On our best days, small churches feel strong and mighty. We celebrate and build on our strengths and move forward knowing and sharing the love of Jesus.
On our not-best days, however, we can feel discouraged. Without the funding and programs available to our larger sister churches, smaller churches can feel as if we are somehow less, and wonder, “Is there a place for us?”
Recently, the church I pastor, Scottsville Baptist in Scottsville, Va., had the privilege of hosting the Kelly and Cates Bell Ringers, a group of adults with special needs who lead worship through their gift of music.
This group is from Fredericksburg Baptist in Fredericksburg, Va., a wonderful church with a history of missions and generosity.
Tommy, their director, conducts music by using color-coded cards. By watching the colors change, these friends are able to joyfully ring bells to beloved hymns and other songs.
After one of the hymns, Tommy shared the beginnings of their ministry. A woman named Margaret Ingram invited her neighbor to church.
The neighbor’s daughter had special needs, leading the neighbor to ask: “Is there a place for my daughter?”
In response, Fredericksburg Baptist got to work and started a “Special Friends” class for persons with disabilities.
The ministry grew and today the church has two residential homes for adults with special needs. In addition to music ministry, many of these folks live at the Kelly or Cates Home near the church.
The ministry of the Kelly and Cates Bell Ringers is possible because of Fredericksburg Baptist Church and Margaret Ingram. An interesting twist to Tommy’s story is that Margaret grew up at Scottsville Baptist Church.
On our not-best days, small churches can fall prey to comparison, thinking: “That church has ‘X,’ and we only have ‘Y.'” On our best days, however, we celebrate our strengths.
We rejoice in the privilege of raising young women like Margaret, who invited her neighbor to church, resulting in a ministry to adults with special needs that thrives today.
We also rejoice in the privilege of Scottsville Baptist raising young women like Lottie Moon, who followed Jesus to China for the sake of the gospel.
This is not to “toot the horn” of Scottsville Baptist Church. We have growing edges just like everyone else. It is, however, a reminder that God works in small spaces and places.
No matter the budget or number of programs, God can still work, and God does work in small churches.
Margaret and Lottie are sisters to celebrate, and I am sure there are similar stories in small congregations across the world.
During the service, a blind gentleman with perfect pitch sang West Side Story’s “Somewhere,” which says:
There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
He sang with pure joy, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I could almost hear Margaret’s neighbor asking, “Is there a place for my daughter?”
So many years ago, Fredericksburg Baptist said “yes.” Yes, there is a place for persons with special needs, and a long-lasting ministry began.
Likewise, there is a place for small churches to make a significant difference in their community, state, nation and world.
We may not see results tomorrow or even next week, but perhaps we are part of something we cannot begin to imagine.
Be faithful, small and mighty churches. There is a place for you in God’s kingdom.
Katie McKown is the pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church in Scottsville, Va. A version of this column first appeared on her blog, Hermeneutics in High Heels, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @KatieEMcKown.