Small Church Leadership Team

In Celebration of the Small Church

Bobby Thompson, Chair of the SCLT
I am very pleased to be a part of the Small Church Leadership Team (SCLT) that was asked by the Virginia Annual Conference to consider various aspects of the small church.  Our objectives include developing a support structure to empower our congregations to reach their full potential in spreading the Gospel and making a difference in the name of Jesus.   First, we need to realize that small churches (149 members or less) are in fact a majority.  Of approximately 1,184 churches in our Annual Conference, almost 1,000 – or approximately 84% - are in the small church category.   The SCLT believes that we should celebrate the unique opportunities to serve God in a Christ-centered small congregation rather than worrying so much about the "if onlys" (if only we had more members, if only we could attract young families, if only we had more resources, etc., etc.).  The Christ-centered small congregation is like family.  We know and accept each other as we are, with love and compassion.  We are genuinely concerned for each other's wellbeing whether physical or spiritual.  There is a real sense of community where everyone is valued and needed for the special gifts and talents that they possess.  We welcome visitors and guests with open arms and celebrate those who want to continue in fellowship with us.  Small Christ-centered churches are made-up of ordinary people with extraordinary potential.  Consider Jesus' ministry.  He spoke to crowds of all sizes but His "small congregation" consisted of twelve followers who were ordinary people.  With one exception, these twelve remained Christ-centered and were used by God to change the world.    

I will quickly add that God values all believers whether in small or large congregations.   We all have an important role to play in God's plan of salvation.  Every size congregation brings special abilities and gifts to God for His use as He sees fit.   We just need to praise God in whatever situation we find ourselves and leave the rest to Him. 

You probably have noticed that I have used the same descriptive phrase several times-- "the Christ-centered church." To me this is critical regardless of the size of the congregation.  If we are first and foremost Christ-centered, whatever God has planned for us will happen.  If He wants us to grow we will; if He wants us to minister to particular segments of the population we will and so on.  This is because the Christ-centered church is prepared to accept God's Will and is at peace in simply being a part of His plan.  

The Small Church Leadership Team has met twice to discern future direction and identify needs.  At the core of its purpose is the desire to encourage pastors and lay leadership in our small membership churches.  This work will initially be focused on congregational health and identity through the development of strong ministry plans and strengthening our understanding of The United Methodist Church connection.  We will identify new ways to support one another and give thanks for the important role of small membership churches in our Conference.

The members of the Small Church Leadership Team believe there are many stories of successful ministries in the small churches of the Conference.  We encourage you to share your stories as a way to celebrate God's work in your congregation and provide great examples that others may want to try.  You can send your stories to Martha Stokes in the Center for Lay Leadership Excellence by e-mail ( or contact her by phone at 800-768-6040 or 804-521-1100 ext. 154. 

Small Church Leadership Team

In January, 2011, a Small Church Leadership Task Force began to meet as the final component in a series of initiatives focusing on leadership in same size congregations. The task force served as the study team to develop a strategic plan for leadership excellence for our small churches. The Task Force, composed of both clergy and laity, determined that the focus of their study would be those churches with 50-149 in average worship attendance (at that time, approximately 487 single station charges). 
The Small Church Leadership Initiative Task Force report, accepted by the Common Table for Church Vitality at its September 2011 meeting, called for the establishment of a Small Church Leadership Team (SCLT). The purpose of the SCLT is to monitor and hold accountable work on the objectives of the strategic plan for the small churches, evaluate effectiveness, and identify additional strategies as needed.

Click here to view the final report of the Task Force (pdf).

Click here for a list of suggested books on small church leadership and ministry (pdf).



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
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