ChuckWarnock.com

Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

Our Church

In 2004, I  was called to church-and-demo-bb-motors-010.jpgChatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia – a wonderful 156-year old congregation with a rich heritage of community ministry.

Our town of Chatham, VA has 1200 residents, and is the county seat for Pittsylvania County located in “Southside” Virginia. Chatham is home to Hargrave Military Academy, which our church helped found; and, Chatham Hall, an Episcopal prep school for girls. Our entire community is undergoing tremendous social and economic change due to the loss of tobacco growing, and  textile and furniture manufacturing. Individuals, organizations, and institutions have come together to reimagine this area and our church is part of that process. And, in the midst of all that, we still do many of the things that traditional Virginia Baptist churches do. So, we’re walking a fine line between reinventing ourselves, and honoring the traditions that are valuable to our members and community.

Our Missional Approach to Ministry

Here are some of the things we have done here since 2004:

  • Started a Boys and Girls Club, an after-school program targeting underserved kids. About 80 kids attended each day when the club met at our church.  They have now moved to the new Community Center at Chatham where they do homework, get snacks, play games, learn life skills, and have access to a computer lab.
  • Founded a community music school for kids called Chatham Arts. About 30-children take violin, cello, piano, guitar, and voice lessons at our church each week. The goal is to form a community youth orchestra. The music school is a partnership with Virginia Tech and the Renaissance Music Academy of Blacksburg, VA.
  • Collaborated with artists and educators in our community to offer Soundcheck, a monthly teen open mic night.   Outreach magazine did a feature on us in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue, Partnering For Art’s Sake.
  • I pulled together a coalition of area pastors to form Chatham Cares, a non-profit corporation. I served as president and our mission was to design, build, and operate a community center, for which we have received a $3-million grant. Prior to the Community Center’s construction our county did not have a recreation program or community center.  On May 19, 2008, The Community Center at Chatham opened to rave reviews.
  • We revamped our community VBS in 2005, increasing attendance from 60 to over 180 each night.
  • In conjunction with the Chatham Arts Community Music School, we host classical music concerts in our sanctuary featuring touring performers and groups, such as The Van Brugh quartet, the Irish Broadcasting Company’s resident string quartet. These concerts are funded by ticket sales, local support, and grants from the National Endowment of the Arts.
  • On January 20, 2008, we hosted the first community interracial celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy at our church.

Measuring Our Missional Impact

We recognize that not everyone who participates in our community ministries will attend our church. While some do attend, and we continue to reach out to others, missional ministry is most accurately reflected in participation in each ministry. Here are some numbers of how we’re impacting our community. We are impacting the lives of –

  • 30-children and teens who take music lessons each week at our community music school;
  • the families who are connected with this program;
  • 20-30 senior adults from our community come to our monthly Adult Fellowship luncheon;
  • 50-150 people attend our classical music concerts and music school student performances;
  • 25 senior adults participate in our monthly bus day-trips;
  • our worship service reaches about 80 each week;
  • 65 members of our church participate in Deacon Team Ministry, a gifts-based ministry to our membership and community.

I hope all this gives you some idea of what we are doing in our small congregation and why we are doing it. Stop in often, because things change quickly in our small town!

18 replies

  1. God’s blessings are new every morning and endless to thoz called and willing to get out of bed !

  2. I looked in to this because of your message to me (eman1) on Twitter. I am impressed with your church. Ous is a rural church, but of the same size as yours. 100 attending our two services. Our church is dying from indifference. Our former pastor warned us three years ago that we die if we stood still. The folks who don’t want change have frustrated us who do want to grow.

    • Jim, unfortunately your situation is not unusual. I think every small church, and some larger ones, struggle with apathy and indifference. But I am convinced even a small group can change that. That’s what we’re working on here, but it’s a long, slow process. Keep in touch and let me know how things are going.

  3. Hallelujah for other Missional Leaders … I guess your spiritual DNA from our ministry 25+ years ago has rubbed off on me, too … PRAISE THE LORD!!!

    Press ON!!!

  4. Strangely, the words “God” or “Jesus” occur nowhere on this page…

  5. Steve, keep looking because the “words God and Jesus” appear lots of places on my blog. I’m sorry you were. offended, but I hope you pick up on the genuine desire we have to to connect people with God and Jesus.

  6. Great work you people have done.

  7. Chuck, could you please tell me more about Sundown Cinemas. It sounds like a great outreach ministry. What kinds of movies do you show? Do you need some sort of license to do it?

  8. Hi, Mike,
    Yes, you do need a license for churches. Go to http://www.cvli.com/
    Restrictions are you cannot advertise the name of the movie, you cannot charge admission, etc. After you get the license, you can show most DVDs. We showed only G-rated, which are hard to find, but eliminates the language problem. We setup a screen and sound system in our parking lot, invited people to bring lawn chairs or blankets, sold refreshments, and had 40-70 people each night, mostly not our members. Hope that helps.

