My Story

Hi, I’m Karl and I’m a Small Church Pastor

Hi, I'm Karl and I'm a Small Church Pastor

I’ve been a Small Church Pastor for about 30 years. The most recent 20 years in my current church, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California.

 

Why I Started New Small Church

I started New Small Church because I got tired of looking for books, seminars, websites, anything that would address what it was like being the pastor of a Small Church.

I’ve read all the pastoral ministry books and attended all the seminars, just like you. And I’ve found great help from many of them. But, after a while, I started getting frustrated with the books and seminars because all the “can’t miss” principles for growing my church … did miss.

My church stayed small.

But it was (and is) a good church. And I was (and hopefully still am) a good pastor. So I started asking myself some questions about Small Church ministry.

  • “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be like this?”
  • “Why can’t I find help to understand how to do that?”
  • “Why does it feel like I’m on my own, learning by trial-and-error most of the time?”

I started writing those questions down.

That led to writing down my experiences and life-lessons. Those notes were scattered all over my computer, notepads, napkins and the inside of my head for years.

I kept asking myself and a few close friends, “Why doesn’t someone write about this stuff?” Then I realized, after a friendly nudge or two, that this “someone” might be me.

So I gathered all those random thoughts, ideas, frustrations and experiences together. I un-randomized them (de-randomized? ex-randomized?) and wrote the book for you that I wanted someone to write for me.

That book is The Grasshopper Myth.

New Small Church comes from my desire to make sure the book isn’t a monologue. To turn it into a conversation. And out of that desire came this website and blog.

 

How You Can Participate

I write three blog posts in a typical week. Usually on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Since these are blog posts, not sermons, there’s one ingredient I can’t supply by myself – feedback. That’s why there’s a comment section at the end of every post. I love it when you to tell me what you think. Leave comments, ask questions, tell me what works and what doesn’t, including what you’d like to see more of and less of.

Plus, you can check out out Discussion Forums, where anyone can write about anything – as long as it’s about Small Church ministry. Ask a question, answer someone else’s question, start a conversation, whatever.

If we all pitch in, everyone can get something great out of it.

That’s why I’m here. I hope that’s why you’re here.

Let’s start a new conversation.

28 thoughts on “My Story”

  1. Hi Karl,

    I think this site is a great idea. I’m excited to participate. I currently lead a very small church. I have been in medium, large and one mega-church. It has been both good and hard to shift into the realities of small church pastoring. I have found that talking with others about it is helpful and very encouraging. Dave Jacobs is a friend and source of such support and help, too. Blessings,
    Mark

    1. Glad to have you in on the conversation, Mark. Dave and I have just started connecting recently, but I love what he does, and appreciate his ministry and his support so much.

      I look forward to keeping connected with you as we move along on this.

      Where are you located?

    2. Pastor Gary W Tesmer

      Hi Karl, my name is Gary. Just joined your forum and ordered your book. Looking forward to reading it. I am a bi-vocational Pastor here in Cleveland Ohio. I have had some of the same questions you have asked yourself, am I in this all alone, trial and error most of the time, and always hesitant when asked, “so, how many people do you have on a Sunday morning?” or “how many members do you have?” I really don’t like to answer most of the time because I feel as though it’s a comparison game, if you know what I mean. The church I pastor is small and many times in the past I felt it wasn’t growing because of something I was ( or maybe) wasn’t doing. Thanks for the encouragement to me and countless others who are in churches where God has called us and are trying to figure out what to do next to get a “growth spurt”. I look forward to getting and reading your book and also looking forward to your e-mails as well. Thx.

