by Sarah Smith, Staff Associate for Church Growth & Development
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into the harvest.” -Matthew 9:37-38; Luke 10:2
Is your community motivated to spread the Good News of the Love of Jesus? Do you feel bogged down by fatigue and declining numbers? Is your church making a difference in your community but just needs a little guidance and inspiration? We remember the first followers of Jesus, the Early Church Movement, started this way too. They were small and met in each other’s homes and shared everything. We carry on their tradition from the stories we find in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels. And like the early disciples, our relationships are fueled by our love for God because we have seen God work in the world for good! If you are looking to re-ignite your congregation’s passion for following Jesus, the Hope for the Harvest Conference will be a fire catching moment of storytelling and resources to help your community flourish and grow.
Co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma and the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the ELCA, the Hope for the Harvest Conference aims to inspire, empower and equip small churches in Oklahoma to serve God’s call in their communities. The Conference features Carrie Boren Headington who is the Canon for Evangelism in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, and also works with the Presiding Bishop’s evangelism staff. She was live for the February 26th event and a video of her presentation will be played at the March 9th events. Carrie is an energetic, engaging speaker and a well known expert in the field of evangelism in the Church. She led the first half of the conference with her presentation entitled “Cultivating a Missional Parish.”
Carrie’s Missional Parish contained three different components congregations must cultivate which include Community of Good News, Community for Others, and Community of Blessing. Small churches must continually motivate their members to know why they care about the church and their faith in order to evangelize the faith to help the church grow. Churches should also be taking an inventory of the community that surrounds them and then get engaged in those communities. Relationship building must be born out of doing creative projects to help others with one’s community in the flesh and online. Relationships should also be spaces of blessing and authentic hospitality. Congregations must practice the art of blessing which includes being present with people, listening to their stories, welcoming people to the table as Jesus did, serving people by loving and caring for their needs and lastly, sharing one’s personal faith story of God’s love in their life.
The Rev. Liz Albertson, Director of Evangelical Mission with the Ark-OK ELCA Synod and the Rev. Elizabeth Davis, vicar of St. Mark’s Seminole and St. Paul’s Holdenvillle, led the second half of the conference. They facilitated group discussions to help the church members and clergy to reflect on Carrie’s presentation and how it applied to their congregations. Churches shared their current fantastic and diverse ministries and how they fit into Carrie’s circle of Cultivating Communities of Good News, for Others, and of Blessing. What was particularly interesting is that when the facilitators tried to get the participants to label their ministry into one of the categories each church could not do it. They all adamantly decided that their ministry combined all three and it seemed as though any good and thriving ministry would bear each one of these fruits. And lastly, the most important thing that congregations noticed that Carrie stressed throughout her presentation was the importance of prayer. Prayer is the centering component of all ministry. Parish members agreed that we must stay vigilant and consistent in engaging this relational intention of prayer in order to carry out God’s mission of Love to help our communities.
After the final session of rich conversation and beautiful sharing of insights the group worshipped together in the warmth of the living room area at St. Crispin’s Powell Lodge. It was a fabulous end to our time together to share in the Great Thanksgiving and set our intentions on God’s Harvest that is plentiful. Even though it seems the laborers are few, we all came to this gathering to learn and to equip ourselves with the tools necessary to reap new fruit. And to keep the Church at its best the Small Church must also be its best and find new ways to thrive and answer God’s call in this new time. The beautiful thing about the Small Church is that there are SO many and this is a good thing. God has plenty of work to go around. And this time, we will be ready and willing to tend to Her Harvest.
More information and resources from the Hope for the Harvest will be available on our website in the coming weeks.
924 N. Robinson I Oklahoma City, OK 73102