Vital Initiative, Roanoke VA 2017

Innovative Ministry In a Small Church Context

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: 99.9% 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


Bigger fixes nothing


Small is not a problem, a virtue or an excuse


Over 1 billion people choose to worship God in small churches


Ask for help



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


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

Move from “Oh no!” to “So what?” to “Now what?


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

Quality looks different in a small church than a big church


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

Small church principles center on relationships, culture & history


Big changes come from small places


Session 3: Thinking and Acting Like a Great Small Church


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

Front-load the value: feature what you do well


Hearing God’s heart together

  1. The Sweet Spot: God, the Church & the Pastor’s Hearts Meet
  2. The Default: God & the Pastor, but not the Church
  3. The Listening Place: God & the Church, but not the Pastor
  4. The Danger Zone: The Church & the Pastor, but not God


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


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?



Session 4: Finding and Discipling Leaders In a Small Church


Church leaders are not called to do ministry for church members


Build your training around relationships, not curriculum


Put friendliness front-and-center (The GIFT system)

  • Greet
  • Introduce
  • Follow up
  • Thank


A Simple 5-Step Discipleship Process

  1. Meet with every new believer
  2. Determine how they learn and grow
  3. Connect them with a mature believer and the right resources
  4. Help them plug into an active ministry that utilizes their gifts
  5. As people mature, call on them to start leading others


Use the Jethro system to raise up leaders

  • 10, 50, 100, 1,000
  • Look for Level 10 leaders, first
  • Find leaders by looking for servants


Be willing to haul rocks in your Volkswagen

  • Use the building to serve people, not vice versa


Do ministry from the church, not just in the church


When thinking small saved the world



Karl Vaters • • • @KarlVaters