Loosen the Lid: Let Your Small Church Thrive, Using Bubble-Up Leadership

Bubble Up LeadershipWhat’s your leadership style? Top-down? Or bottom-up?

I’ve always believed bottom-up should be the go-to for pastoral leadership, but a good leader needs to be ready to use both, depending on the circumstance.

The problem is, I’m becoming uncomfortable with each of those terms. The congregation is not the bottom of the church and the pastor is not the top. The only top-down leadership I’m interested in is from Jesus (the only head of the church) to all of us.

So I propose a new idea. Let’s start using Bubble-Up Leadership. (That’ll catch on …riiight?)

Just as bubbles rush to break the surface of a carbonated drink, great ideas are trying to break the surface of our churches. We need more pastors who have the courage to loosen the lid and let them breathe.

I could give you a series of logical points about why this works, but in this post I’m going to let something bubble up, instead. Last week I got a great email from a pastor, describing a bubble-up idea that transformed his Small Church and is blessing their community. 

Here’s the entire email, word-for-word (even the ellipses are his).


Thanks again for standing up for the small church … for encouraging those of us who sometimes lose sight of reality and succumb to the monster of perception. I read another article just last week about how it was sinful for a church to stay small. I’m ready for the Church to get past this … so thanks for leading the charge.

I’m writing to let you know what a small church can do to impact the community. I’ve hesitated to write because I don’t want to be guilty of self-glorification, but I also don’t want hide what the Lord has used in us to reach out to others.

We’re a typical small church … 75-100 people … singly staffed … semi-rural.

We are in a town of about 6500 in south central Oklahoma.

We are one of approximately 40 churches in the immediate area.

Approximately 24% of children in our county live below the poverty line.

About 5 ½ years ago while teaching on finding our SHAPE and using that to minister to others, a woman in our congregation approached me and told me that she loved to cook and wanted to know if she could start a food ministry for anyone who needed a meal. I thought it was a great idea and asked her how others in the church could help. After passing out flyers in the neighborhood surrounding our church and putting up some posters around town, she served 70 meals that first night. As the word got out, the meal began to grow. She recruited more help in the kitchen and by the end of the first year she had served over 5900 meals.

This dear lady eventually moved away to be closer to children and grandchildren, but the ministry kept going and growing. In 2013 we served over 18,000 meals and since the beginning we have served more than 73,000.

We don’t have a large building or great kitchen facilities. In fact, we use 10 roaster ovens in a converted office/Sunday School room to cook our soup each week.

A food ministry isn’t a new idea, it just happens to be the thing the Lord has used for us to impact our community. It hasn’t resulted in throngs of people in our service on Sunday, but it has allowed us to be a light and to demonstrate the love of God in a practical way.

As a small church we can’t do a lot of different things, but we have figured out that we can do a few things well. And it all started with one woman with a passion to use her gifts and abilities.

I want small churches to know that we’re not in the minor leagues or less important in the Kingdom. We have a role to play and a light to shine. “Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” ~ Isa. 58:10 (NLT)

Thanks for your ear. If you can use this in some way to encourage other small churches, feel free.


Brian Black, Pastor
Cornerstone Community Church
Pauls Valley, OK


Now that’s a great pastor, a great church and a great example of how Bubble-Up Leadership can change lives.

Great ideas like that are everywhere. Brian loosened the lid on his church by using Rick Warren’s SHAPE teaching, which helps people discover how God made them to minister. That may or may not work for your church. Your attitude matters more than the method you use.

People need to know their ideas matter. Let’s loosen the lid and encourage great ideas to bubble up from the passionate, Godly people we’re blessed to serve.


So what do you think? What ideas do you have for encouraging great ideas to bubble up in your church?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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(Carbonated Bubbles photo from Argel ThreeOneNine M.D • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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