Small Churches Host Large Expressions of Service and Hospitality

Rev. Greg Klimovitz || May 27, 2016


What can a church, whose worship attendance hovers around 70, do to engage their local community? The faithful saints who gather at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield (Flourtown) connected with local mission partners and area churches to host over 200 neighbors for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Children, youth, parents, grandparents, and other adults from both the congregation and Flourtown neighborhood packed the fellowship hall as they served alongside one another to make blankets for Meals on Wheels recipients, hoagies for Whosoever Gospel Mission, greeting cards for Philabundance, and freshly-baked cookies for Welcome Church care packages. Aware the congregation’s demographic did not reflect their larger community, with only a handful of children present on any given Sunday, the MLK Day of Service enabled Flourtown to form new relationships with young families in their neighborhood while strengthening bonds with local mission partners.

“What we learned from MLK Day was that we can still provide meaningful family ministry even when we don’t have a slew of young children on our rolls,” remarked Beth Bauer, Ruling Elder and Chair of the Committee on Community Outreach. “It has been a real blessing for us to have this shift in attitude about who we are and what we can accomplish. We have been able to stop lamenting about who is not here on Sundays and think more about how we can do youth [and family] ministry in new and different ways.”

A 2015 Great Ends Grant recipient from the Presbytery of Philadelphia, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service reenergized the Flourtown congregation and shifted their narrative from perceived limitations to renewed possibilities in and around the church. Even their newly-installed pastor, Rev. Kevin Ireland, was moved by the gathering, “Being able to serve together, side by side not only with members of our church family, but other congregations, neighbors and passionate people in our community, allowed us to see all that can be done together when we show up ready to be included in what God is doing in Flourtown and beyond!”

In addition to the faithful of Flourtown, Church on the Mall in Plymouth Meeting is yet another witness of a small congregation willing to host large expressions of hospitality. While Church on the Mall’s worship attendance averages around 40, every first Friday of the month upwards of 100 congregants, local neighbors, and passer-bys gather in their worship space turned dining hall for a free meal and fellowship. A 2015 Covenant Fund grant recipient, Church on the Mall has creatively leveraged their strategic location, passion for hospitality, and commitment to their community for the purposes of an intentional and gracious ministry of welcome.

“We wanted to play to our strengths,” remarked Rev. Sarah Colwill. “We have an ideal location that is easy to get to both by bus or car. We also have a wonderful multi-purpose space that is accessible and conducive to nice large table gatherings…We wanted to use our space and our commitment to reaching out to strangers.”

As the congregation has been open to utilize their assets for thoughtful ministry, Church on the Mall has renewed their sense of purpose, call, and commitment to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Members of the congregation have taken ownership of this ministry as they decorate, promote, serve, cater, and extend invitations to the monthly meals. Rev. Colwill added, “While always strong in their call to hospitality, this ministry has enabled [the church] to show this Christian welcome to many more people than was possible on Sunday mornings alone. This ministry has helped us to know that we are still needed in our specific time and place for the spreading of the Good News.”

In this season of Pentecost, the community ministries of Flourtown and Church on the Mall remind us the wind of God’s Spirit continues to blow in and through our smaller churches wherever they are. As our congregations open their doors, unfold tables, serve meals, weave blankets, and look for opportunities to engage local neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ, we give thanks for their ministry among us. Even more, we pray their witness spurs all of us to small and large expressions of service and hospitality deeply needed in the world today.