A Reflection on Season 1, Episode 1: Welcome to the Small Churches Big Impact Collective
by the Rev. Leyla King
The affirmation that small church ministry is a unique, vital and particular vocation is at the heart of who we are at the Small Churches Big Impact Collective. So, for me, one of the most powerful moments in the first episode of the SCBI Podcast was the moment when each member of the Collective stated the number of years she has been ordained and we saw that the work we do in our congregations is a pinnacle of our priestly careers. In my own experience, my vocation as a small church leader is integral to my understanding of my priesthood. And I know that, for all the members of the Collective, the communities we serve are not stepping-stones to something “bigger and better,” but rather they are the meat of our ministries.
The Church often asks its leaders to prayerfully discern whether they might be called into specific roles – as the dean of a cathedral, say, or into a diocesan staff position or as a bishop. But, as Rebekah discusses a bit in Episode 2, we rarely hear our mentors, pastors, or supervisors encouraging us to consider if we might be especially gifted for leadership in small congregations.
And yet, if this first episode – and indeed this whole first season of the SCBI Podcast – reveals anything, it is that small church ministry is work that is both uniquely challenging and joyfully sustaining. And thus, it requires leaders who are well-equipped through inherent gifts and skills and previous experience and training to meet those challenges and experience that joy. Small church ministry must not be left to those who have no better options. Instead, the Church must understand this work as a vital and vibrant part of its wider mission in Christ’s name and intentionally prepare particularly skilled practitioners for it. It is our hope that the Small Churches Big Impact Collective will be an instrumental voice and tool to help the Church do so.
Of course, a big part of that effort is creating communities throughout the Church where such discernment can be encouraged and such leaders can be raised up and well-supported. The “Small Church Chats” that spring-boarded the SCBI Collective into existence is perhaps the best example of that kind of community where lay and ordained leaders of small churches can connect with colleagues in similar contexts. The SCBI Collective is committed to fostering these kinds of communities in a variety of forums and we look forward with energy and excitement to seeing where the Spirit leads us all!
Questions for Discussion
- For Leyla, the most powerful take-away from the first episode was the idea that small church ministry is a unique and particular vocation. What did you find most affirming in this episode? What made you say, “Yes! That’s my experience, too!”
- What do consider some of the gifts, qualities, skills and experiences that might mark someone as being particularly well-suited or called to small church ministry?
- Leyla says that small church ministry is both uniquely challenging and joyfully sustaining.” What challenges and joys have you found to be unique to small church ministry?
- The “Small Church Chats” began as a group of female Episcopal clergy under the age of 50 who all served as solo clergy in small parishes. If you could create your own community of colleagues in small church work, what would it look like? Would it be mostly online or entirely in person? Would you like to interact with people of the same gender, race, age, denomination or geographical location as you or different ones? How frequently would you meet? Would there be a set agenda or open free-form conversation?