The number of available resources for churches is overwhelming. What’s good? What isn’t? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What you’ll find on this page are resources that we’ve come across, have used, or have been recommended to us by reliable sources. SCE doesn’t necessarily agree with everything presented in these resources. Discernment is always needed.
The content on this page will grow as we become aware of additional resources. You can help us with that. If you’re aware of good resources for churches, especially smaller churches, please contact us. We hope you’ll find what follows to be helpful to you and your church ministry. (For resources especially for pastors, check out the resources page on the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence website.)
- "15 Characteristics of the Small Church” by Glenn C. Daman. This list was adapted from the Mikros newsletter (from Western Seminary - not the Reformed Church of America’s Western Seminary) - which no longer exists.
- “Small is Beautiful” by Wendy McCormick (published in the November 23, 2009 issue of the Alban Weekly). Despite a culture that says “bigger is better,” many small congregations are thriving. As Wendy McCormick writes, “Many of these [small] congregations provide an anchoring presence… [they] enjoy much higher percentages of their members in worship and ministry than do their larger counterparts.” While statistics show that the majority of U.S. congregations are small, most church resources and materials are designed for large congregations. The Indianapolis Center for Congregations provides resources for both large and small congregations, as well as tools to help small churches identify and build upon their unique strengths. To read more, click here.
- "The Small Church" by Steve Willis (published in the February 4, 2013 issue of the Alban Weekly). Historically the number of smaller churches has surpassed the number of larger ones, a trend that started to change with the development of public transportation along with industrial economic growth. Despite the increasing number of mega churches in the last century, Steve Willis states that denominational Christianity has “found itself on the periphery” in terms of its influence on society and culture. Amidst the growth of larger, more mainstream churches there remains a number of smaller churches whose roots stretch back decades – and for some, centuries – and it is these churches that, according to Willis, are worth noting. As Willis asserts, “Today there is knowledge to explore that comes from healthy, sustainable, rural churches.” To read more about Willis’ urge for churches to step out of their cultural-centric thinking and to “relearn gifts and skills from the periphery,” click here.
- Bush, Peter. In Dying We Are Born: The Challenge and the Hope for Congregations. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2007.
- Bush, Peter, and Christine O’Reilly. Where 20 or 30 Are Gathered: Leading Worship in the Small Church. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2006.
- Callahan, Kennon L. A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 1999.
- Callahan, Kennon L. Small, Strong Congregations. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
- Canada, David. Spiritual Leadership in the Small Membership Church. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press, 2005.
- Damon, Glenn C. Shepherding the Small Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications,2008
- O’Brien, Brandon J. The Strategically Small Church. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010.
- Poling-Goldenne, David, and L. Shannon Jung. Discovering Hope: Building Vitality in Rural Congregations. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 2001.
- Risley, Jean F. A Place Where Everybody Matters: Life and Ministry in a Small Church. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010.
- Spiegel, Aaron, Nancy Armstrong, and Brent Bill. 40 Days & 40 Bytes: Making Computers Work for Your Congregation. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2004.
Having an attitude of celebrating what’s good and right enables us to see possibilities that are out there and can save us from trying to fix what’s wrong—an approach that often has limited success. When we’re able to recognize the good, we’re more willing to take risks in order to achieve goals or find solutions. This DVD is an excellent resource for churches if they want to look at their ministry with fresh eyes and from a new perspective.
Creativity is not an elusive skill or artistic talent. It’s an attitude that enables us to “look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary”. Many times creativity is a matter of perspective. It can change the way we think about, and approach, tasks so that we can discover how to turn problems into opportunities. Being creative encourages us to make mistakes and delight in new discoveries along the way. It allows us to break patterns and find new options helping us steer away from the common approach of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. This DVD is an excellent resource for churches if they’re looking for a new way to look at what currently exists within the church or to discover what else there could be.
When we focus our vision, we have clearer direction and purpose in achieving our goals. It’s easy to get carried away with an idea and forget why we started pursuing it in the first place. And while it’s important to keep our vision focused, we need to keep it big enough to see other possibilities which could result in something better than the original concept. This DVD is a great tool to set the stage for a discussion about a church’s vision, whether it’s for the entire church or just a committee.
(You can watch a preview on the websites.)
While these were made for secular audiences, they’re very suitable for the church setting. The majority of the CRC ministry leaders that have viewed the DVDs (at an SCE Learning Event) say they’re an excellent resource. Many have requested to use them at congregational meetings/council retreats. If you’d like to borrow a DVD, please contact us. Along with the DVD we have a leader’s guide that lays out a variety of formats: from a one-hour session to a weekend retreat. (Note: We have permission from the distributor to allow CRC churches to borrow our copies of the DVDs/use the support materials.)
Worship Renewal Grants – Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW)
The CICW offers grants for churches in North America to engage in a one-year project that focuses on renewing and sustaining worship in their congregation. The goal of the grants is to “stimulate thoughtful and energetic work that will result in worship services that exhibit renewed creativity, theological integrity, and relevance.” About 40 grants are awarded each year to churches and other non-profit organizations, and the amounts awarded range from $5,000 to $12,000. The next deadline for applications is January 10, 2013. To learn more about the grant and how to apply, click here.
From their series “Worship Essentials,” the editors of Leadership Resources and Christianity Today International have created a detailed guide for the effective use of video projection in church settings. The guide can be used for a group training session or for individual use by pastors and ministry leaders.
Congregational Resource Guide
The Congregational Resource Guide (CRG) is a free online database of resources for churches and ministry leaders. It is a project of The Alban Institute, and provides a hub of information and links to ministry-related articles, websites, books, blogs, and much more. The CRG is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.
In this online community you can ask a ministry question (or see hundreds of answers), connect with others in discussion forums which represent nearly 60 areas of church ministry, or register for free webinars. Additionally, you’ll find 14 “networks” which feature blogs and ministry resources for administration, church leadership, specialized ministries, how to use web technology, and more.
Indianapolis Center for Congregations
The Indianapolis Center for Congregations (ICC) has a variety of resource guides, articles, and other publications on its website that are free and reproducible. Topics range from strategic ministry planning to building projects to small groups and many more. The website also provides a number of congregational stories from churches sharing their best practices and learning experiences in ministry.
Virginia Theological Seminary, Small Church Resources
Virginia Theological Seminary offers a small church resource web page that includes book lists and reviews, articles, links to discussion forums, and other free resources specifically focused on small churches. Workshop videos are available which cover topics such as mission, education, worship, leadership, and more. You can also download issues of their Small Church Newsletter.