Growing in the Country
By Barry Baugh
Under the leadership of Pastor Baugh, Smith Chapel entered the Small Church Initiative process in 2010. The consultation team
of Bob Farr and Kotan gave the church three prescriptions, which the Church Board approved for processing.
In addition to adopting mission and vision statements, Smith Chapel agreed to consider the possibility of a “single night of small groups, children/youth activities, dinner, devotion, music, etc.” This effort did not get off the ground; however, the congregation went with the vision of 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday services in 2011, expanding from a single service. Younger couples wanted a second service, which is more contemporary. A prayer team asked God to add enthusiasm and meaning to the worship services.
Prior to the implementation of the second service, 60-70 percent of those in worship were over the age of fifty-five. Today 50-60 percent of those in worship are under the age of 55.
With a grant from the Missouri United Methodist Foundation the church installed a screen with video projection capabilities, which enhance worship services. Projected hymns, scriptures and video clips for sermons and holidays add meaning for the congregation.
The Pastoral Leadership Development program was helpful to Pastor Barry in various ways, but one in particular was some of the required readings. For example, Breaking the Missional Code, helped him consider more broadly the nature of the community he was in, and also helping lay people see themselves as missionaries to the community.
The church also developed a vision to begin new small groups, and called education the protein of the church. An effort was made to create new educational opportunities outside the Sunday morning experience. In addition the Fellowship Committee created movie nights for the public and the congregation.
Knowing God uses common elements of life to make people feel more comfortable, the trustees repainted the sanctuary. They gave it a lighter and brighter look. Barry said, it was “not a big deal, but a small deal sometimes keeps people excited.”
Pastors of small churches often spend their time on tasks laity can do. For example, many small church pastors do the bulletin. Pastor Baugh learned that laity can often type a better bulletin than the pastor can, which frees the pastor to do tasks that will more specifically bring people to Christ and grow the church.
This prescription called for a sign in front of the church identifying the church along with stated worship times. The church did an outstanding job of buying and installing a large, electronic sign, which allows the church to give a welcome, announce upcoming events as well as studies plus sharing attention grabbing messages. This dramatic sign catches the attention of drivers on the country road making an impact.
In addition, as the church is about four miles east of highway 65, a sign was created on that major road pointing people to the church. It has the church name with an arrow pointing people to the east.
Children are made more comfortable in worship with a special emphasis for them being done by Wendy Davis, Mary Norburry, and Ali Roth. Also, a youth program provides hospitality for young people, so they know Smith Chapel cares for them.
The church recruited greeters for the inside of building, and extra greeters inside watching for new people or those needing assistance coming to the parking lot.
The second prescription called for direct mass mailings inviting “unchurched residents under the age of 54 in three zip codes to Christmas and Easter services.” They did some mass mailings, which had only a small positive effect. Main benefits came with Vacation Bible School and an Ice Cream Social.
Smith Chapel was to create a culture of being an outwardly focused church building relationships through events which result in ten new people becoming part of the church each year. This would involve outreach to the four towns surrounding Smith Chapel: Nelson population 130 (9 miles), Blackwater population 200 (13 miles), Alma population 160 (20 miles) and Marshall population 12,000 (8 miles).
A house church was held in Alma, where initially five people showed up with four of them being unchurched. People with trauma in their lives were specifically invited to the meetings, so they used the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The gatherings were very positive with much engaging conversation. The house church continues periodically with an attendance of twelve. Efforts to gather people at Nelson were unsuccessful.
Smith Chapel developed a very caring relationship with the foreign students attending Missouri Valley College in Marshall. Through the efforts of lay man, John Hall and his family, the program, Adopt a Viking Program, was rejuvenated, whereby members of Smith Chapel adopt international students during the school year. The role of the host family is to give the students connections, caring and encouragement. This international program, which has involved students from South America, Europe and Asia, has created much excitement in the church. An oversight board administers this outreach effort, which has brought many college youth to the church. Students returning to their homelands have asked for Bibles to take
The pastor and congregation live out a passion and commitment for missions and outreach to the unchurched. Last year the church set a goal of $10,000 for Imagine No Malaria, and that goal was reached. The Sunday offerings during that campaign were up 25 percent over the previous year.