How many times have I said that while shaking my head after reading articles, blogposts and books about church leadership? I could write a book.
I know I’m not alone in this. If you’re a Small Church pastor, you’ve had the same experience on many occasions.
The articles and books I’m referring to are written with good intentions, and the ideas in them aren’t wrong. I’ve even used one of the books I read recently (Andy Stanley’s “Deep & Wide”) in a post entitled, 5 More Principles Small Churches Can Learn from Megachurches.
But even in a good book like Stanley’s, I spend a lot of time shaking my head, thinking…
They just don’t get it.
Big Church Solutions
For example, here’s a short list of some church ministry ideas I’ve read in the last few weeks. These were all presented as either must-do, or very important to do.
- Volunteer training
- Regular staff vision meetings
- One day a week for sermon prep
- Age-appropriate, well-lit children’s facilities
- Uncluttered meeting rooms, cleared of stacked chairs and unecessary furniture
- Video announcements
- Parking lot attendants with uniforms
- Professional signage
- Coordinated start/end times for adult/kids’ services
- Not putting people in a ministry unless they’re gifted for it
I don’t disagree with any of those ideas. They all make sense.
But in all the material I’ve read in the past month, and most of what I’ve read for the past 30 years, none of those suggestions was tempered with a recognition of Small Church realities and alternative solutions. These writers (most of them, megachurch pastors) don’t seem to get that most churches, while they’d love to implement their ideas, don’t have the time, money or other resources to pull them off.
When it come to Small Church realities…
They. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
Small Church Realities
Here are a few of my headshakers in response to some of the above ideas, based on what I know a lot of Small Church pastors are going through:
Staff vision meetings? That happens between the pastor and his/her spouse over dinner every night. How about one, just one volunteer the pastor isn’t related to, who’ll show enough commitment that they can be considered a volunteer staff member?
One day a week for sermon prep? Most bi-vocational pastors with families are hoping to eke out a couple uninterrupted hours on a Saturday night for that. If they could find an entire day to set aside, they wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – spend it on sermon prep. That would be a family day.
Uncluttered meeting rooms? When your facility is small and multi-use (like our church), there’s nowhere else to put the stacked chairs. That “clutter” is proof that the room gets used for more than just one meeting each week.
Video announcements? Many Small Churches don’t own a video projector, screen or the computer to run it. Let alone someone with the time and talent to edit it into a tight video package. And what would be the point of doing that for 40 people, anyway?
Not putting people in a ministry that doesn’t match their gifts? But who, exactly has the empty-the-garbage-and-clean-the-restrooms gift? Other than the pastor’s wife, of course.
I’m not wanting to be a whiner. But I do want people to be aware of this reality. So I have three requests for three classes of people:
1. Church leadership bloggers and authors. Please consider that the vast majority of pastors reading your material are in Small Churches. Give us some Small Church alternatives alongside your big church solutions. Show us you get it.
2. Denominational officials & seminary profs. Please prepare the next generation of ministers for the likelihood that they’ll face Small Church challenges. Cries of “they didn’t teach me this in bible college” as a pastor heads to the restroom with a plunger aren’t funny any more. Prepare them to get it.
3. Small Church pastors. Try not to get discouraged. Take what you can from all the helpful blogs and books out there. But try not to put unrealistic expectations on you, or your church’s shoulders based on lessons that don’t fit your reality. Be who you are. Not what someone else thinks you ought to be. Get it? Got it? Good.
So what do you think? Have you faced similar frustrations with pastoral ministry articles and books?
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