The Small Church Collaborative

The Small Church Collaborative

What is vitality? 
Do you dream of church with Sunday School filled to the brim, singles and couples’ clubs, enough bible study and book groups to choose which day you will be involved? Old models of church vitality asked what the church could do for its members. Members asked, “Is there a place for me?” Vital churches offered programs—programs galore. I remember church photos of baseball and basketball teams, summer programming, youth group trips to Martha’s Vineyard. 
I’ve spent my fair share of time mourning the loss of what I experienced as vitality in my past. Today I’m working on turning the story around and asking, “What does God think about Church Vitality?”  
Through prayer, discernment, and a bit of biblical analysis, I find God calling church to ideas like “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat” (Matthew 25:35).  I notice the gifts of the spirit include serving, teaching, giving, leading, and mercy (Romans 12:6-8). The Southern New England Conference has chosen Making God’s Love and Justice Real and Making Disciples of Jesus as two of our four goals for being church together. 
With these new images of vitality in mind, small churches are faced with a new measure—are we serving our neighbors in our local community? Do we know our neighbors and are we responding to their needs? Are we making God’s love real in this specific neighborhood, in this specific town, at this time in the world? Are we acting as students of Jesus, as disciples of Jesus, sent out in pairs to perform miracles of healing and speaking of God’s coming rule? 
Church vitality today measures our congregation’s efforts at serving our neighbors. It is not about our finances or our Sunday School or even about how many people attend Sunday worship. And small churches are uniquely able to live out this new measure of vitality in small towns and little neighborhoods. 
The Small Church Collaborative is an experiment in sharing resources so that congregations can focus their energy on being a vital presence in their community. This experiment of the Central Association of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Leadership will explore ways churches in transition can build on their strengths to make God’s love real to the people who live around us.  
Look for more information on the Small Church Collaborative in the coming months and follow their developing story here in the Innovation Now newsletter as we continue to ask, “How can we listen for God’s calling to vitality in our place and in this time?” 
For more information, please contact: 
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill 
Pastor, Ashburnham Community Church 
Minister to the Affiliates, Ecclesia Ministries 


Liz M. Magill

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers:  Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester ...

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