Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2012-09-12

A conference celebrating the ministry of small churches will be sponsored by Samford University's Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence (RCPE) on Oct. 8 and 9.

"Like a Mustard Seed: Supporting and Celebrating Smaller Church Leadership" will focus on the needs of small membership churches of all denominations.

According to RCPE director Michael Wilson, studies show that 80 percent of all Protestant churches in America have memberships of 125 or less, and almost 25 percent of those churches have a weekly attendance of 35 or less.

 "We know these figures match what we have observed in Alabama, regardless of denomination," said Wilson, adding that many rural congregations with small budgets are served by bi-vocational pastors.

 "These churches and the ministers that serve them fill a vital role and are often under-appreciated for their contribution to their members' faith," said Wilson, who hopes the upcoming conference will provide inspiration, affirmation and practical help for those ministers and their churches.

 Dr. Tex Sample, professor emeritus of church and society at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., will lead the opening worship service at 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8. He will also lead a Tuesday program and workshop on topics related to ministering in a traditional culture.  Samford church music and worship leadership instructor Eric Mathis will lead a Tuesday afternoon session on worship in the smaller church context.

Workshops will cover an array of small-church related subjects. Topics and speakers include: creative rural church ministry, Gary Farley and Glenn Sandifer; navigating congregational crossroads and dealing with conflict, Bill Wilson; communication challenges for Hispanics and Anglos, and Hispanic ministry for non-Hispanic ministers, Moises Rodriguez; growing the small church, Kirk Hadaway; Christian education, Karen Tye; preaching, Rodney Franklin; and using social media, Natalie Aho. A panel of lay leaders from smaller churches will lead a discussion of what smaller church pastors need to know that members won't tell them.

Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., will give the closing worship message at 5 p.m. on October 9.

The $125 registration fee includes all sessions, the Monday night banquet, and continental breakfast and lunch on Tuesday.  The popular Shades Mountain Air bluegrass/gospel/folk band will entertain at the Monday banquet.  For more information, call (205) 726-4064.