Hi, I’m Karl and I’m a Small Church pastor.
Do you wonder why I keep saying that? Maybe it was something I learned in a marketing class about branding my message?
If so, I should get my tuition refunded. “Small”, “Church” and “Pastor” are three of the least marketable words there are.
I say it because I want to make a positive declaration to other Small Church pastors who may be going through what I went through.
I’ve been a Small Church pastor for over 25 years, but for most of that time, I didn’t know I was one. Because I didn’t want to admit it. And I’ve only learned to be grateful for it in the last four years or so.
Until the last four years, I actually thought it was a bad thing to be a Small Church Pastor. After all, I’d been told that by a lot of people who were supposed to know.
No one said it in those words, of course. But that was the strong implication of statements like “God wants your church to grow”, “A healthy church is a growing church” and “If you’re faithful to The Great Commission, people will get saved, join the church, and the church will grow”.
The logic was airtight. If faithfulness leads to church growth, then a bigger church means I’m being a more faithful leader.
And a Small Church means…I’m not.
Living In Megachurch Central
Sometimes a pastor or church leader would acknowledge “of course there will always be Small Churches. After all, if you live in a town of 3,000, you can’t build a big church.”
But I live in Orange County, California. There are people everywhere. It’s megachurch central. Crystal Cathedral, Angelus Temple, Calvary Chapel, The Vineyard, Cottonwood Church, Saddleback Church, even TBN headquarters are all close enough that anyone who attends my church could easily drive to one of those churches on Sunday instead. Not to mention other seriously big megachurches that aren’t known outside this region.
There must be something in the Southern California soil. Sometimes it seems like, if you drop your bible on the ground, a megachurch will spring up from the ground.
If you can’t build a megachurch in Orange County, you’ll never build one anywhere. But I couldn’t. God knows I tried. I tried so hard it nearly killed my spirit and my church.
Something must be wrong with me, I thought.
I failed at being a megachurch pastor and I wasn’t happy about it. And I wasn’t going to be OK with pastoring a Small Church, that’s for sure. Being OK with my status as a Small Church pastor would mean I was what?
Again, no one said that outright. And even the most hardcore church growth advocates would deny that’s what they meant to tell me.
But that’s where the grasshopper logic in my mind led me to. And, as it turns out, I’m not alone.
There are a lot of demoralized Small Church pastors (and ex-pastors) out there who took the train to the same angry, hurt, guilt-ridden destination I did.
It’s Time to Be Thankful
Do you realize most Small Church pastors have never even admitted to ourselves, let alone to the whole world over the internet, that this is who we are?
I think my story is paralleled in a lot of your stories.
Maybe until now, you’ve not been able to admit you’re a Small Church pastor. But I believe that’s the only way we can start this conversation and get on the road towards being healthier pastors, churches and people – by being honest about who we are.
It’s is a way to acknowledge what we’re now ready to admit.
In time, we might even be thankful for it. I know I am. But it did take a while.
If slapping my name on a nametag and putting it on the internet for the world to see, can help me be OK with the ministry God has given me, then I say “thank you, nametag.”
And thank you Jesus, for giving me this calling.
We’re in this together, fellow Small Church pastors. Let’s make it count.
So what do you think? Are you going to send your photo in and connect with this group of great Small Church leaders?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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