Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Expert: Smaller churches are just right


David Ray, above, led the groups.

Small churches are the right size. In November, David Ray reaffirmed that in half-a-dozen Oklahoma workshops based on the statement. A sponsor was the Small-Church Commission.

Benefitting from Rev. Dr. Ray’s insights were 246 United Methodists, representing 84 churches. The workshops were open to all, but the target was churches with worship attendance of 25-80 people.

For more than 30 years, Ray has helped smaller-membership churches work creatively to overcome challenges and to grow in effective ministry and mission. The handouts as well as Ray’s lectures in Oklahoma proved he has studied smaller congregations in depth.

As he has traveled, he identified "Common Denominators from 21 Smaller Faith and Effective Churches from Coast to Coast." Among those he listed:

  • They are more concerned with being living churches than surviving institutions.

  • These churches are not trying to be all things to all people, but have found their niche (what they do really well) and are superb at filling that niche.

  • Worship is a priority.

  • None are embarrassed by their size.

  • They really enjoy each other and have lots of fun together.

Ray also tackled the topic of finances in smaller churches. His resource "Affording To Be a Smaller Church" noted:

  • No church ever thinks it has enough money.

  • No one knows how much your church is capable of giving until tested.

  • Raising or making money shouldn’t be all a church does.

And the adviser introduced ministry strategies, including "Thoughtfully Growing by Adoption."

The questions Ray urged his audience to explore could be asked of any church.

Why do you want to grow? What price will you pay? What does your church have to offer? What are its specific gifts? What specific areas do you need to address to be more attractive and equipped for new people? What individuals and groups are unchurched or have unmet needs in your community?

Ray also pursues these topics as an author.


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