Smaller Church Ministry Initiative

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A dynamic year-long coaching and training ministry development cohort for churches in the Tennessee Conference engaged in youth ministry with worship attendance of 150 or less.

Churches will be selected based on recommendations from district leadership and a commitment to attend all training days and participate in coaching calls.

Annual Conference year schedule. We have found that over the years one of the challenges churches face occurs when a pastoral transition happens after Annual Conference. Therefore, our new model for training will follow the AC appointment year.

At least 1 member of your team is expected to attend each meeting. The more meetings each team member attends, the more they will gain from this initiative.



In the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church, approximately 82% of the congregations have a worship attendance of 99 or less. Across the United States, researchers have determined that 59% of churches have a worship attendance of between 7-99 people. The study further revealed that 35% of churches in the US have between 100-499 worshippers, 4% of churches see 500-999 in worship, 2% have 1000-1999 present, churches with 2,000-9,999 in attendance make up 0.4%, and the final 0.01% or 40 congregations in the United States have 10,000 or more in worship.


A ministry training and coaching program designed to help Smaller Churches in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church be the best ministry that God has created and called them to be. This  began 2013 with a partnership between the Tennessee Conference Young People’s Ministry and Ministry Architects.

Over the past 5 cohorts, 70 churches have participated. Cohort #5 that took place during the Annual Conference year 2017-2018, 18 churches participated and the focus shifted from strictly discussing youth ministry to encompass all of Next Gen Discipleship.

The mission of this cohort is to help local church ministries increase their capacity to make disciples. This is accomplished through team building, training, and coaching. Churches are trained in the best practices of ministry with next gen persons as well as develop opportunities for collaboration with other churches in their community and district.


The churches selected to participate in the year-long cohort exhibit the following characteristics:

1. A desire to minister with the Next Generation in their community.

2. A desire to connect with other churches in their community, district and conference.

3. Have an average worship attendance of 150 people or less. (Based on 2017 stats)

4. Recommended by their District Superintendent and/or District Strategist.

Once selected into the cohort each church will commit to form a team of 3-5 people. This team will consist of the Pastor, a Lay Leader, the Next Gen Ministry Leaders, and at least 1 additional key stakeholder in the ministry such as a parent.

Each church will commit the participation of their team to attend 4 one-day training gatherings.

Cohort Churches.

Santa Fe Charge, Primera Iglesia, Banks Chapel, Pickett-Rucker, Ebenezer Hispanic Fellowship, Manchester First, Epworth, Lawrenceburg First, Hillsboro, Antioch-Clarksville, Antioch-Leoma, Olivet, Lynnville, St. Luke’s, Mt. Pleasant First, Woodbury First, Ebenezer-Nolensville, Eagleville, Charlotte Fagan, Summitville, Harris Chapel, Spring Valley Charge, Pennington, Patterson Memorial, Decherd, Bethel, Celina, Lafayette, Hartsville, Westland, Fort Donelson, Ashland City, Dorton’s Chapel, Chapel Hill, Westview, Gainesboro, Monterey, Martin Chapel, Westmoreland, Emmanuel Hispanic Fellowship, Lavergne First, Smyrna First, Loretto First, Savannah First, Blankenship, Asbury(Stones River), McMinnville First, Carthage, Craft/Fresh Start, Dalewood/Aldersgate, Nancy Webb Kelly, Shady Grove, Homestead, Dorton, Mt. Carmel, New Union, Pleasant View


The one-day training will consist of instruction and discussion on the best practices of Next Gen ministry.


During the training day, churches will gather in their coaching groups for collaboration and discussion with their assigned coach. Between training days, churches will receive coaching over the phone or in person dependent on the need as well as the availability of the coach.

The coaches are ministry leaders who have experienced the cohort as a participant and have received training in transformational coaching. Church to coach ratio is typically 4:1.

Participating Church Financial Expectation.

