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When Small-Town Pastors Unite, Big Things Happen

"Hey pastor, I really wish churches did more together in our community."

I've heard that type of statement often over the years. The dream of churches working together is a worthy dream, though it is often only a dream. There are good reasons for it, at least sometimes. Differences in theology and ministry philosophy can become obstacles to working together. The unstated belief that other churches are the “competition” can also keep us at arms length from each other. Packed church calendars and our own ministry vision can also be a hurdle to working together as kingdom partners in our community. But what would happen if a group of pastors were able to push through those barriers and make a commitment to love, encourage, support, and cheer each other on as co-laborers?

In the fall of 2019 a group of seven pastors in Clarion County made that commitment. We agreed to start meeting weekly to pray for each other, our churches and our county. Sitting in the room were pastors from Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God and Non-denominational churches. Our commitment was simple, we would pray together and set aside our differences. Simple enough.

Building a Community of Pastors

But I don’t think any of us expected for that one hour weekly commitment to become one of the most important meetings of our week. Gradually, we learned to trust each other’s opinion and began seeking advice about life and ministry. When Covid hit, we took our weekly meeting online for a season and used that time to listen to what each of our churches were doing to navigate those uncertain days. Over time, our group has become more than a prayer group. We’ve become friends who can support each other, challenge each other, provide counsel when needed, and seek ways to engage in meeting needs in our community. 

The Clarion League of Pastors gathering in December, 2023. (Image courtesy of Trent Kirkland.)

A Blessing for the Wider Community

Beyond our weekly time together, we have been able to collaborate on several projects to help make Clarion County a better place to live, planting gospel seeds along the way. We’ve worked together to form a chapter of the Keystone Family Alliance (www.keyfam.org) which aims to help churches make tangible commitments to address foster and adoption needs in the county.

The League of Pastors (a fun name that someone coined that seems to have stuck) also started a community Good Friday communion service after concluding that it is Christ’s work on the cross that ultimately unifies us despite our differences. Currently, several of the churches have agreed to partner to bring a chapter of Love, Inc (www.loveinc.org) to Clarion County. In April, we will open up one of our weekly times together to all of our churches, making it a monthly community prayer time. None of these would have been possible without a commitment to unity and trust.

The League of Pastors have added more churches over the past several years with 11 churches participating and we remain committed to partnering together in prayer as well as finding other ways to make a difference in Clarion County. I love these men and feel blessed to be part of this unique movement of God.

*Featured image credit: Garrett Heath, Okiejoke Media

Trent Kirkland is the pastor of Zion Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where he has served for twenty-five years. He can be reached at trentkirkland@gmail.com.