The United Methodist Publishing House

What small churches can teach us about discipleship

 The Rev. Debbie Williams (right) visits with Everet Yates and his grandparents at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Pilot Oak, Ky. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
The Rev. Debbie Williams (right) visits with Everet Yates and his grandparents at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Pilot Oak, Ky. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

The Rev. Allen T. Stanton has a lot of experience working with rural, small-member churches. As Executive Director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College he attends many different small church services throughout the year and has found what these churches lack in size and professionalized worship environments, they tend to make up for in unique and effective discipleship practices. In one church Stanton was both shocked and moved by the sight of the lay leader coming out to the pews during the service to ask each member (by name) how he could pray for them.

Unlike large churches, the leadership in small churches is more democratic and voluntary. Few persons (other than the pastor) have any professional training. The lack of any divide between leaders and members allows for the entire congregation to feel a stronger connection to each other and creates a more homespun environment. One might think this level of intimacy and distinctiveness would make visitors feel unwelcome or out of place, but Stanton finds it is often the opposite. Many small churches have a natural sense of hospitality and level of comfort and ease when it comes to worship, that makes visitors feel quite comfortable. There is much larger churches can learn from their smaller brethren about welcoming new people and making disciples.

Read Stanton's full article on Ministry Matters.

Originally published by Ministry Matters July 30, 2019.