The Farm Co-Op as a model for Small Church Mobilization
At our recent synod assembly I listened to representatives from several small churches express frustration with the difficulty of trying to "yoke" diverse and often distant congregations together in order to be able to afford a pastor. But what if we think of pastors and other church resources as large farm implements (work with me here)? Members of a farm cooperative don't necessarily like each other or even agree with each other on most issues. But they share a common mission--farming; and a common need--the labor/machine/equipment needed to plant/harvest/cut.
OK, while I'm obviously not a farmer (Darn it Jim, I'm a PASTOR, not a farmer...) the point is that, instead of asking congregations to merge into one congregation with two to five worshiping sites (and we all know how history, rivalry, hard feelings, and pride make this SOOOO hard), could we look at a model that allows small congregations to preserve their own autonomy and identity while tapping into a larger resource pool by partnering with other small congregations? Such a cooperative doesn't have to be bound by geography or theology. It could include 2 to 102 congregations of every shape and size. If the synod wanted to, it could be the driving force behind such a cooperative. Examples of "shared farm implements" could include:
- pastors/pulpit supply
- financial software
- copyright licences
- membership software
- vision/mission statements
- worship media/technology
- brand (ie Lutheran Church of Montana--Corvallis)
- constitution/governing board
- synod assembly representation
Of course there are dozens of reasons to dismiss this idea out of hand. Saying no is safer than saying yes. Would it work? The Farm Co-Op has endured for decades, recognizing the strength of private ownership and individual autonomy AND the value in sharing resources and reducing redundant costs and equipment. I think the church could take a lesson from its farmers...