Only In a Small Church: One-On-One With the Pastor

starbucks chairsI had another one of those “only in a Small Church” moments last Sunday.

The positive kind.

As I was shaking hands at the door after the service, I chatted with a man who’s been attending for a few weeks. He told me he was thinking about making us his permanent church home, but he had a few questions he needed to ask first.

He didn’t have his calendar ready, so I told him to email me to set up an appointment.

“Who should I email?” he asked.

“Me,” I said. “My email address is on the back of the bulletin.”

“When I set up the appointment, who will it be with?” he asked.

“Me,” I answered.

He paused for a moment. “You mean, just you and me? I’ll get to sit down and talk with you directly? It won’t be in a room with a bunch of other people? Or with one of your staff members?”

“No, just me. I hope that’s not a disappointment,” I joked.

“Wow,” he responded. “I’ve only attended big churches before this one. Whenever I had a question, they put me in a class or a small group. I’ve never been able to meet one-on-one with a pastor. This is just what I need!”

He walked away with a big smile on his face. So did I.


The Small Church Advantage

No, this isn’t an anti big church article. We don’t do that here. It’s a pro Small Church article. 

When someone goes to a megachurch, there’s no way the pastor can answer the average request with a face-to-face meeting. So they hire staff and set up systems to meet those needs in other ways. That’s a fine alternative for a lot of churchgoers and their spiritual growth.

But it doesn’t work for everyone. It hasn’t worked for the guy I talked to on Sunday.

Some people need access to their pastor. It helps them grow. It lets them ask the tough questions. It allows them to open up on a more personal level.

Often, these meetings take place because of something they heard from God’s Word in the Sunday sermon. So it matters that they get to do have this follow-up with the person who actually delivered the sermon that challenged, inspired or comforted them.

I don’t know where the conversation(s) with this man will go. I don’t even know if he’s ever made a full commitment to Christ. But I will know all of that soon. If my meeting with him is anything like previous meetings with others, he’s likely to open up to me about his faith, his fears, his doubts, his sins and his hopes.

He’ll experience opportunities for spiritual growth by meeting with his pastor that could never have happened for him in a classroom or small group.

That’s not an indictment of classrooms or small groups. Our church has them, too. I wish we had more.


Yes Pastor, You Matter

If you’re a Small Church pastor who’s struggling with the fact that you don’t have the small groups or classes you’ve been told you should have, I understand your frustration. Our church has had more failures than successes in launching small groups.

But then I have an encounter like I had on Sunday. And I’m reminded of what my church has, not what we don’t have.

Besides, your church may not need a small group ministry. I know, that goes against every church growth principle you’ve ever heard, but in some cases, it’s true. If you want to get some idea of how to determine this for your church, check out my post, 4 Signs Your Church Should Stop Doing Small Group Ministry.

Let’s not forget that the disadvantages of a Small Church are regularly outweighed by the privilege we have of discipling people on a more personal level.

You’re their pastor. That matters. Let’s make it count.


So what do you think? Are you taking advantage of the personal touch we can have in a Small Church setting?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you! Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Starbucks Chairs photo from ironchefbalara • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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12 thoughts on “Only In a Small Church: One-On-One With the Pastor”

  1. What a great perspective! I am so thankful for your input. We attended a very large church for close to two years and never met the pastor, saw him up close, or shook hands. He is a wonderful person and I respect him very much. The ministry was great there. But after two years we never met the same people twice (our schedules with school and work kept us from being in small groups). We eventually attended a small church closer to home that became a wonderful blessing in the early years of our marriage (and even led to a good job opportunity.)

  2. As a small church pastor, I always appreciate your encouragement. God certainly has different purposes for different pastors and different churches. Thankful that we can all serve Him in various ways in such a way as to reach people with the love of Jesus and glorify His name.

  3. So true! It is the same with premarital counseling. I know bigger churches have classes for those getting married. I have one on couple meetings and tailor my counseling to their circumstances as every couple is unique. Also, because I make my availability known (Tuesday and Thursday) drop ins are also welcome.

  4. ILOVE this. I need to REMEMBER this so much more…because there’s so much positive.
    This is one reason I love being in the pastorate…the intimacy – the personal touch.
    I LOVE getting a call which says, “Sis. Cindy, I just saw something on a program and it didn’t agree with my spirit…could you help me understand?”
    Or, “Sis. Cindy, could you pray with me?”
    Or, “Sis. Cindy, I was thinking about what Pastor preached about and I’m so excited! I found this in the Scripture, and I’ve been learning more!”
    Or, “Sis. Cindy, what we talked about helped me so much, I’ve never thought of that before…”

    I LOVE knowing that when I hear thunder and see lightening to pray for Sis. J because she’s afraid of storms.
    I LOVE hearing things or seeing things that I know will minister to one particular member.
    I LOVE when someone gives me something because they were out and about, saw something, made them think of me, my husband or my kids and wanted to bless me.
    I LOVE fixing special foods that I know, so-in-so will like when we have fellowship meals.
    I LOVE when Sis. J fixed my husband a plate of peanut butter fudge, just because she loves him.
    I LOVE to be asked questions about the Bible – because they know I’ll explain it in a way they’ll understand – they feed from many places – but there’s just something about “their” pastor.
    I LOVE to see people seek my husband out in public when they see him and holler out, “Pastor!”
    I LOVE to see the joy on people’s faces when we’re all together.

    I recall seeing a soul standing at the altar, head on my husband’s chest, crying their heart out – being birthed into the kingdom. Wetting my husband’s shirt with their tears. Oh BCPs you miss out on so much!

    I recall going into a dying saints room – her face lighting up as she gasped for breath, “Oh, thank God, my Cindy is here, I can die.” (she was waiting for me to come and sing to her, “Jesus, There’s Just Something About That Name.” I sensed in my spirit she wanted me and made a special trip to the nursing home.

    Oh the JOYS…the far outweigh the difficulties! Thanks Karl for the reminder!!

  5. Just started following your blogs and we have given your website to our team members. We are also starting to read your book the Grasshopper Myth. This is the first encouraging information for small churches we have seen in our 15 years of being a lead pastor. Thank you for your ministry.

    1. That’s great to hear, Kristine! I hope the book blesses your church. And I hope there will be a lot more books and blogs coming to help Small Church pastors – and not just from me.

  6. Thank you for your insights! Your articles continue to bless me. As a bi-vocational pastor for over 23 years there are very few fellow ministers who do not see small churches as stepping stones instead of real long-term ministries.

    1. That’s a great point about stepping-stones, Tom. I think one of the big reasons many Small Churches stay unhealthy when they don’t need to, is that too many pastors aren’t putting their heart into the Small Church ministry they have. Instead, they’re looking for something bigger – or they put all their energy into making their Small Church bigger, instead of healthier. This makes the church they are supposed to be pastoring feel overlooked and neglected. That’s not a great recipe for a healthy ministry or a healthy church.

      You’ve inspired me to think about that as a possible basis for a blog post. Thanks.

  7. Very, very Encouraging. Sent me into thankful prayer and a new appreciation of what a privilege it is and how special it is to be able to meet directly with the people who attend our churches.

  8. This is amazing. on Sunday I had a woman visit for the second time. She has recently moved to our town, in order to be closer to her daughter who is attending bible college. She came from a fairly large church in a large community. She asked me following the service, where do I sign up for bible study? I said, you can just come out. She was pleasantly shocked. I then a
    So said, you don’t need a special appointment to see the pastor or his wife either. She smiled and said, ‘see you Wednesday”

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