6 Benefits of Embracing the Fact that You’re a Small Church Pastor

Focus DiceDiscovering 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?

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(Focus Tiles photo from Nina Matthews Photography • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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8 thoughts on “6 Benefits of Embracing the Fact that You’re a Small Church Pastor”

  1. Well I think I have a great small church. And it is a growing church. In the 21 years I have Pastored this church it’s grown from 50 to 90.

    Of course that is small growth compared to what some would expect Church growth to be.

    But when you lose 10 to 15% of your congregation every year to heaven maybe that’s not so bad. We need to grow 10 to 15% a year just to keep even. And of course we grow a little more than that each year which accounts for growth over 20 years.

    In the 21 years I have Pastored this congregation the congregation that was here when I came– the entire congregation is now in heaven. Think about it — that’s a 100% turnover.

    I have a great small church. One in heaven one here.

    1. Mike, you know the truth of this as much as anyone. And you’re a great example of a great Small Church and great Small Church pastor. (I know you weren’t fishing for a compliment, but you caught one anyway).

  2. Again, another great post Karl. And again it’s funny how I was just talking about this with our Foundation Team the other night(our fancy schmancy name for our Church Plant Launch Team).

    As you know we are doing something different in the fact that we are planting a Church in a small town…a very small town. Church planting groups always tend to go towards the city, or the Suburbs under the belief that “God is at work” there. Which is kind of offensive because the un-spoken message is that God isn’t at work in other places…namely the small town. So we knew from the very beginning that in our small rural town, we were going to be a small and closely knit together Church. But there was still these voices from those supporting us that echoed the typical church growth mantra. So while we knew these things in our own little corner of the world, it seemed like everyone else..even those who supported us…were against what we were doing and were constantly trying to mold us into what they thought was the right way to “do” things.

    So the other night, with my group who keeps hearing these voices that believe what we are doing will never prosper unless we do it the way they would do it, we sat down and basically asked our selves what the benefits of doing what we are doing would be. And in different language we basically said the same things you said in the article.

    The biggest encouragement that we started to take ownership of was just in the area of the things that we are already seeing happen:
    We know all the policemen in the town by name…and they know us, and come to us for advice…and vice versa…

    Our Elementary school believes in what we are doing and partners with us, or I should say we partner with them, in doing things for the students, parents, and teachers that enhances the community as a whole…

    The Parks Department knows that when they need snacks, or people to help with an event, or extra help cleaning, or extra help mowing grass that they can call us and it will get done…

    We see these kinds of things happening weekly and they aren’t “programs” of things like that that take huge infrastructure, or a separate staff person, or a marketing budget or anything like that. But the strength of us being small, and highly mobile makes all the difference in the world!

    1. I wanted to let you know how blessed I am reading your posts about your church plant.

      Keep at it my friend, I have added you and your church to my prayer list and I’m praying daily for you.

  3. Very encouraging website as a whole. I have pastored a mini church in the city for over 5 years and find this website very helpful. It’s easy to feel that what you are doing does not matter, but that is not the truth. Keep it up!

  4. In your article you mention seeking what God will have our church do. That is excatly what we are doing. We will be having our first retreat this year and have planned many fellowship events, including 3 evangelism days at the lake. I like that you point out that part of the body of Christ includes small churches, and the pea and the pumkin etc are great examples. I can’t wait to share them with my church.

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