By Pastor Shad Vork
Not long ago, a small Twin Cities’ church made the headlines of the Pioneer Press. It was an assembly of about 30 members, the vast majority being senior citizens. The leadership overseeing the church, which happened to be from a different congregation, decided this first church needed a restart. Essentially, they told all the older people to find other places to worship for at least a year or so while the church restarted targeting young people. As you can imagine, the congregation was not happy with the leadership’s decision.
This particular article reminded me of Grace Baptist Church of Stillwater when the Lord led our family here in 2008. At that time, we also had about 30 attending on Sunday morning. Most of our congregation was made up of seniors, a couple families with young children, and some young adults. I remember praying and brainstorming about ways to grow this church.
A little background might help. Grace Baptist was planted in 1978 by Lenard Huebscher who happens to be my father-in-law. Most MBA churches are small, and this one fits the mold. Our auditorium could fit about 100 tightly. Over its history, the church had a number of ups and downs, even reaching a high attendance of 100 at one point. When we arrived, it was at a low point. I do not see that as a reflection on the leadership so much as just a part of the ebb and flow of ministry. In reality, I would have to say that I followed a faithful and loving shepherd who built a solid foundation of gospel work in our community. To this day, I still run into people who were at some point touched by Pastor Huebscher or Grace Baptist.
So coming back to 2008, I found myself at first attempting to create ministry to appeal to young families who were not in our church. Somewhere along the way, the Lord changed my thinking such that we tried to focus ministry upon those whom the Lord had already given us. We were doing evangelism, but we needed to do better at discipleship. Our ministry in those first years here was strong on young adults and on seniors, and I believe the Lord used that over time and by His grace to rebuild us into a much healthier church. I have been bi-vocational for my entire tenure in Stillwater, and I see that as a mostly good thing. Thankfully, the church now supports me nearly full-time, but I see the bi-vocational model more and more in churches like ours. Working in the community has given me many opportunities for outreach. Our early financial needs prompted a couple MBA churches to step up and help. One gave a significant financial donation when the budget was tight. The other paid for my family’s health insurance for the first year, and over the next several years sent two work groups to help with facility improvements. Both churches were a tremendous help and encouragement to our entire church family.
I am glad we did not kick the older people out or write them off. They have been a vital part of our ministry. I hope we keep loving all the saints for as long as the Lord has us here. We are still small, but I’m convinced God is pleased with small churches and is accomplishing so much of His work through multitudes of them throughout the world. In closing, I am reminded of Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…”