The Thriving Rural Communities Initiative at Duke Divinity School will host a weekend retreat May 1-3 on growth and sustainability for small membership churches. The event, Fan the Flame, is for pastors and lay persons and will focus on the unique testimony of growth and sustainability at the Bladen Charge, a Thriving Rural Communities partner church that is made up of three United Methodist churches in North Carolina: Bethlehem, Live Oak, and Windsor.
While attendance and outreach at most small churches are declining, the Bladen Charge has seen dynamic growth, especially given its size. Its worship attendance is multigenerational, averaging close to 50 children under the age of 12 out of 266 people in services. Worship services include music, dance, and art. Its outreach incorporates ministries of providing food to those in need and support for those living with addiction. The Bladen Charge maintains a community garden and food pantry, which fed 249 families in February 2015 and supplied food for 50 students through a backpack ministry. It also offers the only addiction-recovery ministry in Bladen County. Additionally, the Methodist Home for Children recognized the Bladen Charge as the 2015 Guardian Angel for its generosity and support.
Fan the Flame will explore the lessons learned at the Bladen Charge and the ways other small churches can become more sustainable. The conference will welcome the Rev. Francis Daniel, district superintendent of the Harbor District, as speaker and the Rev. Donna Banks, district superintendent of the Corridor District, as worship leader. Both are from the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Advance registration is required before April 17, and early bird registration is available before April 3.