Advancing Leaders Seminar

Taught by Karl Vaters

Session 1: Redefining Success In Ministry

What is The Grasshopper Myth?

The false impression that our small church ministry is less than what God says it is because we compare ourselves with others.

All the people we saw there are of great size. …We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. – Numbers 13:32-33

Three undeniable realities of pastoral ministry:

  • Reality #1: 80-90% of churches will never be larger than 250 people
  • Reality #2: Virtually all of pastors will pastor a small church for at least some time in our ministry
  • Reality #3: You can lead a small church well, without settling for less

Don’t fall for IKEA Envy

Small is not a problem, a virtue or an excuse

This is not about churches being small, it’s about small churches being great

The pastoral prime mandate: to equip God’s people for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Bigger fixes nothing

Over 1 billion people choose to worship God in small churches

Pastoring a small church is not a penalty for doing something wrong

  • It’s a specialty, and it’s worth doing well


Session 2: Big or Small? What’s the Difference?

“Over 90% of our churches are under 200, over 80% are under 100”

  • First Reaction: Oh no!
  • Second Reaction: So what?
  • Final Reaction: Now what?

People will come to small churches, but they won’t give up quality to do so

Many big church principles don’t translate well to a small church context

The law of large numbers: the bigger the crowd, the more predictably they behave

The smaller the crowd, the more impact each person has – for good and bad

Big church principles center on process, systems & programs

(Need help changing your church culture? I recommend Dirt Matters, by Jim Powell.)

Don’t do what our founders did, think like our founders thought

Your church is big enough



Session 3: How to Discover and Use What Your Church Does Well

Discover what your church does well, then do it on purpose

Use the “closet rule” for ministries: Don’t add a new one until you’ve dropped an old one

  • What does your church do well, that you would like to do more of?
  • What does your church do poorly, that you would like to do less of?

Move out of a destination mindset and into a process orientation

Hearing God’s Heart Together

1. The Sweet Spot: God, the church and the pastor’s hearts meet

2. The Default: God and the pastor, but not the church

3. The Listening Place: God and the church, but not the pastor

4. The Danger Zone: The Church and the pastor, but not God



Final Session: Preparing for Tomorrow’s Church By Equipping the Church Today

The three essential elements of a healthy, effective church:

  1. Great Commandment
  2. Great Commission
  3. Equipping God’s people
  • Unhealthy churches aren’t doing the Great Commandment, the Great Commission or equipping God’s people
  • Loving, but ineffective churches are doing the Great Commandment, but not the Great Commission or equipping God;s people
  • Overwhelmed pastors are doing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, but are not equipping Gods people
  • Healthy, effective churches and pastors are doing all three

It’s OK for a pastor’s vision to be helping God’s people fulfill their vision

New generations will not build the kind of churches their parents built

  • Previous generations had relationships and built structures
  • This generation has structures and needs to build relationships

Find leaders by looking for servants

  • Value passion and willingness over experience and status

When thinking small saved the world


NewSmallChurch.com • ChristianityToday.com/Karl-Vaters

Facebook.com/NewSmallChurch • @KarlVaters • CornerstoneFV.com