  2. I think this is absolutely fantastic. I’m finally reading some things that resonate with me. My husband and I have been in small church ministry for 20 years together…and we’ve both been involved for most of our lives (I spent half my teen years in a large church that I loved) in small churches. I have been greatly encouraged my Glenn Daman – he seems to “get” small church ministry and doesn’t offer a light at the end of the tunnel…but illuminates the jewels within the tunnel! I’ve also been encouraged by Dave Jacobs and also a FB page called the Small Church that Works. SO encouraging to see my list of encouragers GROWING…this must mean something…something good! I started a FB page called Encouragement for the Small Church don’t know enough to give you the link – but you are welcome to post there to spread the word..I’ve been sharing your blogs on the site and encouraging folks to check your ministry out! BLESS you!!

    1. I’m so glad, Cindy. I’ve read some of what Glenn Daman has written, and Dave Jacobs has become a friend in the past couple of months since I started this website. He has a big heart and knows how to ask just the right questions – the sign of a great coach.

      Thank you for your invitation to share on your FB page. I’ll start by sharing this current series when it’s done. And I’ll take a look at Small Church That Works, also.

      I agree that something good is happening as this kind of encouragement and cooperation grows.

  3. I found this website by Googling “innovative small church”. Yay. Wow. I’m a United Methodist pastor serving two small churches in Virginia. I’m fairly outside-the-box and love searching for new ways to share the old, old, story. I have fantastic mentors and resources, but so much is geared towards larger churches with larger budgets and staff and…Anyway, I look forward to seeing what happens with this site!

    1. So glad you found us!

      The site has been up for less than three months, and the book has only been out for about five weeks, so we’re at the very start of this.

      I’m figuring this out as I go along, so anything you can add to the conversation would be very welcome.

  4. Hey Karl I’ve just started ministry in a small (50 or so attenders) church in rual North Dakota so far i have found this site very encouraging and challenging, Thanks for your hard work.

  5. Hi Karl! I just read your article in a recent email by Outreach Magazine. Thank you for taking the time to share with others. It seems that every time I talk to other pastors we’re all running into frustration. Everyone wants to grow, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, but it isn’t easy where I live in Kilgore, TX. Rural communities are not the easiest breeding ground for Mega Churches. I’m excited about the material you are making available to us. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Jordan. It’s an indication of how desperately this message is needed that a Small Church guy like me is getting this much positive feedback from guys like you (like us). I’m glad you’re here.

  6. This is my first time to your site. It looks very encouraging. I have worked with small churches for the past forty years.

    My passion is strengthening marriages. I wrote a book to share my story as I was from a very worldly background with no Bible training at all. My dad was married 7 times and mom 3. I grew up with constant fighting and then of course divorce. We have been married forty years – yes – married Saturday and tried out for my first church ministry the next day – no honeymoon!

    A person can have a thriving healthy marriage no matter their prior legacy. I have done seminars and coach married couples.

    I am passionate about strengthening small churches through helping married couples cope with life.

    I look forward to connecting with you all! This looks like a great resource.

    Thanks brother! Jerry Stumpf

  7. Hey Karl,
    I’m a new and young pastor only in my 2nd year, and I too am in a very small church that ranges 15-30 people for most services including youth nights. The average sunday is about 18. I’ve only made my way through the first chapter of your book for a class that I’m taking, but I can already tell this book will be a huge help. I feel the way you described in that chapter and my church facility is that same… only seen by about 10% of the people who drive by. I’m excited to continue reading this book and learning more about that Grasshopper effect.

  8. Hi Karl,

    I have pastored a small church for nine years up until about a year and a half ago and have been serving in a missions organization since, but am about to step back into a Pastoral role in another small church. I am excited to find your site and look forward to reading your book as we launch into this new adventure.

  9. Hey Karl,

    Thank you for writing the book that needed to be written for a more complete picture of how God is working through His church. When 93% of the discipleship taking place in this world is taking place in small churches, it’s time that we who serve in small churches and all churches in general celebrate the grace of God’s work in small settings. It was fun to read your history in Santa Cruz county and Boulder Creek. I now serve at Faith Community Church, a healthy small church plant in Santa Cruz that is making its way towards becoming fully healthful. I’m so glad you didn’t demonize large churches nor hold them up as a paragon just as much as you did not hold up small churches as a paragon. Your writing was right on, honest and necessary for the whole mission of what God still wants to do in North America. If you’re every passing through Santa Cruz sometime in the future give me a call and we can grab some coffee at Verve coffee.

