Supporting and encouraging small churches
New ways to resource, network and encourage our Union’s smaller churches was the focus of a Saturday afternoon session at the Baptist Assembly
The session was led by Hilary Taylor, who leads the Small Church Connexion in the London Baptist Association (LBA). She explained the Connexion has been running since 2003. It serves the 125 small LBA Baptist churches (a small Baptist church has fewer than 40 members) through a regular newsletter, training events, and a database that lists skills (such as preachers, worship leaders, musicians, help for treasurers and advice) which can be offered from any church to any church across the Association.
All these things help churches feel connected and supported, and they ‘aren’t difficult to organise,’ said Hilary. The database is run and maintained by one man ‘with a computer and heart to serve.’ This could be replicated in any Association.
Leading the session alongside Hilary was Mike Lowe, Baptists Together Communications Enabler. He described what happens in London as ‘peer support at its grass roots’, and put forward the idea of something similar in different Associations. It would be local church-led, (with possibly one local church being the connecting point in each county), supported by Association and specialist teams. Both Hilary and Mike spoke of an idea called ‘mission at home’ – if you have a particular gift or skill, could you offer this to others?
‘Everyone has giftings – can you share them?’ asked Mike. ‘Then one person could gather this information together and put it in the database.’
‘We want to support small churches as they fulfil the Great Commission – and we believe God does great things in small churches,' said Hilary.
’It’s not about numbers, it’s about the health of a church and the desire for mission. In 2016, there more baptisms per head in smaller churches than large churches in 8 out of 13 associations. People are coming to faith in small churches.
‘We know from many stories in the Bible – David and Goliath, Gideon and his army, the boy with his picnic - small is effective.’
Pauline Wills told the very encouraging story of growth in her church in Blaby, Leics and how small is not an issue to God as he moves in a community.
Hilary is in the process of updating her 2007 book A Toolbox for Small Churches, published. Follow Hilary on her blog of the same name.