Friends have a valuable resource that we are uniquely able to tap, the power of ordinary people. With our attempt to empower the individual, and work together in community we have the ability for growth.
So often, people think of the ministry of the extraordinary ministers. People look to the best speakers or the most charismatic leaders. So often people talk as if someone must be the best, or the person is nothing. A more realistic view recognizes that someone with experience can be as effective as two. Someone with experience and talent can be as effective as 10, but no one will be as effective as 100. If we release and support all who feel God’s call into ministry, there is no limit to what God can do with us.
How could we take advantage of our tradition of equipping all people for ministry? I suggest that we remember our past as pioneers in the house Church movement. We have a whole system designed to encourage the smaller worship group — because of this we should free people to minister and build small communities. If we encourage people in ministry we will grow.
These days, the population is mobile, yet technology offers opportunities to keep old connections alive. We are uniquely able to encourage those who leave our communities for university or work to remain active. We must encourage isolated Friends. If two families of Friends live close together we should encourage them to meet together, read scripture together, pray together, and to share with each other how they are living with Jesus. This small group, possibly meeting in a home or a coffee shop is a functioning faith community and not lost to the Society of Friends. It is likely if two families meet, a third, fourth or more will meet as well. If we mobilize our ordinary people we can expect to replace a period of decline with a period of growth. We must value the house-church and the coffee shop prayer meeting.
Ideally we should see youth group as a training camp for church planters. We know that many of them will leave us for other communities, so we must train them to form communities and share the work of living with Christ in community. If we invited our young adults to help build the faith community, we would keep them as they followed God and found their place in the world.
We either encourage isolated Friends, or we lose them. With care, ordinary isolated Friends can become functional and growing faith communities. Friends will have a dynamic future unless we become so narrow-minded as to destroy the ministries of our ordinary, faithful individuals. On the other hand, if we do not take advantage of ordinary people we are neglecting our greatest resource and will continue to lose members and meetings.