Big Blessings in Small Places
Some people have a knack for thinking outside the box in ways that are helpful to others. Frank E. Clark was such a person. He bequeathed a fund to help small churches in small communities. National Ministries applied for the Clark grant and received $75,000 to be used during 2006 and 2007 to assist congregations under 150 members, with budgets under $200,000, serving in communities under 50,000 in population.
National Ministries invited American Baptist regions to apply for grants in the amount of $6,000 to $10,000 per region, to be used over the two-year period to develop small churches in small communities. Sixteen regions sent in a wide variety of creative proposals. National Ministries then selected ten regions on the basis of three criteria: (1) the quality of the plan, (2) the number of churches affected, and (3) the follow-up process designed to continue the good efforts beyond the grant time. The regions selected were Central, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York State, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont/New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.
Some regions planned large conference events with nationally known leaders, specifically designed to enhance small-church ministry in small communities. Many of the plans use some form of a learning group comprised of small-church leaders (both lay and clergy) going through intensive training over an extended period of time. One region is using the Clark grant to invite small churches who are looking for pastors to use their interim time for intentional training for the future. In all, more than 180 churches are being impacted by the Clark grant during 2006 and 2007. Now that’s a good investment!
On top of the regions’ efforts, National Ministries is serving as a conduit and communicator of the lessons learned by the participating regions, through e-mail contacts and written reports prepared every six months. A gathering of representatives from each Clark grant region was held March 1–2, 2007, following the first year of the regions’ efforts. The representatives of each region made a presentation to the whole group on their efforts to date and then fielded questions so that others could learn from their experience. In addition, a special consultant taught new ideas in effective ministry as well as provided help to the regions in refining their plans for the second year of the Clark grant.
The Clark grant is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with cooperation among well-designed giving, creative regional efforts, and National Ministries participation. For more information, call National Ministries transformation strategist Rev. Glynis LaBarre at 800-ABC-3USA, ext. 2412.