SOME OF THE material offered in this booklet was prepared for the larger church in mind. From it many of the smaller churches are likely to turn with the thought that there is nothing here for them. This will be an error, for there is little basic difference between the needs of larger and smaller organizations. In the main those methods and procedures helpful to the one will be helpful also to the other (obviously there must be adaptation to needs in all cases).
The problem of the small church is to supply a source of adequate religious life for the particular type of personnel it attracts, religious education and leadership training for all ages, and broader and better social and recreational opportunities for all in a field where such opportunities are limited in number and sometimes in respectability. If, in addition to this, the small church is able to enter the many fields of effort and uplift which have been recommended, it is well; but all these things are not essential to the maintenance of dignified, useful functioning in the community.
TO MAKE FOR EFFICIENCY
Necessary elements of an efficient small church are:
- An adequate constituency;
- Sufficient financial promise to guarantee exnstence;
- A place in which to meet; and
- Able leadership.
THE BASIS OF successful organization is democracy. All persons to whom the peculiar principles of our particular organization appeal should be enlisted, should be put to work, and should have a voice in the management. The majority should always rule and the minority should accept the ruling. Business efficiency is as necessary in the small organization as in the large organization. The congregation should meet at least annually. Officers should be elected with care and should be held strictly accountable. No individual should ever be permitted to gain control either by longtime service in office, arbitrary temperament, or indifference on the part of the constituency. There should be continuous rotation in office, constant training of new leadership. Officers of our churches are servants of the people, subject to approval or discharge as their conduct and record may warrant.
APPEARANCE AND condition of the church property is evidence of the earnestness of the people. A church property in poorer condition than the homes of the community is evidence against the sincerity of the congregation. The property (particularly that of the smaller church) should be deeded in trust to the parent organization, that is, to its own State Convention, or to The Universalist Church of America.
LEADERSHIP of the small church should be in terms of needs. Even the ability to preach is relatively unimportant alongside the power to live as a friend in the community. And pastoral care is more important than pulpit ability. Fads are dangerous particularly in a small community. They make for one-sidedness and encourage the minister to serve but a portion of his people. Oftentimes the minister of a small church is required to possess greater ability than the minister of a larger church. Above everything else, he must love his people, devote himself to the upbuilding of his church and to the well being of the entire community.
THE SMALL CHURCHES, of all churches, should have but a single form of organization. It makes for better results. If the dual organization (of church and parish) prevails, every effort should be made to get those in the parish into the membership of the church.
NO MATTER HOW SMALL the constituency may be, there should be a church school. The children need it. The homes need it. The community needs it. In the small church, this effort may be almost wholly devoid of direct gain, since children reared in the church school, upon reaching adulthood, remove to a larger community. But if the work is at all worthwhile, it is worthwhile in and of itself. In any event, many a city church owes its strength to lives trained in youth in the church school of the small country church.
ACCORDING TO NEED, the small church may have one or more auxiliary organizations. Too many organizations may be as dangerous to the small church as are too few. If and when a need is sensed, set up an impartial committee to appraise the situation. Organizations have one purpose, one excuse for existence, namely, to serve some specific need. Once the fact of need is established, let the whole church, or the board of trustees, authorize organization, and, thereafter, hold said organization responsible for work done.
ADVERTISING AND PUBLICITY
THE CHURCH in the small town, village, or suburb has very distinct advantages when it comes to advertising and publicity. Space in newspapers is cheaper. Chances are, the minister knows the editor personally. In any case, church news in a rural community is something more than a mere announcement. It is local news.
A COMMUNITY CENTER
THE CHURCH in a small town should assume its rightful role in the life of the community. It can do so far more easily than the city church, for the latter is likely to be swallowed in the magnitude of the city’s undertaking. In the more rural areas, the church can be active in community work, and at the same time retain its identity. If the rural church is not the center of social as well as spiritual life, it can become so.