Discovering and embracing the fact that I am a Small Church pastor was one of the most liberating moments of my life.
It took me years to get there, but once I did… Wow! What relief!.
As I’ve outlined in The Grasshopper Myth and in posts on this site, I didn’t want to admit I was a Small Church pastor because I thought it was wrong for a church to stay small. Therefore it must be wrong to be a Small Church pastor.
And I’m not the only one who’s had those feelings. I was told just yesterday on this site that “there is no such thing as a great Small Church“. I understand that feeling because I used to share it. But it’s wrong. And it speaks to how deeply the bigger-is-better mindset has burrowed itself into our church leadership culture.
I’ve discovered that it can be great to be a Small Church pastor. The world needs lots of healthy Small Churches and those churches need good pastors.
Since discovering and embracing that truth, I’ve realized many benefits from it. Here are 6 of them.
1. It Reduces the Pressure to Be Something You’re Not
One of the primary goals of NewSmallChurch.com is to reduce the burden of guilt that weighs heavily on the shoulders of too many Small Church pastors.
As I say at the beginning of almost every talk I do on this subject, I spent years denying I was a Small Church pastor because I thought I was a big church pastor who hadn’t arrived yet. That pressure to get bigger nearly killed my church and my ministry.
For more than a decade, there has been a lot written about the importance of discovering our purpose and gifts, then operating within them. That is a good thing. But somehow, many of us have failed to apply that to our calling as Small Church pastors. Knowing and being who you are – even if it’s only who you are for now – is the first step to real success and freedom.
2. It Opens You Up to Discovering What Small Churches Do Well
Once I was freed from the burden of having to grow numerically in order to believe my ministry and my church were of value, I was able to start asking a set of new questions. Like “what is God calling our church to do and be right now?”
Out of questions like that came a host of great ministry ideas that we would never have discovered if we hadn’t embraced who we are.
We started doing ministry that was more personal. We built a strong church on mentoring relationships, personal discipleship, relational evangelism and neighborhood ministry. And, as evidenced by this website, it has expanded into helping other Small Churches do ministry well also.
Your church doesn’t need to be bigger to start doing great ministry. Don’t miss out on the opportunities right in front of you.
3. It Focuses Your Time and Resources
How much time and emotional, financial and spiritual resources have been wasted by Small Church pastors trying to be something we’re not? Imagine what your church might look like today if you’d focused your energy on becoming a healthy Small Church instead of worrying about becoming a big church.
One advantage of embracing being a Small Church pastor, is that you can stop worrying about the congregation you don’t have, and focus on loving, equipping and sending the congregation you do have.
When you start doing that, you might recognize another benefit, namely…
4. It Brings You Closer to Your Congregation
Doing the small things well is one of the best ways to build a loving, vibrant, outward-reaching, healthy church. And it’s one of the best ways I know to knit the hearts of church members and church leaders together.
A big part of pastoring a healthy Small Church is the development of relationships. That’s how Jesus planted the seeds that transformed the world. Yes, he attracted crowds, but that wasn’t where he invested his time and energies. That was reserved for intimacy with the Father and life with the disciples.
Jesus invested himself in a surprisingly small group of people. And from the depth of those relationships, far more than the fickle crowds, he changed the world.
5. It Lays a Good Foundation for When and If Numerical Growth Occurs
This is not a “stop worrying about growing and then you’ll grow” pep talk. The reality is that 90% of the churches in the world have fewer than 250 in attendance. And all the church growth classes, books, blogs and seminars haven’t changed that percentage. But if numerical growth does occur, it’s better for a healthy Small Church to grow than an unhealthy one.
6. It’s the Truth
And the truth shall set you free.
Your church may not stay small for long. Or it may be a Small Church for decades. Either way, if there are fewer than 250 attending the church you pastor, you’re a Small Church pastor.
Don’t resist it. Embrace it. Then be great at it.
So what do you think? Have you experienced any other benefits from embracing that you’re a Small Church pastor?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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