Meet Friendship Grace Brethren
Rich Schnieders pastors Friendship Grace Brethren Church in Fort Myers, Florida. His church is numerically small – 20 something on a Sunday morning – and has been small since its beginning some 20 years ago. But they get so much done. The church is short in physical numbers but long on commitment. They have been a vehicle for God’s use in foreign and domestic missions from their inception.
God has worked through the men, women, boys, and girls of Friendship Grace in various ways. First, the leadership team prayerfully decided to remain in a rented facility rather than buy or build so that building costs could be controlled, and more income spent on missions. At one point, after losing the lease on a property, the church met for several months in the pastor’s home. This saved a considerable amount of money.
Resources to Share
But the church was not content to have extra money in the bank. They purchased a truckload of Bibles in Sango, the language of an African church which the church supported. Furthermore, a church in Haiti worships now on its own property because Friendship Grace provided the funds for the purchase.
The Pastoral Intern, working in retail, recognized that many of his coworkers could not get to church on Sundays at 9 a.m., so he orchestrated a Bible Study on Fridays at 11 p.m. in a local all-night restaurant. This gathering provided the intern with a chance to develop his teaching skills. It also trained several others to reach out to people around them.
Livestreaming Extends Our Reach
Before Covid, Friendship Grace began offering its services via Livestream. Now groups in other states and countries watch services, allowing the church to reach people who live far from Fort Myers. A former missionary to Germany who lives more than two hours from Fort Myers watches Friendship services online, then travels once or twice a month to attend in person. She also leads a Bible Study with women in Germany, often using material from Friendship Grace Bible Studies. Another woman lives more than a thousand miles away. She participates in services online and leads her own Ladies’ Bible Study in her apartment complex.
Friendship Grace operates Joseph’s Pantry, providing a valuable resource for church members, families, and those connected to Friendship Grace who struggle.
Prayer walking a neighborhood is new to Friendship Grace, but it has opened doors for relationships. Some women have begun prayer carting – traveling their neighborhood on golf carts. They pray, chat with neighbors, and establishing relationships.
Friendship Grace has paid the costs of seminary for a young man who has become the Pastoral Intern. The church is committed to training young men to serve in church leadership roles.
Friendship Grace has been trained in the Gather Shepherd Elder (GSE) process. This training has motivated church members to look for ways and locations to begin churches and gather others to Jesus’ mission. A few of the resulting gatherings have lasted only a short time, while other ministries have taken on their own identities and lasted much longer.
The average church in American consists of about 70 people, but as we see from the example of Friendship Grace Brethren Church, even churches that are numerically small can allow God to accomplish great things through them.