Friday, April 4, 2014

More on the Hospice Church

Our denomination has recently circulated some material to encourage small churches; it’s full of practical and imaginative advice about how to serve such congregations.
But the advice has come from the USA, where the definition of a small church is around three to four times the number of members that we would expect to find in a "small" church here. And there would be no way that such a church in this country could even contemplate paying for much in the way of ministry.
I’ve been doing more reflecting on my concept of the “Hospice Church” where an ageing congregation of less than a dozen members in a town going into recession are still willing to roll up for worship if someone else provides the resources of leadership. I was a little disparaging of them in an earlier post. But there are some strengths in that situation and I am going to explore them.

Too often we have told the congregation of under 30 people that they really should “make a decision” about their future when they were actually already working on it. Too often the wider church has imbued the small church with a sense of failure. Too often, we have put before them programmes and strategies and ideas that may be appropriate for a medium or larger congregation.
But we have forgotten that the small church is not just smaller, it is different…


  1. Dave, do your publications "Ecclesion: the Small Church with a Vision" (1990) ; and "Fresh New Ways" (1998)spell out what is different about small churches (other than their numbers). I also have a publication by Christian Research Association of Aotearoa New Zealand "Small Church - Big Mission" David Inglis and Margaret Reid Martin 1996. I guess its still 20 years ago

    1. Yes, Val, “Ecclesion” was entirely about a way of being for small churches and was deliberately written around the strengths of the small church. I had developed a list in in “The Trinity Fortune Affair”, 1982. “Fresh New Ways” was a book of a conference about strategies for mission for all congregations. I liked Inglis & Reid and the focus on mission.
      “Calling us by Name” by the JBCE in Australia (apparently out of print?) is the book of a tightly focussed Conference for members of small churches in the 1990s. I also produced a study video of that event. It was a seminal and inspiring few days for everyone.
      As you imply, the view that small churches are “different” is not some very new insight. But in our Church I sense there are still important “small church” issues for the jurisdiction such as (i) what numbers are we talking about? (ii) do we actually believe the small church has a significant place? And, if so, (iii) what are we doing about it?