24 April 2008

The Realities of Being a Small Fellowship

The realities of being a small fellowship:

Christian Aid week is coming up and our small fellowship has been allocated about 12 roads to distribute Christian Aid envelopes to.

- Mrs. A distributed last year but is 88 years old and suffering from arthritis and understandably doesn't feel she can do any more.
- Mrs. B distributed last year but is taking a holiday 'down under' with some extended family.
- Mr. C and Mrs. D (not related) distributed last year but are both attending a circuit-sponsored retreat during Christian Aid week.
- Miss E tried distributing last year for the first time, but finds it intimidating and doesn't feel that she can do it again.
- Miss F (aged 80) is the organizer for the fellowship and is in a total panic about how to distribute and collect hundreds and hundreds of envelopes.

Basically, Miss F and 'the minister' (i.e. me, and remember I have 3 other churches) are the only people who are both able and willing to collect and distribute envelopes. We told our neighbourhood organiser that we couldn't distribute too many envelopes this year and we were told 'good luck finding distributors'.

That is the reality of the situation. At some point, we simply have to cut our suit to fit our cloth.

8 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

A few years ago my church stopped distributing these envelopes. We should have plenty of people to do so. But in fact the church committee decided the amount of time and labour spent on them, and diverted from other church work, was out of proportion to the relatively small amount raised - and voted to give the same amount to Christian Aid out of church funds. The neighbourhood organiser was incensed, but couldn't do anything about it. You might consider doing the same.

Fat Prophet said...

I don't think this is a problem unique to smaller churches. We tend to have similar issues and while there are about 8 folk who turn out every year to do this job there are many others who do not. I have to say that there are some streets that we do that become quite discouraging when you know envelopes have been delivered and the people say they haven't had one.
I am sure there must be a better and less stressful way of raising funds but I haven't yet worked it out.

PamBG said...

Peter, we certainly can't give out of church funds. We don't even have enough money to pay our own bills (I'm being literal here, we dig into our small savings on a regular basis and it's getting worrying!)

Last year the collections from our small fellowship raised about £500 for Christian Aid which we could never have raised from the congregation or from our own funds.

FP, I accept that it's not just a problem for small fellowships. I think that my sending church in London probably had about 8 people doing the envelopes and we had 200 members.

Richard Hall said...

As a general rule I'm all in favour of distributing CA envelopes. They're a small witness through the letterbox regardless of how much money goes into them. BUT - guilt about not having the people to distribute them won't help anyone. Is there scope for a local event, perhaps a coffee morning or similar, for preference something that can be organised ecumenically? I've seen it work in some places.

PamBG said...

Richard, yes, I agree with you and I've told the organizer that we can only do what we can do.

The *collections* are already organised ecumenically; one of the frustrating things is that the Anglican churches are much larger than we are but the territory is divided into 3rds! The issue of collections has been raised at Churches Together and - you know the story - there are loud voices that are adamant that it should not be stopped.

But you are correct, I think that we can only collect as much as we can collect, have an event and do the best we can. Which is what I've told the organizer, but she's the sort of person who hates to feel that she is 'falling down on her assigned job'.

I think I'm just saying that this is the reality of being a small fellowship. Individuals devote the majority of their free time to church activities and all the voices saying 'You should do more' (should go door to door, should use powerpoint, should have a band, should have another youth group even though you're running two already) just seem like more heavy burdens. Add that to 'God is not blessing your congregation because you don't believe and haven't had an outpouring of the Holy Spirit' and it can be difficult.

How to demotivate a new minister:

1) Give the person a church that has been declining for the last 15 years;
2) Tell them that the decline is now their responsibility, or at least that a quick turn-around is their responsibility;
3) Tell them that if a quick turn-around doesn't happen, it's because they don't believe in the Holy Spirit and they aren't praying enough.
4) Tell them that you only respect professional lay people and the reason they candidated for ministry is because they are unemployable in the secular world.

Thanks for letting me bitch. I have woman-flu at the moment! ;-)

PamBG said...

Richard, yes, I agree with you and I've told the organizer that we can only do what we can do.

The *collections* are already organised ecumenically; one of the frustrating things is that the Anglican churches are much larger than we are but the territory is divided into 3rds! The issue of collections has been raised at Churches Together and - you know the story - there are loud voices that are adamant that it should not be stopped.

But you are correct, I think that we can only collect as much as we can collect, have an event and do the best we can. Which is what I've told the organizer, but she's the sort of person who hates to feel that she is 'falling down on her assigned job'.

I think I'm just saying that this is the reality of being a small fellowship. Individuals devote the majority of their free time to church activities and all the voices saying 'You should do more' (should go door to door, should use powerpoint, should have a band, should have another youth group even though you're running two already) just seem like more heavy burdens. Add that to 'God is not blessing your congregation because you don't believe and haven't had an outpouring of the Holy Spirit' and it can be difficult.

How to demotivate a new minister:

1) Give the person a church that has been declining for the last 15 years;
2) Tell them that the decline is now their responsibility, or at least that a quick turn-around is their responsibility;
3) Tell them that if a quick turn-around doesn't happen, it's because they don't believe in the Holy Spirit and they aren't praying enough.
4) Tell them that you only respect professional lay people and the reason they candidated for ministry is because they are unemployable in the secular world.

Thanks for letting me bitch. I have woman-flu at the moment! ;-)

Methodist Preacher said...

Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. "No" can sometimes be a quality answer.

Fat Prophet said...

MP's comment about saying no is quite interesting and reminded me of a book I read some years ago (sorry can't remember the title) It was a book about fasting and I expected it to be all about giving up food and that type of thing. In reality while that was part of the thinking the writer was saying that some time ago he had decided to fast on Fridays from any engagements or answering the phone or even answering the door. He said that to begin with when people rang him up and asked him to do something on a Friday and he said no there was a tangible sharp intake of breath at the other end - and yes he reckoned that sometimes he felt quite guilty. It turned out after a time that he became more comfortable with saying no and he felt that God blessed his ministry because he was now spending quality time with his family as well as ministering.
It is very difficult to say no but perhaps that is something we need to do.
On the other side of the coin there is always a pressure about things like this and an expectation that we will collect a certain amount of money each year. I think for us we always want to do at least as well as the previous year and if at all possible better - maybe your organiser feels the same and consequently feels she has failed in her task if the 'target' has not been met.