First, I’ll explain my rationale, then I’ll try to explain the idea, and, hopefully, it won’t be too boring.
In fact, I hope it brings up questions and please, please ask them. I have read posts by John Vest and Bruce Reyes Chow in the last couple of weeks about reforming how we do what we do and now Jan’s. I figure why not throw out my idea and see what sticks.
It appears to me that the era of the large downtown church (1000+ member) maybe coming to an end. I know this may seem weird, since all we really hear about is those large churches and, at least in the PC(USA) those are the churches that we (small churches) attempt to emulate, or be jealous of, or whatever. I think the resurgence and quick growth of some large churches and accelerated closing of smaller churches is really just the last high RPM burst before the engine runs out of gas.
I couple of years ago I attended a conference in Seattle at the Seattle School called “Inhabit“. It was really community oriented and grassroots in nature. What I, and my colleagues from the large, established, growing church noticed was that everyone else there was from a small community, small church, small garden, small business. The most thriving and highlighted ministries were those of about 50-100 people, and the work they were doing in their communities was amazing and the partnering with other communities was truly Spirit-filled. In fact, I kind of felt out of place because I didn’t feel like there was anything that a larger, established church could do in these contexts.
Then I had an idea.
What if, using current PC(USA) systems, we were able to restructure churches to regain some of the neighborhood, community feel that often feels lost in the larger more corporate churches?
Here’s the basic idea,
You have a large church 500+ members, you break your membership up into neighborhoods or parts of town or sections fo the city. You then train one member to be a CLP (Commissioned Lay Pastor, or whatever we call it now) and one member as a Stephen Minister (Pastoral Care).
That CLP and SM effectively set up house churches or they use the common area of the apartment complex, or the club house or whatever space works for them for worship, study, fellowship, etc.
Then periodically (monthly, bi-monthly) come together as a group of house churches for worship and sacraments at the space for the larger church. If one HC wants to do a mission project, they can, if multiple HC want to do a project they can partner together. The pastor/s of the large church would then become resources for ministry for the CLP and SM, that would be their flock, and then the CLP and SM’s flock would be their neighborhood, and if the size of the group got to be more than about 75, another CLP and SM should be trained and another HC formed.
This would make the larger church function similarly to a presbytery (in our current form) and would open up the door for those pastors to be innovating and creating relationships with the HC.
So what do you think? Is this possible? Would it work? What ideas to you have?