    1. Hi Andy! Thanks so much for such encouraging words! Santa Cruz has a deep place in my heart. I’m grateful to hear that you’re planting a church there. I’d love to meet up the next time I’m there.

  10. Hello Karl, just read your article. I am really encouraged by your insight and straightforward approach. Many Pastors including myself have struggled with feelings of inadequacy by all the emphasis on Big Churches and the latest ‘How to’ seminars and books.
    I Pastor a small congregation in Aberdare, South Wales UK. and deeply grateful to the Lord for the privilege of serving Him in this opportunity.

    Andrew

  11. Does your wife have anything on being a small church pastor’s wife? We’re about to go plant a church in scotland and “small” won’t come close to describing it especially at first.

  12. This is an awesome website! Small churches need resources and it’s great that you have taken the initiative to provide those.

    We have gone to a small church for about 15 years now. We love the intimacy of it. People know each other. When a prayer request comes through, you know who the request is for and besides praying, can reach out to them in practical ways. We know the pastor and his wife well and consider them good friends. These things can be difficult in a larger church.

    We just wrote a blog post about how small churches can have an effective website, despite having a smaller budget. If you think this would be helpful, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.

  13. robert gilbert

    i came across your article while looking for ways to invite people into church, catholic church. Personally, i wonder why would one want to do something without really “knowing Jesus”. I will play this game. I have been working at gathering people into a new group where eventually we might explore who Jesus is. I am a sacristan. I think often I am a sacristan in the wrong place. I had talked to a friend who told me two things to do. Get a job. Start planting.

    I think we have to come up with new models. models are not living. this is where the problem is. I am learning that growing Christ in people lives is more than a model. I was sharing with someone yesterday at another “catholic church festival” that my dream is to have several groups (catholics and others) gather in the week and become family. Maybe every quarter, we gather as a group in a restaurant for a general service which would me more of a “word service to god” rather than a mass. I cannot control if the people want to do communion or if there are some new “unbelievers” turned believer who want to be baptised. This does not necessarily mean catholic. I would for all practical reasons not be the one who blesses the bread and wine or baptise someone. I don’t need the stress. If we were that far in growth, there would be more than enough followers of Christ who could do the service.

    I have been a sacristan for 3 years. I have more than once considered leaving. My wife loves my job. She is Catholic and enjoys the ministries that have entered our lives especially working with the altar kids.

    I am naming my work FranzVine. Franz refers to Francis of Assisi who gather stones to rebuild San Damiano. Talking with a monk who is the Pater for the Franciscan here in Augsburg, Germany, we kind of agreed Francis gathered the wrong stones. He should have gathered living stones. Living stones tend to find their place in the gathering (1 peter 2:4-6). Vine refers to Jesus being the Vine and we are the branches (John 15).

    Catholics, in general, sees church very much as a building. The altar, the podium, the tabernacle, the baptimal basin, etc. There has been a long process this last few years to build up relationships and I am starting a “reading bible study”. I have never tried this before and I am drawing from my “intro to OT” that was back in the 78. We had to read the OT in 12 weeks because of the trimester system. This would be 48 meetings. I hope to get the people through the bible just to get the story in a year. Reading a chapter a day would make this happen. Almost everyone has a smart phone. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes of someone’s life to read a chapter out of a smart phone each day.

    so much for my life. I made my comments because of conversation. My ideal ministry would be many house church or mini churches or small churches.

    If I get to planting the church part, I want to name my church Hope Chapel Westliche Wald. I live on the edge of the western forest in Schwaben. The church will be somewhere in the wald or forest. It is living and moving. You find it; you are it.

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