Most of my life I have heard people refer to the church as a hospital for the spiritually ill.  It is a good comparison as people who need spiritual healing often seek out the church just as those who need physical healing go to the local hospital.

  But there is a new breed of people in America today.  We are now dealing with a generation of folks who were not raised in church.  Many adults today have never seen the inside of a church building except for an occasional wedding or funeral.  As a result, they have a different outlook on the value of the church than their parents and grandparents had.  This is forcing church leaders to rethink some of the ministry models we have accepted down through the years.

  Many small churches today must realign their thinking from a sprititual hospital to a sprititual clinic type of ministry.  Let me explain.  A hospital (except for the emergency room of course) tends to be a long care facility.  People go there and plan to be admitted and stay for as long as needed to get their symptoms cured.

  In the past, the church functioned in much the same way.  As people had bad things come into their lives, they would turn to the church for relief.  Studies have been conducted and results published showing when people would be more receptive to be approached with the gospel.  Tragedies such as a death in the family, divorce, or some other heart wrenching event would leave people's hearts open and as they were ministered too they would become a part of the church.  After being touched in such a way, they often stayed and became regular workers in the congregation that had reached them.

  But in today's world people view the church more as a walk in clinic.  They still want help in their time of distress, but are more likely to move on once their situation has been settled.  Just like people go to the clinic for a fix for today so they can feel better and get on with their normal routines, many want to get a spiritual prescription and be able to keep on with their lives.

  Now you can talk til your blue in the face about what this says about the age in which we live.  You can deride this generation in which we live and long for the "good old days" when things were different, but it will not change the reality of the world in which you live and minister.

  So I have a suggestion.  Why not embrace the idea of your church being a clinic?  Be there for people who have issues and wish them well as they move on, letting them know they are always welcome to return should they need you again.  Instead of getting bent out of shape that you have poured your heart into these folks and they didn't bother to come back, let alone join and become regular attenders, view this as kingdom work the Lord has blessed you with.

  The small church is uniquely qualified for this type of ministry.  In a hospital, a large staff is required to carry out many functions to keep the institution going.  A clinic on the other hand usually has a very small staff--just the folks essential to help the patients that come in. 

  In the same way small churches may not be able to reach the masses, but they can help the hurting ones that come their way and send them off better than they were when they arrived.  No, you will not grow your church in numbers and your offerings and buildings will not increase with this type of ministry.  But can you think of anything more needed in this age where Satan is chewing people up and spitting them out leaving them empty and hopeless?  Sometimes you have to look beyond what will grow your attendance and look at what will help the world.