My Little Microchurch
Three years ago, if you had asked me what my weakest asset was as I was preparing for ordination, I would have said church growth/planting.
If you were to ask me that at breakfast today, I would tell you the same thing.
I hate when people say “that’s not my gift” to excuse for not doing something in ministry. So what; do it anyways. I wholeheartedly accept it as an explanation for why someone finds something a particular challenge, as long as they are still trying. That’s where I find myself now, having watched a dysfunctional congregation go down in flames, swept out the ashes, and started over from almost nothing.
It’s harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ve felt totally alone and often unsupported while I tried to figure out what to do, until one day, when a seminary cohort suggested a mommy-and-me group. I took the idea, combined it with the idea of “messy church” (which is intergenerational and super interactive), and now we have a revamped Sunday morning. Since the start of the month, I’ve picked up one family for church and, along with the other two families that come, we have breakfast, worship, a devotional, and an activity that goes with it. It’s gone pretty well, but I was still frustrated.
Why can’t I be more like Andy and Cheryl, the pastors I had when I was a teen, who started that congregation with great success (knowing they worked hard and had help)?
Why can’t I be like Rich and Linnea, seminary cohorts who seem to breathe creativity and youth ministry?
Why can’t I be like Val, who seems to have a powerful vision that is beyond what I can see?
My little group of 8 people on Sunday morning isn’t even up to “small church” status – it’s a microchurch. I love them. They come because they want to. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but why couldn’t I at least have double-digit attendance?
Today, I filled in in the social services office where I met a woman I’ll call A. She was in her fifties but looks like life hasn’t been kind. Her hair was about 8 different colors, leftover from at-home dye jobs. It started like any interaction, until she asked about who she could talk to about a bad experience at another pantry. I told her to talk to the pastor, and she said she would. She said that she has wanted to go back to church, but after how she was treated at the other pantry, she won’t go to church again. Not when people act that way.
Invite her, came the impulse. So I did. I explained that we have services, and that they are very relaxed.
Are there a lot of people? She asked. I froze. What if I told her that we’ve only got 8 people? She might think we’re weird and it might drive her away.
No, there is just a very small group of us. Maybe 8 or so. We have breakfast, sing, have a devotional, and then an activity. It’s very laid-back. We don’t even meet in the chapel; we sit around tables with coffee and cereal. I explained, fearfully.
Oh. Well, I just can’t be around a lot of people. She seemed relieved. Is it, like, jumpy? Like, the music, is everyone moving all around?
Are we going to be lame-os if I tell her we just sit there and sing, partly because almost half the people there are recently injured or disabled? No, we just sing. We enjoy it, and if you want to, no one would mind, but it’s pretty mellow.
She exhaled. Good. I went to a church that I liked, but they scared me with too much jumping around. It was too much for me.
She took the flier I handed her and put it in her wallet.
Well, I hope you’ll come and see us on Sunday. It’s not what most churches look like, but we’d be happy to see you. And I’m the pastor here, so you’ve already got that over with! I smiled and hoped that that was a good thing.
We went about the rest of the social services transaction, and my heart was heavy as she walked away. She was hurting, and I wanted to help. She seemed to have a good amount of social anxiety (which, as someone who struggles with anxiety, too, I get), so I didn’t want to push too much. I don’t know if she’ll come on Sunday. I hope so.
As I was getting ready for the gym tonight, I realized that my little microchurch might look like small potatoes compared to the much bigger churches my friends lead, but it might be what is missing in my community right now. There are plenty of trendy churches with big VBS productions and well-established chapels with 200 gray-haired people in the pews in my town. But maybe, just maybe, my little microchurch has a purpose, too.
My little microchurch is where an unemployed recovering addict brings his preschooler and finds open fellowship. My little microchurch is where a family with children with special needs comes and is excited to learn new worship songs. My little microchurch is where a widow remembers that the kids like cinnamon rolls and bakes them especially for them for Easter, a small gesture that is big ministry. Maybe, my little microchurch can be a place for A, a hurting woman who is seeking worship and fellowship that doesn’t overwhelm her.
It might not be a whole lot to look at from the outside, but from the inside, I can now see that my little microchurch is doing something big.