Small Congregations That Make A Difference

Leverage pic

“We are a small congregation! What can we do?” Here are two examples of congregations that leveraged their limited resources to change the community for the better.

Building Partnerships to Effect Change

“St. John’s United Church of Christ is a ethnic church in Aurora, Illinois, that has about twenty people in worship on a Sunday morning.[1] Congregants are low in financial resources (about 85 percent are unemployed, in low-paying service jobs, undocumented immigrants, or elderly) but high on enthusiasm for ministering in the community.

The congregation has developed four community ministry programs through partnerships and creative use of resources.”

  • Mesa de Maria—cooking class and “table spirituality” for young Latina mothers
  • Peace Players—2 week children’s summer camp
  • Diabetic Foot Clinic
  • Community Clothes Closet

David vs. Goliath:  Taking on Predatory Lending

Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, located in Decatur, Georgia, is not large: about 250 members. [2] The Rev. Nibs Stroupe has been the pastor at Oakhust since 1983. Oakhurst is not wealthy but “economically challenged.” Decatur is a town of 19,000 bordering Atlanta. For years it was a lower middle class community, but now white professionals are moving in. One effect of this migration is the practice of “predatory lending” designed to foreclose property or collect abnormally high interest rate on African American senior citizens. This was coupled with aggressive marketing efforts door to door.

To combat these predatory lending practices, the church began lobbying to change state laws.  Yet advocacy takes time.  Meanwhile, a longtime member, who was also Decatur’s ex-mayor, suggested a complementary approach:  hold a rummage sale to raise money.  This effort netted $2,000, but it also inspired people to donate their federal tax refunds to the effort.  In the end, they raised $10,000, helping 20 of the city’s neediest residents in less than a year.



[1]Joy F. Skjegstad, 7 Creative Models for Community Ministry (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2013, 196-199.

[2] Linda-Marie Delloff, Public Offerings (Alban Institute, 2002), 77-86.



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