The Small Church Advantage
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There are painful flaws in our conversations about small church worship. Dressed up, they sound like this:
- Small congregations don’t really have what is needed for quality worship. At best, they fumble through it.
- Their music doesn’t measure up.
- The preaching is weak. It’s not entirely their fault (bless their hearts).
- They struggle without adequate expertise, or vision, or resources to consistently pull off powerful worship.
- Oh, yes, and we are exhausted at the endless task of trying to fill in the holes for them.
But what if author Teresa Stewart told you that small congregations have powerful advantages in offering worship-deeply forming strengths that are not generally available in big settings? She will.
And what if our current approach to small congregations largely strips these powerful strengths and replaces them with putty and paint to better imitate worship in large congregations? Stewart will remind you that it does.
The author writes that it is worth the messy exploration to find another way...a conversation. In The Small Church Advantage, author Teresa Stewart offers lessons that remind small congregations they are not “less than” anything. She reminds readers of the strengths of the small church and leads them through a process of using those strengths as an advantage.
What Readers are Saying About The Small Church Advantage
Teresa Stewart has faith in the future of small congregations because she has faith in a God who shows up even in small and forgotten places. She believes that small churches are neither deficient nor immature but rather critical learning laboratories as the church navigates a future far too complex for one-size-fits-all patterns of ministry. Stewart’s book offers a hopeful vision and practical resources for vital small church worship that is indigenous and incarnational, hands-on, not hierarchical, participatory rather than performative. It is a poignant reminder that the future God beckons us toward is more like a handful of tiny mustard seeds than a grove of stately sequoia trees.
F. Douglas Powe, Jr., Lewis Center for Church Leadership
The Small Church Advantage is the best book on the small church I have ever read. It is not only the subtlety of Stewart’s mind or the clarity of her writing, it is the relentless creativity concretely applied to worship in the small church. Working with the difference between the performance aesthetic of the large church and the participation aesthetic of the small church, she has wonderful ideas and practical examples that can revolutionize worship in the small congregation.
Tex Sample, Saint Paul School of Theology
The Small Church Advantage belongs in the hands of both clergy and laity. Stewart has refined an easy-to-read, rhythmic writing style that turns serious worship talk into lively kitchen-table conversation. Like the Early Church and our 16th-century reformers, she builds on the idea of worshipers as active participants: worship is the work of all the people, not just a small group of expert leaders. The examples, explanations will fill you with hope and a spirit of adventure.
The Rev. Susan Marie Smith, Episcopal Priest, Writer, and Retreat Leader
Teresa Stewart’s passion for and commitment to small congregations is evident on every page of this book. More importantly, she turns the conversation about small congregations away from a focus on their perceived deficiencies and disadvantages and toward their giftedness and advantages. The result is an accessible, creative, and practical resource for the thousands of small congregations across the church.
E. Byron (Ron) Anderson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Whereas the Roman Empire was all about grandeur and greatness, Jesus preached about tiny seeds, about having a small amount of faith. ‘Bigger is better’ isn’t just the motto of our culture but, in too many instances, our churches too, especially when it comes to Sunday morning worship. In this remarkable, small book, Stewart demonstrates that smaller churches aren’t inferior; they have an advantage. Plant these ideas in the soil of your congregation and see what happens!
Mike Graves, Author of Table Talk: Rethinking Communion and Community
Finally, a book for small churches from someone who understands and appreciates small churches! Teresa Stewart names the oft-overlooked beauty and gifts of small membership churches while providing a practical, theologically rich framework to rediscover and renew their worship. Small churches have something important to teach the wider Church about worship, and Stewart’s book will help them do just that.
Allen Stanton, Author of Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations
Teresa’s work has transformed the way we do worship. We’re no longer trying to imitate big places. We’ve found our own gifts to offer God! During the week, I run into people who are already talking about what might happen this week. In the past year, participation has gone through the roof. And Sundays have started feeling like the best kind of potluck celebration.
Pastor, Great Plains Conference of The United Methodist Church