URC of Sunnyside: Trusting God for the extraordinary in the ordinary

signHow does a small church reach out to its neighbors when many of them don’t speak English? That’s a challenge for the United Reformed Church in Sunnyside, WA, where 85% of the population is Latino.

“Outreach is very difficult in a town like Sunnyside due to ethnic and cultural demographics,” Rev. Jordan Huff says. “Please pray for our efforts.”

For this small church, every evangelistic effort or congregational activity grows from the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments.

“We strongly believe that the ordinary, weekly means of grace are the most fundamental (and most effective) instruments of Christian outreach,” states Rev. Huff. “Any other activity or program necessarily emanates from this.”

In the year since Rev. Huff has served as minister, the church has conducted an annual “What We Believe” class, regular Sunday potlucks, and monthly ladies’ Bible studies.

Labor Day Picnic 2014“Not only do these activities provide opportunities for nourishment in our relationships with Christ and His body,” he says, “but they also provide opportunities for us to get to know visitors, discovering how best we can love them in body and soul, and introducing them to the gospel and the Reformed faith.”

The group meets for Sunday worship services at 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM in a building it owns at 1750 Sheller Road. Church school classes follow the morning service. The church advertises on social media, maintains a Facebook page, and has launched a new website.

Pastor's FamilyThe congregation began as a church plant in July of 2007, under the supervision of Grace URC in Kennewick, WA, and became organized in October of 2008. Rev. Huff was ordained and installed on April 11, 2014. He is a 2013 graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He and Jana have three children: Lydia, Ellyn, and William.

As with other ministers serving small congregations, Rev. Huff notes the joys of fostering close relationships with the members of the congregation.

“Being a small church, we’re like a family, and I have the opportunity to treat them as such, to show each member the kind of shepherdly attention they need and deserve,” he says. He has visited almost all of the members in their homes, accompanied elders on each family visit, and frequently calls on hospitalized congregants or members enduring other trials.

“Though I wish we were larger, the small size of our church has provided me with several opportunities to develop as a pastor in and out of the pulpit,” he adds. “Because our size limits our number of activities, needs, and ‘church issues,’ I’ve been able to develop as a preacher, dedicating ample time each week to Bible study and sermon preparation.”

Rev. Huff also sees that dual development in the difficulties the church faces.

blg entry“As with joys, there are challenges both in and out of the pulpit in a small church. Being small affects our congregational singing, our number of church volunteers, and the general ‘body feel’ of the church. We feel small, which can be a bit uncomfortable for visitors coming from a larger congregation.”

As far as ways churches with more resources can help smaller congregations, he says, “Pray! Pray for growth and sustainability both numerically, financially, and spiritually. May the Lord add to our church but also faithfully encourage her shepherds and her sheep, that we might be faithful in little, not growing weary, pressing on with faithful fervor in the ‘ordinariness’ of small church life.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 14 & 15 of the April 8, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

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