held directly after the shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina. The average attendance at the forums was approximately 200 people from the surrounding community. University AME followed the forums with an event to study white privilege. This event consisted of a viewing of “White Like Me” at First United Methodist of Palo Alto, followed by a community discussion moderated by Reverand Kaloma A. Smith. These discussions led to a desire for the community to go deeper. University AME then started a community-based book club to look at Michelle Alexander’s seminal work the “New Jim Crow.”
These events led the city of Palo Alto to approach University AME to lead and organize a city-sponsored event on race and implicit bias. After several months of planning, University AME held an event called ” Being Different Together.” Over 400 individuals from the community came to the event moderated and led by Pastor Smith. This was one of the most diverse and impactful events the city had ever done on race and community. Given the overwhelmingly positive response from the participants, the city of Palo Alto asked us to turn the event into series of events. This spring we launched a 4 part series on race, bias, and living together. Each of these events has been well received, with many of them selling out and requiring waiting lists. University AME led a city that has been tone deaf to racial issues to not only look at the issues but actively commit to making our city a better place for everyone to live.
On the front of Digital Inclusion, University AME is at the forefront in the country in addressing this issue. Our country is being divided by those who are literate in the use of digital technology and those who are not. This divide has a profound effect on job potential, earning potential, access to service, and many other areas of life. This divide disproportionately affects people based on race and age. University AME has been selected by NTEN and Google to be the host for the first Digital Inclusion Fellowship program. The Digital Inclusion Fellow is a full-time employee of University AME funded by Google and NTEN, whose specific purpose is to train seniors and working adults on how using and accessing technology can have a profound impact on their quality of life. University AME aims to have contact with 1100 adults this year. The church will train 300 adults and train 10 individuals to replicate the program in other areas.
Churches with weekly average attendance of 101 to 150
GracePoint at Mt. Olive Mount, Olive, AL
Pastor: Scott Smyth
They send missionaries to Honduras as well as multiple trips in US each year. They routinely fill 50 homes or more a month with food through the food pantry. The feed the homeless of Birmingham bi-monthly. Outreach events for kids draw 500-1000 people. All of this and more from a church that was about to close three years ago. Many members are over 70 years old yet they still serve the Lord-even during chemo treatments. This group of 135 or so do more with less to love the community than any church I’ve ever seen! They’ve seen over 50 new members and 30 baptisms in the last three years-in an area where many larger churches don’t baptize more than 1-2 a year. They support the local community center where the elderly are ministered to. Through an ugly church split and a pastoral leadership crisis, they had every reason to crumble. But they don’t know not to keep serving God!
Tulsa Hills Church of the Nazarene, Tulsa, OK
Pastor: Jim Thornton
Under Pastor Jim’s leadership the church is making an incredible impact on the lives of the community by modeling the compassion of Jesus Christ!
Bonner Springs First Church of the Nazarene, Bonner Springs, KS
Pastor: Nathan Hann
With the leadership of Nathan this Church has been making a great impact in the community.as well as helping to start another Church.
Dayspring Community Church, Clinton, MS
Pastor: Dr. Matt Friedeman
We have so many different outreach ministries throughout our week! Strip club, abortion clinic, prisons, jails, public schools & somehow we find time to be so focused in on discipleship- that we even manage to do a corporal discipleship meeting, as well as many small groups of them. It’s a huge deal to have a mega-church do these in a week, but a church that is growing but not grown? It’s almost impossible to hear about.
Belgrade Missouri United Methodist Church, Belgrade, MO
Pastor: Janice Dillard
We have a wonderful church family. We have only lived her for two years so are still relatively new to the area. I will do my best to describe the loving people of the church but being so new, will probably not really do it justice as I don’t have all the history of the church.
My husband and I moved to Missouri after living in Upstate NY for 40+ years; We wanted to get away from the winters and looked at some rural areas. We ended up living close to Belgrade, Missouri with a population of around 900 people.It is the poorest county of the state and the population of Washington County is around 23,000 people.
We went to several churches in the area and finally tried the Belgrade United Methodist Church on a parishioner’s recommendation. As soon as we walked in the door we could feel that this would be our church. We were welcomed with opened arms by several parishioners who all spent several minutes welcoming us and explaining a little about the church and its people.
Since we have been here I have seen the men of the church work at people’s homes who need work done. People either don’t have the money to make repairs or aren’t able to do the work themselves. I have seen the women donate money and their time with fund raisers to several groups and families who need the money.
We have started doing Coffee with a Cop to invite people from the county into talk with local sheriffs to voice their concerns and to help bridge the gap between the Sheriff Department and the locals. We are about to hold our fourth health fair that one woman started. It provides mammograms so that the poor of the area could get free mammograms. This fair has tripled in size so that this year we not only have the Mammogram machine but we have free services being offered for the veterans. We also have a local Backpack program and a Pregnancy Resource Center participating. Along with this, we did a fundraiser and will be presenting the Mammogram agency with a $2,600 check big enough to cover the cost of mammograms.
We wanted to have a small program after church one day with a local band preforming to raise money for both the Backpack program and Pregnancy resource center. That program has since grown to include three bands and is going to be held at the local school that will seat 800 people! The school wanted to be involved and we also had a band that wanted to be part of the performers. That event just took on a life of its own and just grew within two weeks!
I also wanted to describe how it feels to attend this church. One Sunday we had a local Gospel band perform. One of the women band members was singing a solo and she stopped because she was crying and she said “What is it about this church? You can feel God’s presence here.” The same thing happened during a Christian speakers presentation. Exactly the same words!
As far as being a seedbed, because of coffee with a cop, the school and Sheriff’s department have started working together on programs. The local private bank is going to build a small outpost for the Sheriff’s use. The Pregnancy Resource and Backpack program have become better known and work not only with us now but other organizations.
On a personal note, my husband and I joined the Bible Study class. We have just finished up the Epic of Eden and have started the Isaiah study. It took us about 10 months to complete Epic because we just kept digging deeper and deeper. The 10 of us have come to feel like a close family! It has been an awesome experience!
Most importantly, the Bishop for our district heard about how we are effecting our area and just visited us to see all the great stuff our church does.
I could just keep going on and on with all that the church does but I know this has to end at some point!
The Salvation Army – Schenectady Corps, Schenectady, NY
Majors Mike and Kathy Himes
Sunday worship is noisy and energetic, because of the beautiful, diverse people there – ethnicities, languages, generations, vocations, and the spectrum of socio-economic classes gathered to worship. It’s not just a single community; it’s a cluster of communities that share a love for Jesus among each other and with the broader world. People who receive groceries or daily meals aren’t “them;” they’re “us.” Stories of recovery and salvation, of God changing lives and family trajectories for his glory abound in the Sunday School, hallways, sanctuary, and street. When crises occur in the lives of members (and others) living on or near the margins, the church surrounds them with love, acceptance, and concrete support. It’s kind-of a crazy place on account of the odd collocation of formal military uniforms, well-rehearsed brass band music, and scrappy love. They defy the norm in their geographic region, which is generally not warm to Christianity, but you can’t argue with rescued lives, and Sunday morning visitors never forget.
Hope Fellowship Church, Rockford IL
Pastor: Ronald Aleander
It is one of the fastest growing churches in our community that feeds and clothes the homeless, has an amazing youth/children’s Ministry, and is changing the way other Ministries are doing Church by introducing new ways to present Ministry.
Washington First United Methodist Church, Washington, GA
Pastor: Thomas “TG” Hall
Washington First supports many missionaries around the world and each year involves the whole church to host a missions conference and invites missionaries to come speak and interact with the small groups in the congregation. The missionaries stay in the homes of the people where they are loved on and build lasting relationships. Washington First is involved in the local community by running a food bank, clothing shop, and additional life skills training. Though it is a small church in a small town, the people are having a huge impact locally and around the world.
St. John’s United Methodist Church, Ocala, FL
Pastor: Christine Webb
The Holy Spirit is moving in St. John’s in a big way! In a span of several months, the congregation went from 50 to 120. This small church is very mission minded wanted to reach people outside the walls for Jesus Christ.
On Valentine’s Day, the church conducted “Love on a Mission.” There was a team who put together care packages of goodies to hand out with a message inside telling people they were loved. There was a team who prayed that day for many to be impacted with the love of Jesus. And there was a team who went out into the streets. That day, we witnessed many coming to know Christ. We went to an elementary school, and loved on teachers. We stopped at gas stations, neighborhoods. Many people were stunned by the team’s act of kindness and cried.
We stopped at one location thinking we were in the right spot, but we had the wrong address. It turns out the Holy Spirit lead us to the right spot. I shared with the woman that even though we may have had the wrong address, God lead us to her to love on her on this Valentine’s Day. With that she wept, as she shared she had never gotten a Valentine’s before. The team showered her with God’s love and she was transformed.
St. John’s has a food pantry and constantly feeding and helping those in need. We have a team that helps the domestic violence shelter in Ocala.
And we recently met to create a new Fresh Expression called: Power 3: Family, Faith and Fun! We will be targeting the Ocala Sports Complex — handing out food, building relationships all to show the love of Jesus and help people come to know Christ.
Every Wednesday we have a team that picks kids up in the neighborhood and drives them to church. We feed them a hot meal, shower them with love and teach them about Jesus. It may be the only hot meal they get.
This church exemplifies the love of Jesus inside and outside the church walls, and the best is yet to come.”
