Driving through Clayton and Henry counties, you can see a church building on practically every corner. Whether it’s a large, sprawling campus or a small quaint edifice that sits tucked away in a cul-de-sac, they are an ever-present part of life in the Southern Crescent.
The idea that bigger is better does not apply. Several pastors in Henry and Clayton counties say they are making a major impact in the community, despite being small in members.
“It’s does not matter if the church is big or small if you’re teaching a sound doctrine,” said Pastor Roberto Torres, who operates a Hispanic ministry out of First Baptist Church, in Forest Park, where Reed Crumbliss is senior pastor.
Pastor Michael Winfree of Lion of Judah Faith Center, in Morrow, agreed.
“As long as you are where God has called you to be, it does not matter the size of the church,” said Winfree. “We’re all one in the body of Christ.”
Torres and Winfree have been operating small ministries for three years. Torres’ ministry oversees 40 to 50 members, while Winfree has a congregation of 50 members.
Winfree said the goal is to be saturated in the community, “teaching the lost, setting the captive free, demonstrating the agape love, empowering, strengthening and supporting one another.”
“Yes, the numbers are small,” Torres said. “But it’s about teaching people to love God and follow His teaching.”
In Henry County, Grace Baptist Church first opened its doors in 1968, at 4020 Ga. Highway 81, in McDonough, with about 12 members. Since, about 50 to 75 people attend services there each week, according to deacon Ralph Henderson, who serves as head of the church’s deacon and financial boards. He said one reason people are drawn to his small church is the friendliness of its members.
“People are not criticized or condemned,” said Henderson, 67, of McDonough. “They’re made to feel like they’re at home, and that somebody cares about them. That’s our primary goal, to reach people and try to make people feel that we care about them. We don’t try to tell people how to live or how to do their lives. God’s does that. I’m not a judge, and I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a witness.”
Ruth Barrett, 42, has been a member of Rehoboth Christian Center International, in McDonough, for five years. The 150-member church began in 2007, and Bishop Ronnie Jackson is its pastor.
Barrett said her church is the best fit for her. “I needed a place to be held accountable and I enjoy the mentoring that I have received here,” said Barrett. “I like for my church to know my children and for my children to know their church leaders.”
“We are a small church making a big impact,” said Janice Johnson, 34, whose also a member at Rehoboth Christian Center International. “Here we have resources in a small environment and it’s changing our lives in a big way. I was part of a larger church. One of the things that was missing for me was the freedom and liberty for me to live and be open without judgment. Here I feel this is a place of refuge that allows me to fall, cry, and get up again, while at the same time the pastor and congregation are loving me throughout the process. Here we don’t have to fake it until we make it. We just grow together.”