Preview of the JUNE 2015 Issue
Though small in size and budget, these congregations are making an enormous impact in their communities.
by Kris Van Tatenhove
It’s evident in nature. Split the atom, and unleash thunderous force. Plant one of the tiniest seeds on earth, and a sequoia arises.
It’s apparent in history. A woman trained in civil rights activism refuses the back of the bus and spawns a movement of justice. A Pakistani girl, gunned down by terrorists, courageously recovers and receives the Nobel Peace Prize.
It’s abundantly clear in Scripture. A stuttering 80-year-old leads his people out of slavery. A shepherd boy defeats a giant. A babe born in a feeding trough becomes the Savior for untold billions, teaching us that the meek will inherit the earth and that faith the size of a mustard grain can move mountains.
It’s a timeless truth: small can be mighty!
In this article you will meet congregations that may be modest in size and budget but are making an enormous impact in their communities.Continue reading
Preview of the MAY 2015 Issue
Grace and gratitude: a Presbyterian vision for the 21st century
Our response to God’s love helps define what it means to be Presbyterian.
by Charles Wiley
Have you ever been at a restaurant with other Christians, and after the meal comes there is an awkward pause as everyone waits to see if anyone else is going to mention praying before the meal? Years ago, my wife, Betsy, and I went to lunch with two men from our church, Bill and Jim. When it came time for the obligatory pause, Bill said: “Feel free to pray if you would like. I believe that we should be thankful for everything in our lives at every moment, so it seems odd to me that we would thank God for our food in a ritualistic fashion when we do not do so with all the other things we receive from God each day. Therefore, I do not pray before meals. But feel free to pray if you would like to.” I passed.
The awkwardness aside, Bill raised some good questions. If everything we receive is from God, why is mealtime often the only time we regularly express our gratitude? Can’t our gratitude become a dry ritual when we reflexively do it? What is the connection between God’s grace experienced in the meal and our gratitude?Continue reading
Legends at the end of the trail
Native American congregations, though small, labor to transform their communities and heal wounds from the violent suppression of indigenous identity and voice.
by Danelle Crawford McKinney
On a typical summer evening on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus in Lawrence, Kansas, the activities of the American Indian Youth Council (AIYC) Conference of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) were far from ordinary. As many as 60 Native American teens from more than 20 tribes walked silently on a trail named in honor of Billy Mills, a Lakota from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the first person from the Western hemisphere to win the 10,000-meter race at the Olympics, in 1964.
The trail took the teens, led by Ron McKinney, a Choctaw pastor from Oklahoma, through preserved wetlands. As they walked in silence, McKinney invited the aspiring leaders to reflect on what times were like only a few generations ago, when communities would travel in the evening to protect themselves from enemies.
Here, 130 years ago, children were taken from their families and brought to this campus when Haskell was an institution whose mission embodied the motto of Richard H. Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School: “kill the Indian, save the man.” This directive was part of the US government’s effort to “colonize” or “civilize” Native Americans by cutting their hair and stripping them of their language and religious practices. The children buried in a small cemetery on campus are a reminder of documented abuses.Continue reading
One in Mission
‘Ministry instead of maintenance’
By deciding to sell its church building, a congregation finds new freedom to do God’s work.
by Linda Valentine
When Elizabeth Steele arrived at Whittier Presbyterian Church, the first thing that struck her—after the refreshing openness of its small but active membership—was the sheer size of the building.
“We have a huge facility,” says the veteran interim-ministry specialist. “Without the building, this could be a healthy small congregation, but the facility is absorbing all of the church’s time, energy, and money.”
Elizabeth and the congregation set out on a journey to discern God’s call.
Whittier is a 64-member Anglo congregation in a majority Latino community near Los Angeles. Average worship attendance is between 20 and 25. Whittier shares its vast space with Nueva Vida Presbyterian Church, a Latino congregation, which also has fewer than 100 members. Together, they embarked on New Beginnings, a Presbyterian Mission Agency assessment process designed to help congregations understand where they are and then make faithful decisions about new directions for their future.Continue reading
Big benefits in small churches
by Susan Barnett
John Mellencamp’s song “Small Town” describes the benefits of growing up in a place where he knew everyone, was loved, and learned about Jesus. While his song is not about small churches, there are similarities. Small churches celebrate every birth in a big way; everyone is known and loved and learns about Jesus.
Small towns and small churches have another similarity: there are more of them than large cities and large churches. Of the 10,053 PC(USA) congregations, more than 50 percent (5,675) have fewer than 100 members. Among those congregations, the average membership is 45. Fewer than 2 percent of PC(USA) churches have more than 1,000 members. This mirrors the National Congregation Study that found that 59 percent of all churches have fewer than 100 members and that only 2.5 percent have more than 1,000 members.Continue reading
faith and culture
What are we waiting for?
Digital media isn’t just for the experts anymore; any of us can create.
by Rocky Supinger
Aric Clark is a teaching elder who lives in Portland. He’s not preaching to a congregation every Sunday, but he is preaching to the Internet once a week through his YouTube series LectionAric. His videos are short, tightly edited expositions of Scripture through the lens of pop culture. He’s even produced an original seven-minute music video, complete with slow motion black-and-white footage of his kids.
Clark isn’t the only Presbyterian making media for the Internet.
In Bloomington, Indiana, Mihee Kim-Kort, a UKirk college minister, has started a podcast called This Everyday Holy that, again, uses the lectionary, but frames texts with audio of Kim-Kort’s life at home with three little kids. Her two-year-old shares a bad dream. Kim-Kort and her husband, Andy, can’t agree on where to have lunch.Continue reading
Presbyterians Today awarded top honors by Associated Church Press
Named “Best in Class” among denominational magazines in the US and Canada
Recognizing the dedication and creativity of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) communications staff, the Associated Church Press awarded 23 prizes to PC(USA) publications during its May 1 convention dinner in Toronto, Canada.
An easy-to-read, in-depth handbook that puts loads of vital ministry information on dozens of subjects at your fingertips. This one-stop reference is ideal for congregations, presbyteries, and individuals looking for creative ways to improve their ministry.
This special issue is a must-read for everyone who wants to better understand young adults and engage them in worship, education, and service.
NEW THIRD EDITION. Presbyterians Today’s special issue and guidebook — “Welcome to the Presbyterian Church!” — is a wonderful introduction and overview of all things Presbyterian.
What Presbyterians Believe 2
Volume 2 of Presbyterians Today’s new special issue and guidebook—What Presbyterians Believe 2—brings you even more of our most popular articles all about Presbyterian beliefs, worship, and practice.