Wetlands are places where the land is saturated by water. Ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, river deltas, and flood-prone areas are all wetlands.
Far from being useless, wetlands are among the most productive of all ecosystems. They support high concentrations of wildlife. They serve as nurseries for many species. They provide water filtration, flood protection, and erosion control—all integral to the welfare of the entire watershed.
Among all ecosystems, wetlands are the most vulnerable to deterioration.
Smaller churches are the wetlands of the Church. In comparison to other churches, they seem less productive and are often devalued. Many are endangered by attrition and decline.
Yet people in smaller churches practice and learn a high level of community. They can use their gifts, even without training, in a context of appreciation. This is a fertile environment for raising up church workers who may eventually serve the wider community.
Could it be that allowing smaller churches to languish adversely affects the entire Church? The apostle Paul stresses the need to honor and care for parts of the church that seem to be weaker: “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.)
We normally apply this passage to individuals. But does not this apostolic concern also encompass weaker churches in the surrounding area or within a larger faith community?
Like efforts to protect and restore wetlands, endeavors to encourage and revitalize smaller churches, in fact, do help to strengthen the life and mission of the whole Church.