  9. Dear Brothers and sisters in Jesus precious name,

    Greetings and just a little hello from a new sister Esther. Esther all the way up in INDIA. I am Esther was born to Pastor. I was raised in Narsapur, West Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh, India. I did my schooling and college education in the same place. I was born into a Christian family with a Pentecostal background, and participated in all the activities of the church. After completion my education I was came to Lords Work… O.K

    This is esther, doing lords work in Andhra Pradesh. Lord using me well for his work.Me and my 10 co workers and myself doing ministry in the remote and corner areas of India. Am also running a poor orphanage. Am giving them free education and free food, shelter and clothing. please pray for all our works and especially for the poor children and for their futures. We are also in need of doing other projects like church planting, cycles to the pastors, street ministry, youth ministry, music ministry.

    I prayerfully appeal and request you to please do pray and try to take a little bit of share with us in financial way to do more and more work for our lord Jesus Christ, through your kind love with sacrifice. ABOVE ALL We need your powerful and valuable prayers. We welcome to India and please try to come and share your gospel to our people. If you are interested in coming to our place I will conduct crusades and village meetings.

    We must partner together to bring in this net, because there is a great harvest here to be won for the Kindgom. When sin abounds Grace much more abounds and the Love of Christ is greater than the lie of the enemy. LOVE WILL PREVAIL! WHEN YOU GIVE UNTO THE ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IT IS LIKE GIVING UNTO THE LORD. PLEASE PARTNER WITH US AND LET THE LOVE OF CHRIST TRANSFORM THIS WORLD FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. WE MUST BRING THEM OFF THE STREETS AND LOVE THEM AND CARE FOR THEM. WE NEED SOME SUPPORT SO WE CAN HELP THESE AROUND US. We cannot do this alone. Specialy i saw u that u came to india, so, i would like to share my things brother……

    So,Please convey our problems to your friends and church members and ask them pray for all our needs. I am looking for your favorable reply. May God bless you richly in this year with his love and mercy that makes everyday a joy live. Thanking you
    From Ur Sister in chirst
    Esther

  10. Would like info on your Deacon Team Ministry and any other info to help us reach our community.

    Thank you

  11. Greetings in the name of Christ,
    I am a individual pastor started my service among lake fishers at Kolleru.
    They are poor and living in huts.One night some Hindu terrorists came to our village and caught fire to our huts. They have been suffering from bitter cold and hot atmosphere since months together.Our government help is very low,ie. ablanket,25 kilos of rice,500 Indian rupees, a plate and glass. They are all awaiting helping from Christian brothers around world.
    V.Yedukondalu, S.V. Garuvu,Penumadam post. Via Gummalur 534267. W.G.Dt. A.P.India

  12. Receive much greetings from her to you hopping and trusting that you are goingon very fine if so the same case applies to us.The reason why we decided to write to is that we were pleased with what you do when we read in the website. Weare asmall group of whom wwe started a church. The church is small we are praying for it to grow one time in Gods will.
    We will like to know more of you.thanks
    Yours brother Nelson family and the church

  13. Good missional work. One item needs editing, viz. the Chatham Cares link still points to a now nonexistent (or maybe misspelled) page on the church website, whereas the organization has its own domain, http://www.chathamcares.org/

  14. I really appreciate your work and I believe that God has already made a place for you with Him on the last day.
    Here we run and orphanage home, we need sponsors who can help us raise these kids. In anyway that you can be a support will be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Evang. Cornelius

  15. dear brother in christ
    Our greetings to you in the wonderful name of Our greetings to you in the wonderful name of our
    Lord Jesus Christ and this letter needs a good
    samaritan to reach that wonderful celestial city where
    our treasure is with sorrow and comfort of our Lord
    Jesus Christ ( rev. 21: 2ff, Gal 4:26)
    I am shem kiyaka male in sex, I saved
    through the Blood of christ the son of the living God.
    Brothers and sister in Christ we have a christian
    study group whose members go out to teach and pray for
    the sick, widows, widowers, orphans, old people and
    the needy for their needs in their community. we also
    preach christ as did Philip in the book of acts 8:
    35ff to unsaved people. we usually meet for prayers
    and Bible studies in one of our believers house during
    rain season under the tree shades in dry season. Our
    group went out to evangelize, we came into one of the
    villages, where we assembled into one christian’s
    house fo prayers. We prayed and taught the family the
    word of God which moved and touched them all. I came
    across your address, doctrines and engagements which
    are good and educative to our minds. when i talked this
    to my group, it also moved them and we saw it is better
    to communciate with you in written. So broters and
    sisters rememer us in your daily prayers and God
    willing, help us with spiritual materials such as holy
    Bibles, two cassettes tapes for your own listening,
    video, audi cassette tapes, books, magazines, books,
    tracks and many other spiritual cocern..
    These will enable and strenghten us spiritually.
    Further more we request you, your friends and your
    church to visit us and establish here in our beloved
    country kenya. This can assist us in preaching and
    furtering the word of God to all mankind so that they
    may be saved (matt 28: 19ff). we are praying that God
    may hear our prayers so as to touch your hearts that
    you may volunteer to assist us in this important
    undertaking. Greet our brothers and sisters in christ
    and tell them to continue to minsitering the word of
    God the poor and rich and may the Lord our Lord bless
    you abundantly which is our personal prayers.
    shem

  16. Our church is in the middle of trying to get grant funding for a community center for Rathdrum, Idaho, about 7,500 people. Can you give me some direction and helpful ideas based on how you built yours? We have already purchased the property and have the plans engineered up for the center to have 300 people capacity auditorium, a soup kitchen and a large gymnasium as well as several rooms for small group meetings. Thank you!

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