Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Healthy Associations of Unhealthy Churches

Last week I attended the Cane Creek Baptist Association’s Youth in the Harvest for the first time in several years. I even got to lead the singing, which is always a pleasure. For those of you who have no idea what the Youth in the Harvest is, it is a monthly youth meeting. I assume it’s a Missouri thing, but it’s not unlike youth meetings that other associations have had. It struck me while I was there that it is ironic that healthy church associations are typically made up of small churches. By healthy I mean that the association has frequent meetings that draw several churches. The Cane Creek Baptist Association has two meetings a month. One is the Youth in the Harvest and the other is the Third Sunday Singing. They also have a Fifth Sunday Meeting that meets the weekend of the fifth Sunday. And they have an annual meeting. They have about twenty churches, which is relatively large for a local association, but I’m not sure any of their churches run more than a hundred in Sunday School and most of them are much smaller. Contrast that with associations with larger churches and you’ll find that the larger churches hardly ever get together and the members of one church seldom know the members of another.

The difference is that smaller churches need each other a lot more than larger churches, or so it seems. The local association fills the gap for ministries the small churches can’t afford or do not have the personnel to handle. While I see some things about the Cane Creek Youth in the Harvest that I would suggest changing if I were in their association, it provides activities for the youth that larger churches would provide through Awana or other youth programs. Larger churches are better able to start a new church plant without outside help. Smaller churches can’t, so associations of smaller churches are more likely to hire a missionary.

In some ways, it is the unhealthy nature of smaller churches that gives the local association strength, but I can’t help but wonder if larger churches aren’t missing something because we are so self-sufficient. And maybe we are hurting smaller churches in our own local associations by not opening doors for them to become more involved in our activities. It’s easy to get caught up in our activities and forget that there are other churches out there. We may feel we don’t need their help or that they are too small to be able to help us, but maybe we just haven’t taken the time to consider how things could be better.