Local Ministry Receives Grant to Support Small Churches

Carl Ellis. Submitted photo.

“In the United States around 4,000 churches close each year and 2.7 million Christians become inactive,” said local Methodist pastor, Reverend Dr. Carl Ellis.

Ellis is executive director for the Academy for Small Membership Church Ministries, and lives in rural Hiattville, southwest of Fort Scott.

The academy received  a $30,000 grant this year from the Guy and Ruby Casebourn Murphy Charitable Trust to continue  training of lay pastors and develop innovative programs which support small membership churches.

This trust has supported the Academy’s ministries for over 20 years, beginning in 1999 when Ellis met Ruby Murphy and trustee Thomas Henderson, and the trust began supporting local church ministries.

The Academy has trained over 400 lay persons from 15 different states to serve small membership churches in leadership roles and has held continuing education classes to teach pastoral care skills such as how to plan and lead a funeral for the first time and how to help people dealing with grief. The Academy has also led workshops on church growth in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.

The Guy and Ruby Casebourn Murphy Charitable Trust has announced The Academy will receive a gift of $75,000 in 2024, he said.

“The Academy plans to invest this gift to perpetuate Guy and Ruby’s values and belief in helping others,” Ellis said. “The grant will help  expand ministries and strengthen small membership churches to help their communities.”

The Academy began in 1999 when Ellis taught the first lay pastor’s class with 22 students. It was incorporated in 2015.

The current board of directors has 12 members from Kansas, Nebraska, and Ohio. The board met in June 2022 to refine the mission and vision and start strategic planning for future benefits for the small membership church including scholarships for lay people to participate, and training on all aspects of pastoral care.

The Board is working with the help of consultant Rev. George Cooper from Florida and is developing a 5-10 year plan for helping small membership churches grow and thrive.

Ellis understands the need for strong community-based churches to reach the under-served rural and urban areas in the United States and throughout the world.

“Small membership churches are able, with God’s love, to help bridge the divide between those of differing opinions, give support to those dealing with mental illness, and help those dealing with poverty, as they live out Christ’s call to discipleship,” Ellis said.

Ellis “sees the work as a call from God,” he said.

The small membership church is where he was welcomed into the family of God and experienced God’s love, forgiveness, and grace, he said.

“Without small membership churches many people would feel lost,” says Ellis, “because small membership churches are a place where children of all ages discover they are part of God’s loving community.”

The Academy for Small Membership Church Ministries will be hosting focus groups for small membership churches this fall asking three questions: What are the strengths of small membership churches; What are the challenges small membership churches face; and What programs can The Academy offer to help the small membership church meet future needs and challenges.

For more information, visit https://www.tasmcm.org/ or contact Rev. Dr. Carl K. Ellis at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *