Only In a Small Church: Pink Flamingos, Jr. High Girls & the Pastor’s Office

flamingosOn Tuesday morning there was a box of pink flamingos in my church office.

On Tuesday night, there was a group of Jr. High girls in my church office.

Tuesday morning made me smile a little. Tuesday night made me smile a lot.

Both are examples of taking what could be a Small Church frustration and turning it into a Small Church joy.

First, the flamingos.

When you pastor a Small Church in a very small building, every room has to be available for virtually any purpose at any given time.

Including flamingo storage.

Thankfully, the flamingos were in a box, not scattered throughout my office. That had already happened on the lawn of my house a couple weeks ago.

Flamingos on the Vaters’ lawn

The flamingos were part of a fundraiser for missions. The youth department plants them on your lawn overnight. Then they’ll re-plant them on the lawn of anyone else you designate on the following night, for your donation to missions.

The flamingo campaign had just concluded, so the birds were back in the box. But no one knew where to store them yet, so my office was designated as a temporary resting spot.

Seeing them in my office first thing in the morning was a wonderful way to be reminded that, in a society where people are constantly asking “how do we reach the next generation for Jesus?” there are members of that next generation who are already using creative ways to reach their world for Jesus.

That was Tuesday morning.

Now, to Tuesday night.


“We Love You, Pastor!”

On Tuesday night, as I was at home relaxing, this beautiful photo of our church’s Jr. High girls small group appeared on my Facebook wall.

J Hi girls nametagsIt was taken in my office, because their small group meets in my office every Tuesday night. (With adult supervision, of course. I’m generous, not stupid.)

Every once-in-a-while they remind me of their presence by creatively rearranging my desk or leaving a little note of thanks. At the end of this week’s session, their leader had them take some blank nametags from my desk, write their names on them and pose for that photo. It’s their way of saying “Hi Pastor Karl. We love you. Thanks for letting us use your office.”

Isn’t there something fun and just …I don’t know… right about that?

I’ll go a long way in ministry before I receive a higher compliment than a group of Jr. High girls who say “I know my pastor loves me. I’m comfortable hanging with my friends in his office, and I’m proud to be part of the Small Church that makes me feel so happy.”

Small Church pastors, this is just a small illustration of what I mean when I say thinking small is not the same as small thinking.

Photos like that aren’t taken in a big church because big church pastors don’t need to share their office with the Jr. High girls group. It’s an Only In A Small Church moment.

Are there times I wish we didn’t have to share every room with multiple groups? Sure. But mostly we’ve learned, not just to live with the challenges of a small building, but to find the joy in it.


Joy Is Where You Make It

So what’s the point of this slice of life today? I guess it’s this.

There are little joys around every corner if we choose to see them. If we, as Small Church leaders, can be OK with what we have, and what we don’t have, we can find ways to celebrate the love of Jesus and our love for each other, in ways we never expected.

And, to paraphrase Isaiah…

…the Jr. High girls group will lead them.


So what do you think? Are you taking advantage of the joys that come with a Small Church?

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(Pink Flamingos photos by Karl Vaters • Jr. High girls photo by Stephanie Aksdal)

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10 thoughts on “Only In a Small Church: Pink Flamingos, Jr. High Girls & the Pastor’s Office”

  1. “Isn’t there something fun and just …I don’t know… right about that?” Absolutely. Yes, yes and yes again.
    A couple years ago, we had an elderly gentleman turning 80..his name was Bob. Bob was always kidding with the kids. Bob and his wife didn’t have family in the area, so his wife asked if we could throw him a surprise B-day party at church. Of course!
    So one Sunday, I had the kids make Bob a big B-day card out of poster board, the kids helped to decorate the fellowship area, and we were going to hide and wait for Bob to come down the stairs then we’d jump out and yell, “Surprise!”
    I can’t tell you how EXCITED those kids were to surprise Bob and wish him a happy Birthday. Those kids loved Bob.
    In a small church, those kids got to know Bob and Bob got to know them…they weren’t separated by age…but joined together. In a small church, those kids had opportunity to do something special for Bob – to be a part of the church FAMILY.
    Yep. Small churches ARE special.

    1. Great story, Cindy! There is something special that happens when we’re forced to live outside of our usual categories and get to know people who aren’t just like us. Small Churches are a great place for that to happen.

  2. It was fun to take, but when I look at it now….I see a group of young girls who are poised to change the world through Christ. The fact that we are a small church allows for closer relationships and “pastoring”. The Youth pastor of our church makes it his focus to know each and every one of the youth in attendance on Tuesday nights. He has trained all of his leaders to do the same. The smaller size allows us to get to know them on a much deeper level. We can minister to them more effectively, and have watched many of them grow incredibly strong in their faith. In fact, our high school and Jr. high kids are LEADING christ-centered clubs/meetings on the campuses of their schools. AMAZING!

  3. Wow! You have an office that can fit all of those girls? How cool is that!
    More good stuff my friend, thanks as always for the encouragement!

  4. Juan Carlos Gonzalez

    The story of the pink flamingos is so touching at many levels. Creativity, fun and purposeful. What’s better than that? Great story.

  5. I think those precious moments show us we are exactly where God wants us to be. I was part of a small church for 18 years , it has grown in the past few years. Those amazing ministry moments are the best. The size of the church is not the issue. Your church loves you as their Shepard, you’ve taught them how to share in the small things. Ah… They will do greater things indeed!

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