By Jacqueline J. Holness
Every few years or so, there is a debate about which is better: a small church or a big church. I won’t get into the debate at this time (although a few years ago I did write a column about which entity is more popular in the broader culture). But since this issue of The Lookout is dedicated to fellowship, I feel compelled to list why I love my small church. Below are my top 7 reasons:
1. My father has been the pastor since I was 6 years old. (I won’t reveal how old I am right now except to say I’m neither a Millennial nor a Baby Boomer.) When I was a little girl, I had a love-hate relationship with the fact that my father was the pastor. Because he was, there was nowhere I went in that church where I wasn’t expected to have the best behavior. I had to “set the example” for other children since I was, after all and by God, one of the pastor’s kids. And everyone was a tattletale bent on my destruction! I’m being a bit dramatic, but that is what it felt like sometimes. But ultimately God worked it out for my good (as he always does).
2. My father has been the pastor since I was 6 years old. As I said—I had a love-hate relationship with the fact that my father was the pastor of my church. Although I was the focus of undue scrutiny as the pastor’s kid, when birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions for gift-giving happened, I was lavished with gifts from everyone either out of obligation or because I was simply the cutest cherub they had ever seen. (I hope you see the humor in my words!)
3. I had/have more than one set of parents and siblings. I’m not sure if it happened because I was the pastor’s daughter or because I have attended my church for most of my life, but somehow I feel that more than two people are my parents and I have more siblings than my official two brothers. When I was growing up, one deacon and his wife took me to Dobbins Air Reserve Base each year to see an airshow. I saw the movie E.T. when it debuted only because a lady at my church took me to see it. And now that I am older, I have done similar things with younger people at my church.
4. It was a safe haven when I was teased. My middle school years were merciless. Although I had to suffer through those school days of relentless teasing, the kids at my church were kind to me, and I felt safe. We were a small enough group that we really knew and cared about each other.
5. Going to everyone’s high school graduations gave me goals. As the pastor, my father went to every teenager’s high school graduation, as my church was small enough for him to be able to do. Most of the time I tagged along with him. Seeing the older kids graduating from high school inspired me to reach for my goals. Some of them earned scholarships, went to Ivy League institutions, and continue to excel in their chosen fields today.
6. Everyone can fit in one church van. Not really. But a big chunk of my small church packed up in our church van and accompanied me and my immediate family to Athens to take me to the University of Georgia. I bet I was the only freshman who had a church van of people helping me move into my dorm room.
7. I met my husband there. About 10 or so years ago, my small church was having some challenges and was even smaller than normal. I decided that if I didn’t intend to be single forever, I needed to find a bigger church with more eligible Christian men. Right around that time, one of the guys that I grew up with in church invited one of his best friends to church. That best friend turned out to be the man I married, right there in that small church.
I’m sure that every member of a small church wants to see his or her church grow, but just because a church is small doesn’t mean that God isn’t blessing the church. All of the reasons why I love my small church have to do with the fellowship which can be easy to foster within the confines of a small congregation.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).