‘Big God, Small Membership Church’ tailored to meet needs of rural churches
Jan 24, 2013
By FLBaptist STAFF

MAYO (FBC)—A conference designed to meet needs of congregations with 200 members or less and provide specific training most often requested by their church leaders, is scheduled for March 2 at Airline Baptist Church in Mayo.

“The Big God, Small Membership Church,” will provide worship, inspiration and encouragement for congregations with smaller memberships. 

“I pray God will use this conference to mobilize small churches, which make up the vast majority of our convention, to fulfill the Great Commission in our communities, across our state, and around the world,” said Chip Parker, pastor of the host church who helped organized the event.

“Imagine what would happen if all of our smaller churches decided to let the size of God, not the size of their congregation, determine what they could accomplish,” Parker said. “That thought excites me.”

Roy Saint, associate strategist for Florida Baptists’ Congregational Support Ministries Team, which is sponsoring the event, said the small membership church “is very unique in itself. It is not just a smaller version of a big church.

“They have a distinctive need and it is not just giving them a reduced program for a large church but creating something uniquely for them to meet their needs,” Saint said.

As pastor of a smaller congregation in a rural community, Parker said it is because of Florida’s diversity—ethnically, geographically, demographically and culturally—that ministry takes on many different forms in churches.

Churches in Tallahassee “look different” than churches in Naples, Miami and even in Pensacola, he said. “And churches in Tallahassee, Naples, Miami, and Pensacola look different than churches in places like Mayo and Graceville.

“Any pastor who has ever served in a smaller church in a smaller town can tell you that it is a whole different ballgame,” Parker noted. “There are different challenges as well as different opportunities to be found in rural communities. It was because of this truth that we felt this type of conference was needed.

“And what better place to host a conference for small churches in small communities than a small church in one of the smallest communities in the state,” Parker laughed. 

Parker, who recently returned from taking church members on a mission trip to Haiti, said he hopes that from this conference, “leaders from our small churches, both pastors and lay-leaders, will stop seeing their size as a limitation on what God can do through them. We may serve in small churches, but we serve a Big God.” 

The one-day Cooperative Program sponsored event will feature Tom Kinchen, president of the Baptist College of Florida, and Eddie Blalock, pastor of the Orchard Community Church in Lake City, as keynote speakers. Terry Williams, team strategist for the Convention’s music and worship ministries, will lead worship. 

Practical training will focus on leadership development, church planting, outreach, preaching, worship, greeters, breaking growth barriers and handling church conflict, “all specific to the unique needs of the small membership church,” said Saint. 

A registration fee of $5 will benefit the Florida Baptist Children’s Home in Gainesville. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the conference will end at 3 p.m.

Participants are being asked to pre-register to determine meal needs. To register, contact Charlene Allen, 904-596-3072; 800-226-8584, ext. 3072; callen@FLBaptist.org. Additional information can be found at www.flbaptist.org.

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