Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Good things in small packages...
It seems that most first time visitors to a congregation appreciate a certain amount of anonymity. But after that, they appreciate on being known. I work hard to get to know the names of my people and call about 85-90% of the folks on Sunday morning by first name. Sometimes I feel like I am approaching the limits of my memory chips -- or just getting old. One great virtue of the small congregation is knowing and being known.
Having grown up in a small parish and having served in a small parish for my first 13 years as a Pastor, another benefit of smallness is ownership. A small congregation does not depend upon paid staff like larger parishes do. They know that if you are going to have a nursery, you will need to staff it or if the stall ran out of toilet paper you better get a new one or if you spilled coffee on the floor you will need to clean it up. Larger congregations make it easy to think that these chores belong to "somebody else."
It is a healthy thing to be fully invested in the church and it is not so healthy to be detached from it -- as if you belonged but only to receive and not to give of yourself. Small congregations generally count on and encourage this kind of ownership. In exchange for your sense of responsibility, you belong. If you belong, it comes with certain responsibilities. Larger congregations tend to struggle to instill this kind of ownership and responsibility over the parish, its facilities and its mission.
Some are quick to write the obituary for the small parish. Not me. I think there is a lot of life there and a lot of lessons to be learned by those of us in larger congregations (with over 200-250 in attendance). So, if you are in a small parish and often feel like you are never big enough or good enough, let me encourage you. Do the best you can and let the Lord deal with the results of your witness and works of mercy. Which is the way it should be anyway!