Elmwood United Methodist, Elmwood, IL
Pastor: Bradley Watkins II
We are a mainline Protestant church in a small town, but we are not the stereotypical small town church. The following is only a partial list of the ministries begun or strengthened at Elmwood United Methodist Church in the past three years:
Our summer “Local Mission Sunday” has morphed from a half-day service project to a days-long full community outreach. The tally of events just keeps growing. This past year’s events included house painting and renovation, yard work, blanket-tying, card-making, homeless and/or emergency hygiene kit assembly, cookie making, face painting, bouncy house fun, music concert, and visiting nursing homes (now becoming a year-round focus of a small mission team). We are consciously cultivating our reputation as welcoming, caring, and helpful. That frees individuals to approach us without fear of “not fitting in” and that leads them to Christ.
Our new project this year, “Glow in the Dark,” will be the kick-off for a mental health initiative to assist individuals and their loved ones struggling with the issues and side effects of depression and other psychological difficulties. A community-inclusive back-to-school concert will feature nationally known Christian singer Jason Gray. We will follow up the concert with smaller groups to focus on various mental health issues, utilizing the resources of the three counties served by our church. Drug addiction, suicide, and hopelessness are not confined to cities.We hope our glow will encourage those in rural caves of darkness to seek the light of Christ.
We have grown from one Bible study opportunity per week to as many as five. The fellowship of small groups and Bible studies has enabled our congregation to share our struggles and our faith with each other and to reach out in love to community members who may have seemed invisible or irredeemable .
Our children’s ministry is increasingly effective. We began a Kids Praise Team to help lead worship once each month. We arrange and provide transportation from neighboring towns for these enthusiastic singers. The congregation has quietly and consistently provided love, transportation, and basic needs for several of our local children facing difficult family situations, sometimes acting as surrogate grandparents. This winter our Sunday School teachers received targeted instruction on including those with special needs in all aspects of Christian education. Our new education wing was begun five years ago. We paid off the mortgage this fall, and the rooms are again filled to overflowing. We continue to strive and adjust to make sure all children feel loved and important.
We have held our first baptism by immersion and confirmations at the lake at Camp Big Sky, followed by a congregational meal. Many in our congregation found this time of retreat particularly meaningful.
We are continually being asked by our pastor and by our members to evaluate our ingrained procedures, always with the focus of welcoming others and reaching others for Jesus. Those in leadership positions in our church have been carefully and prayerfully matched to the strengths they exhibit, including those who are relatively new Jesus-followers. That has led to more effective and meaningful faith for those who serve, as well as for those they impact.
Expanding from a simple church website, our daily use of Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, and other electronic means allows us to connect meaningfully with millennials and other young members of our congregation. Our contemporary service is played on the church website and YouTube and is broadcast weekly on a local radio station. The possibility of instant connection has proven particularly helpful to those who are fighting addiction, abuse, depression, or other on-going obstacles to discipleship.
On a personal note, at age 68, I have been involved in the music ministry in three other small churches. When we moved to Elmwood, I expected to be welcomed as a musician, but I did not anticipate the steady stretching of my faith that is now a weekly occurrence. Warmth, prayer, and fellowship are extended to all. The music team I now serve with includes strong lifelong Christians and struggling addicts; conservatives and liberals; single moms and the newly married; the unemployed and the occupationally harried. We love each other. We sing traditional hymns like “Standing on the Promises” and rock out the the latest Christian techno-music. Our organist is in her eighties; last Sunday’s drummers were ages 16 and 12. Our pastor and his wife are African-American, assigned to a church in an almost exclusively white town. All these disparate elements seek, with the help of each other and the Holy Spirit, to live out the Gospel and demonstrate that we are all the Children of God. My husband turned to me a few Sundays ago and said, “”I don’t know half the people in the congregation today. Isn’t that great?””
We are a small church. But because of the One we attempt to follow, we are a big deal.
Brushwood United Methodist Church, Dubberly, LA
Pastor: Michelle Harris
This is church is a big deal because they are compassionate about mission work! The members of this church do so much to help the community. They welcome so many people and continually search out new people to bring into Gods kingdom! You will never walk in to such an inviting, loving church. The Holy Spirit is moving there through the church members.
Greater Blairsville Cooperative Parish, Blairsville, PA
Pastor: Brett Dinger
This isn’t just about one church, but a cluster of small churches working together. In 2015, 4 small UM churches joined together as a Cooperative Parish for with two goals in mind: 1. To do together what we could not do alone and 2. To birth a new faith community for new people. Together we have launched a new youth ministry, offer small group opportunities for our community and have found ways to build life-giving relationships. We have also launched a new faith community called Connect Church, which is reaching unchurched and de-churched people. Connect Church worships on Saturday evenings and currently averages 60+ in worship, including many folks who are finding their way into church for the first time. Additionally, Connect Church boasts a significant Recovery ministry for those battling all sorts of addictions (100 people came through the doors in year 1), a thriving children’s ministry and recently sent 3 adults to our District Lay Servant Ministry School.