The participating churches will be responsible for travel expenses incurred while attending the one-day training events. Additionally, the participating churches will pay $300 to offset the cost for books utilized during the one-day training. Financial assistant may be available if needed to cover this portion of the cohort.

Location and Date of Training.

The One-Day Training takes place quarterly. The dates and location of the training will be determined.

At least 1 member of your team is expected to attend each meeting. The more meetings each team member attends, the more they will gain from this initiative. Please make sure to mark your calendars now!!!

What are the topics covered during the one-day training?

The following topics were covered during the 2018-2019 cohort, training topics are subject to change.

1st Gathering – Focus: Starting Right

AM: Who are smaller church ministries today?
FOCUSED INPUT: Ministry Architects Survey
TECH: Google Drive
PM: Boundaries and Risk Management

2nd Gathering – Focus: Building Faith

AM: Squaring the Corners
FOCUSED INPUT: Partnering Project (Mission/Outreach)
TECH: Google Calendar/Forms
PM: Volunteers

3rd Gathering – Focus: Leadership (Team brings 2-3 students)

AM: Visioning (Case Church)
FOCUSED INPUT: Games that Teach
TECH: Google Data Management Tools
PM: Leadership Team Formation and Empowerment

4th Gathering – Focus: Faith Formation

AM: Building a Faith that Lasts
FOCUSED INPUT: Behavior Covenants
TECH: Google Presentation/Connections to Projector/TV
PM: Make It R.E.A.L.

Additional topics are covered as they are requested.

SMALL(er) CHURCH YOUTH MINISTRY: No Staff, No Money, No Problem

a book by Brad Fiscus and Stephanie Caro, Foreword by Duffy Robbins

img_4505Don’t miss out on the opportunity to purchase the book about the Smaller Church Youth Ministry Initiative!! Brad Fiscus and Stephanie Caro have written a foundational book about helping Small(er) Churches build ministries that build disciples of Jesus Christ!

Available for sale at Cokesbury, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble!

Listen to podcasts and watch a webinar!

Listen – Youth Ministry Partners

Watch – REVERB Podcast

Watch – Holston Youth Webinar


Why are the members of the team defined by the cohort?

The purpose of SCMI is best accomplished when the ministry leaders of the church are involved in the training opportunities and coaching. SCMI believes that youth ministry is most effective when it is a ministry of and with the church. Many times age level ministries have been segmented away from the general ministries of the church. Most often this is unintentional however the outcome is the same. The participation of the Pastor, the Lay Leader, the Next Gen Ministry leaders, and a parent or other key stakeholder is essential to building a vision and support for the ministry that is integrated into the culture of the church.

What books, resources, and other support materials are utilized?

The members of the team are given a great selection of books that help reinforce the training and coaching of SCYMI. The foundational books are Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries and Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem by Brad Fiscus with Stephanie Caro. SCMI utilizes the latest research on spirituality and faith development as well as other resources focused on team and leadership development. Other books may also be provided depending on the specific focus of each church.

What happens on the coaching call?

The coaching call takes place through a conference call line which enables the church team members to participate regardless of their location. The topics of the coaching call are directed by the previous teaching session as well as the needs of the church team.  During the call, the coach will ask questions and allow time for each team member to respond. The coach will provide a response once the team members have responded and heard. The coach will refrain from trying to fix situations that arise without first challenging the team to think of solutions. The coach will facilitate and redirect the team to ensure that time spent on the call is used in an efficient manner. The coach encourages, challenges and supports the team during the call while building energy and enthusiasm for ministry.

What results have been realized by the cohort churches?

The churches who have committed fully to participating through utilizing the training and coaching have experienced great results.  Each of the churches have demonstrated a growth in their confidence to ministry with people. Many but not all have seen marked growth in the size of the ministry. They have realized an increased interest and investment by the congregation not involved directly in the ministry. Each of the churches have developed plans for ministry, faith development, and outreach opportunities.