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hope for churches in stress


Throughout the mountains and hills of central Pennsylvania, small streams merge into larger tributaries and, ultimately, into the Susquehanna River. At each point of convergence, the water swells with greater volume and power.

With this image in mind, three churches in Pennsylvania are actively working at collaboration.* The endeavor is aptly named, “Convergence.”

First, the pastors met together. Each church had needs, but the focus was not on short-term fixes. The primary aim was to deepen relationships for an ongoing partnership—by prayer, encouragement, idea-sharing, challenge, and celebration with one another.

As a next step the leadership teams started to meet. The blended group talked about youth ministry, with a plan for a Convergence Youth Retreat. Participants challenged each church to rework vision. One church offered leadership development classes for all three.

The churches have celebrated a rebirth of children’s ministry. One church surged from zero to six kids. Not much by large church metrics. But for a church of 25, as one pastor exclaimed, “This is huge, like a super bowl win!”

Who invests in the long-term vitality and mission of smaller churches? Must each church struggle alone? Is this a task of denominational leaders? Or can smaller churches by active collaboration take responsibility for their own renewal?

Convergence is one way to tackle the revitalization of smaller churches. Long ago, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes put it simply with another image of combined strength: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

*New LIfe Community (Carlisle and Mount Holly Springs),

Fairview BIC (New Cumberland), and Eshcol BIC (Ickesburg).

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