By Shannon Youell
“In a smaller church we sometimes look at our barriers rather than our assets.” Jill Beck, Co-Pastor, Wildwood United Methodist Church
During our Assembly workshop “Staying is the new going,”we began our conversation around the question, “What barriers do we have that hinder us from participating in local mission right where we are?”
Jill and Michael Beck remind us that only looking at and identifying our barriers, and in particular, the barriers of being small churches or of an aging declining congregation, can negate looking at what assets we already have to overcome those barriers.
Blended Ecology is the path this congregation took that both takes care of the saints who have long and faithfully laboured and invested into the church and also sends them out right where their own lives take them.
Pastor Michael says it this way, “Our church is no longer defined by just the ‘root stock’ or just the ‘tree’ but now people in our community experience us in all these different ways – their church in the tattoo parlour, the park, the walking club.”
One of their parishioners who has gone into the neighbourhood observes “Our church is growing and a lot of the growth is coming from people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”
Praise God! So many new expressions are attractional to already believers and the big disappointments for many mega church plants is when they realize that though they appear successful in all the usual ways, their growth is between 96 and 98 percent transfer growth – already believers!.
Here we have a small, aging, declining community being intentional about continuing the work that God put on them in the early days and stepping outside their known understandings of traditional church and their comfort zones to engage in the community in a way that is bringing growth and flourishing to all.
Pastor Jeff concludes that in all aspects there is a bountiful and fruitful exchange that’s life giving and he credits it to “an inherited mixed economy (when) you release the mission force that’s sitting in your pews every Sunday.”
Some of our CBWC churches are leaning into blended ecology mission. Northmount Baptist Church realized their barriers and their assets and determined that to continue the legacy of the faithful who had invested themselves faithfully in the work of the church, they needed to become reacquainted with the neighbourhood in which they found themselves. You can read more of their story here.
At Wildwood, the folk of the church looked at where their own passions were, where they spent time in pursuing those passions and then began to build community in those places. You can read all about them here.
New life brings excitement and rebirth and an ecology shaped around resilience, mission and faithful presence. What might God be saying to you and your congregation? Ask the questions, be quick to listen and slow to disregard or discard out of the box ideas…you could be the next tattoo parlor ministry!