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Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

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A myriad of issues face the rural and small membership A.M.E. churches, such as lack of long-range planning, high denominational assessments, recurring financial problems, inadequately trained pastors, frequent pastoral movement, and acceptance versus adoption, making survivorship difficult. Therefore, the EMPRO Model (i.e., The Empowerment Project) is an instrument that will positively impact the A.M.E. Church and its treatment of the rural and small membership churches. To be sure, the Empowerment Project is capable of delivering the necessary tools and skills (planning, budget preparation, polity, calendar preparation, church history, stewardship and tithing) to the leadership (clergy and laity) of rural and small membership churches which will enable them to perform at a much higher level. Succinctly, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate vehicle that enables the Empowerment Project to move forth. It was the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit that empowered the Fairfield A.M.E. Church to exhibit an outward resolve to keep hope alive. Empowerment is the enhanced ability to accomplish clearly identified goals and objectives.

The procedure was to select five A.M.E. churches from the Atlanta/North Georgia Conference of the Sixth Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church to participate in the Empowerment Project. Each church fits the definition of either rural or small membership, or both. Four of the five churches selected were actually located in rural areas. The other church is located in the city of Atlanta. The churches selected have experienced similar struggles and difficulties.

The findings of the study showed that the training seminar forum is a powerful tool for imparting information. Other results were: (1) The topics offered during the seminar sessions strengthened the participants' knowledge and understanding of the A.M.E. Church in general. (2) The information relating to budget preparation and church planning provided additional insights into how the congregation would better be able to meet its goals because of better planning. (3) The session relating to the need for the local church to develop a mission statement that clearly outlined what it saw as its own identifiable mission caused the participants to be better able to identify 'do-able' local goals and objectives. (4) The seminar sessions provided an opportunity for useful dialogue to be exchanged between the key officers of the church concerning the mission and purpose of the local church. (5) The seminars provided the 'how to' for all of the participants involved. (6) Pastors viewed the training as an enormous help to their local church ministry.

A more informed pastorate and a more informed laity bring about a much higher level of local church performance, i.e., empowerment . When folks know what to do and how to do it, the overall functioning of the church is enhanced and, thus, empowered.

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