Small Membership Churches - The Power and Promise… | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
September 2016

Small Membership Churches - The Power and Promise of Partnerships

By Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

The Power and Promise of Partnerships

When most people hear the words recorded in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” they immediately think of a few people in a local church. And, yes that is one way of interpreting that verse of scripture. What would those words mean if you thought of the two or three as groups? Have you ever thought of those words as two or three congregations?

A common issue among small membership churches is resources – people and financial. Yet, when these congregations form healthy partnerships they can achieve mighty things for the Kingdom. Connectional life is one of the strengths of the United Methodist Church. Our shared ministry is rooted in our commitment to partner with one another.

A quick search in Webster’s dictionary reveals that a partnership is a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principals in a business. Another is the state of being a partner, which led me to look up the word partner. One definition said a partner is “one that shares.

Think about ways you might share in ministry with a congregation with similar needs and demographics.

For example, in the Virginia Annual Conference, a few churches are pooling their financial resources to hire staff for joint ministries. The Western North Carolina and North Georgia Annual Conferences provide mission trips to the Bahamas where several small membership churches are able to come together for a week of serving. Stephanie Caro has led several cohorts for small membership youth ministries for the Tennessee Annual Conference. As a result, leaders are having conversations about joint confirmation, vacation bible school, and missional experiences.

When forming the partnership, individuals must be clear about the goal. It is to maximize resources, not destroy identities. “We are helping them develop their own identity,” said Brad Fiscus, Director of Next Gen Discipleship for the Tennessee Annual Conference.

North Georgia’s Sam Halverson adds “We'd much rather them [small membership churches] embrace the blessings and benefits of their own situation and setting.”

How do congregations and districts in your area collaborate for ministry?

What does it mean for smaller congregations to fully partner and gather in support of their young people?

Who do you know in your area that could be a potential partner to help meet the needs of multiple congregations?