The Small Church…

As a Pastor of a “Small” Church I know and have been told all the advantages of the small congregation. Also as a Pastor I’ve learned some of the disadvantages, but I won’t go there. Fellow bloger,, has some great comments about the small church, but let me list you his disadvantages:

First, in a smaller church you get to know everybody. Yes, I know I put that as a strength, but it is also one of a small church’s greatest liabilities. You can easily identify the trouble-makers, gossip-mongers, and those who are spiteful and bitter. Because they are known, they are often accepted without question. Furthermore, because everyone knows everyone every statement must be examined lest it cause offense or misunderstanding.

Second, in a smaller church a threat to leave or withdraw support creates a crisis. In large congregations, a family may “take their ball and leave the game� without creating as much as a ripple. One unhappy individual choosing to leave a smaller church creates a crisis, especially when their friends know they’re unhappy. Those with money pose an even greater threat. A major contributor who becomes unhappy can create all kinds of problems.

Third, in a smaller church excellent leadership is often in short supply. More often than not, smaller churches are organized in a more traditional fashion with bylaws that require a specified number of leaders. Such specifications lead to ignoring biblical qualifications making availability the primary requirement. The traditional structures in most churches, including some megachurches, creates an adversarial system that leads to trouble. Fortunate are the congregations that have such systems and have successfully avoided conflict.

Fourth, in a smaller church the minister often becomes a chaplain rather than an innovative evangelist. Those smaller congregations surviving a few years with an innovative evangelist don’t stay small. The Ginghamsburg Church near Dayton is a prime example. When the Methodist Conference assigned Mike Slaughter to the Ginghamsburg pulpit, the congregation averaged about 90 in a small building located about 5 miles north of Dayton. The first year, according to Slaughter, the congregation grew to 70. Today, more than 20 years later, this congregation is one of the largest and most dynamic Methodist Churches in the country. Because of their inherent nature, most smaller congregations want a caregiver chaplain and, if the truth were known, do not expect nor do they want to grow.

Fifth, in a smaller church it is harder for new people to find acceptance. Smaller churches often see themselves as intensely friendly … and they are … with each other. A new family or individual often finds it difficult to break in. Only through persistence and effort can they make their way into the circle of acceptance.

If true, what do we do?

About the Author

Creative & contemplative, Preacher & Funeral Director, Wordpress & Evernote Junkie, all things Apple fan, geek, who loves his wife and children...and MMA

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Stan - November 4, 2005 Reply

1- We need to stop being safe and worried about offending people. The Gospel in itself is offensive. Think about it. We are telling people that their current way of life is unacceptable and they need to change. We tell them that they need to believe in a Christ who lived over 2000 years for their salvation. Hard to buy into. Which illustrates my ongoing point of my dear friends Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. When we start telling people this is what we believe, and are unashamed and not concerned with the consequences, we can stop worrying about offending someone in the church.

2- Cliche, but faith. If we stand firm in this is the way church should be, then when people leave, God will provide. Faith. Not being scared. Not caring if we lose $500 a month or however much. Money does not fuel the church. Jesus does.

3- ??? Church leadership is not my forte. But, remember that when you equip people to do things, you have to get out of the way and let them do it. Nobody likes a micro-manager.

4- Again, when we equip people the pastor does not have to do everything. I know some people want the pastor there when the stump their toe but the pastor has to focus on what’s most important. Andy Stanley (your guy) says, “The clearer the vision, the fewer the options, the easier the decision.” Tell us your vision. What do you want us to be about. Treat every Sunday morning as if it is our last chance to preach the Gospel. That is why I get frustrated by guest missionaries and WMU speaches. Put that stuff in a newsletter and let worship services be exactly that. You control what happens on Sundays (our prime population time). If you want to be an evangelist, be relevant, reach out to the unchurched, be excellent, and be an evangelist. You control your own job decription.

5- Small groups. We can’t be afraid that Bob isn’t going to know Jim Bob. If it is truly not about us, don’t let it be about us. Focus on worship and the gospel on Sunday and encourage small groups for our feel good time.

I know this is all a ramble, but these are some thoughts I have been tossing around for a couple of weeks. If we want to make a difference, we have to be bold. And, if that causes everyone to leave or forces us out, we will start over. But, we can’t be pansy Christians and influence others. Let’s be bold, regardless of the consequences.

FBFJ - November 9, 2005 Reply

I think the biggest problem in any church, big or small, is apathy. People don’t really care what the problems are or instead of solving them they’d rather sit around and analyze them. Frankly, I think leadership is a term that shouldn’t be used in churches. How about “humble servant.” That’s what we’re all called to do – serve. Deacons, teachers, whoever should view their roles as servants, not leaders. As Christians we have a leader – God – and through his Son he gave us the perfect example. Churches today get too involved in status and forget what they’re simply supposed to do. We can be bold and brash in our faith but when we deal with others we need to be gentle and kind – we need to show God’s love through practical ways. Jesus won people through his kindness, we should do the same. Everything we do should be done in a worshipful way.
The most influential Christians in my life have not been published authors or great evangelists but instead they’ve been people like my father, who despite dying 10 years ago this past February, is still an example of how to be humble. And a friend named Lenny Ponder, who I rode many anights with in a converted bread truck picking up neighborhood kids to take to church on Wednesday nights.
Service is not always glamourous but it should be our No. 1 priority.

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