When you’re a small church in a small town, you need to manage your resources well in order to keep your ministry on target. For us, that means careful attention to stewardship of our resources as well as the direction in which our resources are heading.
Now, stewardship you know about. You take care of what God has given you, use it responsibly, and use it for His purposes. So you keep an eye on your building and maintain it. You pay attention to giving patterns and trends so that you can plan appropriately for next year’s/season’s/month’s ministry. You keep an eye out for useful talents that members have and look for a person with a desire to serve.
But that direction thing . . . that can be tough. Small town/small churches have a kind of centrifugal force that’s born from long-term relationships. Now certainly that’s a great strength (and in all honesty is probably the single-most important factor in how small towns/small churches continue to function well beyond any predictions). But like Achilles and his heel, a great strength that is facing in the wrong direction uncovers a fatal weakness. The long-term relationships inherent in small town/small church can result in an increasingly self-serving, inward focus if not specifically and deliberately countered.
Therefore, resources need not only to be managed well for stewardship, but also aligned for direction. The church’s task is one of missional proclamation, i.e., “getting the Word out.” We proclaim the Gospel that was first proclaimed to us. Facilities, money, and people should be deliberately aligned with an outward trajectory.
What does this mean? Remember: small town/small church is based on relationships! So for you, “getting the Word out” does not mean that you start hosting huge attractional events. And it doesn't mean hat you simply make sure that X percentage of your church budget is allocated for missions. No, both of those are overly simplistic, perhaps even superficial, indicators that your church has aligned its resources outwardly. I’m suggesting something that is much deeper. Something that becomes ingrained into the church’s understanding of why God has placed it where it is: to be salt and light in their community.
So, yes, keep the building in good repair. Pay the light bill so that Sunday worship can continue. Fix the AC. Start a new class. But for every seemingly mundane, routine task, start to ask the question “Why?” And help people to train their minds and mouths to answer, “So that the World may know what we know.”
Can you learn to phrase every expenditure or ministry in terms of missional proclamation?
Can you help your people to start formulating their suggestions in the same way?