Pastoring and leading any church is unique due to its congregation, context, and size. Each has their own distinctive strengths and concerns. The communities surrounding small churches can experience big impact just like the communities surrounding their sister mid-size and larger churches. Intentionality of being a missionally-focused church is the most important regardless of size. If the church is focused on reaching new people and maturing its disciples (in that priority order), its size is inconsequential as its impact can be substantial.
There are, however, particular aspects of the small church where practical expectations need to be named and understood. Without the pastor and laity being on the same page about the expectations of the pastor, a small church can get derailed from the tremendous ministry impact that is possible. In our book, Mission Possible for the Small Church, coauthor Blake Bradford and I explore these critical practices and expectations of pastoring a small church:
- Because relationships are the superpower of small churches, building relationships is a priority for pastors of small churches. In larger churches, these relationships are often established through shared committee work, other meetings, and church functions. In the small church, these relationships are often built through one-on-one time together often at the homes of the congregants. In the book, Blake describes this as pastoring from the porch swing.
- Pastoral care, discipleship, and leadership are often intermingled through one-on-one interactions with congregants.
- Pastors in small churches need to resist being the switchboard operator. In other words, it is unhealthy for the laity and the pastor alike for all decisions, plans, and forward movement being dependent on the pastor’s approval or involvement.
- Some small churches have less than full time pastors. Laity must adjust their expectations accordingly. In these settings it is even more important to establish and communicate clear pastoral expectations. Without the establishment of clear and practical expectations, the pastor and laity alike may find themselves headed towards a rocky relationship and disappointment ultimately reflecting in ineffective ministries. In the book, we explore several practical methods of navigating part time pastorates.
- Regardless of church size, it is important to practice missional and leadership accountability. Assessment of ministry impact for effectiveness must be non-negotiable. Accountability is a practice of stewardship (time, energy, capacity, and resources).
If your small church is looking to simplify its leadership, structure, and ministries so your ministries can have a deeper community impact, gather a small team to study Mission Possible for the Small Church. Your team will find applicable small church resources, suggestions, practical tips, and next steps. Each chapter includes team questions to help your leaders process the information in the chapter, apply it to your context, and make decisions on faithful next steps for your church to be more missionally focused.