De-sizing The Church: How To Know If You Need To De-size

Take the free survey to discover your “do I need to de-size?“ score.

No one is affected more directly by an obsession with church size than the faithful pastors who have been called to serve God’s people.

We face constant pressure to get our numbers up from denominational leaders, church members, church leadership gurus, and the loudest voice of all, our own heads and hearts telling us we’re not enough until we hit that next numerical goal … and the next … and the next …

(Adapted from De-Sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What’s Next, Chapter 14: De-sizing the Pastor. This week, we conclude our De-sizing the Church series with one last article from the book today, and one last podcast on Thursday.)

De-sizing Pastoral Ministry

“We are losing too many pastors,” writes Bo Lane, in Why Pastors Quit. “They are overworked, underpaid, and unprepared.”

The percentage of pastors wanting to quit ministry has had a significant uptick in recent years, especially in the immediate aftermath of Covid-19 lockdowns. According to Barna, as many as 38 percent of U.S. pastors seriously considered leaving ministry in 2021.

But the news is not all bad. According to Gary L. McIntosh in The Solo Pastor, “Such reports are overstated, and controlled studies (versus rumor) point out that turnover among pastors is about the same as for other stressful jobs.”

So the news is not as bad as we may have heard, but pastoral ministry should be better than that, shouldn’t it? We’re supposed to be in the peace-making, stress-relieving business, not sitting in the same stress boat as others.

Jesus promised us that His load would be easy and his burden light, not no worse than “other stressful jobs.” We need to de-size pastoral ministry.

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The “Do I Need To De-size?” Survey

De-sizing is like losing weight. It doesn’t happen easily or automatically; it’s filled with forward and backward steps, and it involves the breaking of long-held unhealthy habits. But it can be done.

Many pastors are working very hard to push back against the relentless drive for bigness. They’re doing great ministry, meeting needs, and honoring Christ in a way that makes sense at their current size. They set non-numerical goals, have a drive to do better every week, and are discipling their members without obsessing over numbers.

But even for those pastors, bigness has a subtle, relentless tendency to worm its way in.

Here’s a short survey to help you know if you have some de-sizing work to do. Be honest. It won’t work otherwise. And no one else needs to know. (Although they probably already do.)

This is in Beta Test mode, with more upgrades to come.

Or you can print the survey, here.

So, How’d You Do?

Score of 0–15: Congratulations! You’ve de-sized!

Score of 16–35: Not bad, but you have some work to do.

If this result is higher than expected, you may have thought size wasn’t an issue for you, but it’s burrowed in a little deeper than you realized.

Score of 36–50: You have a lot of work to do.

The higher your score, the more obsessed you are with size, and the more de-sizing you’ll need to do to. The good news is, since you cared enough to take the survey, you can make the necessary changes.

What Next?

For help to correct an obsession with bigness, check out De-Sizing the Church. In Chapter 14: De-sizing the Pastor, I offer several steps that are too lengthy to be included here. Some are:

  • Recognize the Value of Inefficiency (Yes, Inefficiency)
  • Reconsider the Pastor-as-CEO Model
  • Embrace the Pastor-as-Pastor Model
  • Stop Playing the Numbers Game

and more.

(Adapted from De-Sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What’s Next, Chapter 14: De-sizing the Pastor. )


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