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Small Church Pastor

October 22, 2013

Hi, my name is John and I am a small church pastor.Hi. My name is John and I am a small church pastor.

There. I finally said it. What a relief!

Over the past few months, I have been reflecting a lot on the many ways I am a failure as a pastor. I have been the pastor of New Beginnings in Bryan, Texas for about 16 months. In that time I have managed to grow the church from about 45 down to about 30 (on a pretty strong Sunday). After several years of operating a “Fall Festival”, this year there will be none. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we don’t have Sunday school for anyone except the older members. I am pretty sure we won’t make the “Outreach 100” anytime soon!

I know—and I think I have always known—that there is far more to growing a church than numbers. But over the past few months I have begun to realize just how unimportant numbers really are. Don’t get me wrong; we count attendance every Sunday. Metrics are important. You have to know how many bulletins to print and communion cups to fill. I just don’t let numbers become my barometer for spiritual health.

Rather than focus on numbers, God has recently given me a hunger for overall spiritual health, both for the individuals who are part of New Beginnings and for the corporate body as well. This has renewed my passion for pastoring the local church.

New Beginnings will likely never be a large church. In fact, I am pretty sure I don’t even want that anymore. I would rather see us grow to a level of health and numbers where we are consistently sending people out into ministry. I dream of sending about a third of my church out to plant another local church in our area. I want to stay in the category that church growth experts call a “small church”.

I want to spend some time having a conversation about ministry in small churches. I would like for you to be part of that conversation.

Hi. My name is John and I am a small church pastor.

Will you leave a comment telling me about your church? Is your church a small church? Let’s talk about some of the joys and challenges of ministry in the small church context! (I want to say a special “Thank You” to Karl Vaters at newsmallchurch.com. You are doing a good work! Thanks for your transparency, encouragement, and practical help to your fellow small church pastors.)

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11 Comments
  1. Hi John! I too am a pastor of a small church. We run roughly 17 on any given Sunday, and that’s including children lol. I’m glad to see so many other pastors that are honest. Your post has greatly encouraged me. Looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

    • Jordan, I firmly believe we are called to be an encouragment to one another. The fact that you appreciate what God has laid on my spirit is equally an encouragment to me! Keep up the good work. I have recently added my fellow small church pastors to my prayer list.

  2. I’m a bi-vocational pastor. My first 10 years were fulltime, the past 18 bi-vocational. When some folks hear I have a small church (around 35) or have a fulltime job, I sense they think I’m a failure. The Lord and I have a lot of conversations about this. A couple of years ago I was really struggling with the ministry due to some strong willed folks with control issues. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. with my stomach in knots. I asked God silently (my wife was still asleep), “What am I to do?” IT was then I heard His voice, not in the way humans talk but I heard Him quite clearly. He said, “Make My word your word.” The knots in my stomach immediately went away and I experienced a great peace. Several days later while driving to work out loud I prayed, “Lord, I cannot preach one more word until You answer me two questions: “AM I doing what You want me to do and are You pleased with me?” That Sunday a man came up to me and said, “Ernie, the Lord wants me to give you a message. He wants you to know you are doing what He wants you to do and He’s pleased with you.” The man answered both questions in the order I asked them. Only the Lord had heard my request. Small church preacher and God is pleased.

    • Ernie, that is about the size of the church I have the privilege to serve. The peace I have about the size of our church did not come in such a dramatic fashion, but recently God used a time of discouragement to assure me he would judge me based on faithfulness as opposed to visible accomplishments. God is pleased with our faifulness; remain faithful!

  3. David Bolden permalink

    Hello, neighbor. Well, sort of, at least in the same area of the big state of Texas — Mexia. I began my Pastoral ministry right up the road from your present location – Franklin. I was pastor there for four years before being ‘ran out of town’ by a group of controlling members. I know some of the previous pastors at your location and was even the sectional youth rep for a while.
    However, I have been pastor in Mexia for 29 plus years. During that time we have gone up and down in numbers. One of these days I am going to find my small church pastor’s name tag and post a picture and my story.
    Thanks for sharing your story. It is encouraging to hear other pastors tell the truth about their ministry. Keep up the good work. YOU ARE MAKING AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE’S LIVES, FOR ETERNITY.

    • David, not sure where Franklin came from. I am actually in Bryan/Colege Station. Thanks for your encouragment! Print that tag and tell your story; it’s pretty liberating!

      • David Bolden permalink

        I meant that I started my pastoral duties in the big city of Franklin, which is right up the road from you, about 30 miles north. We did grocery shopping in B\CS when we lived there.

  4. Jim Smithies permalink

    You can’t have impacted my life the way you have and be a failure. Still praying for you, thankful to God for you (!!!!), and LOVED serving with you! Your model of humility, strength, love and commitment to the Word are still examples I strive to follow.

    • Jim! My great friend and mentor. If I have had any impact on your life, it pales in comparison to the role you have had in mine. When you have a gap in your globe-trotting, you and your lovely bride need to come spend some time with us in Aggieland!

  5. Bravo!! Love this post!

  6. derl curry permalink

    hi john I am Derl curry and I pastored 7 small church in the past 40 years. all avg 15 when I started. but through the help of the lord we saw every church grow to avg of 90 with in 2 years.
    I trained pastors for all the church and left to go to another church.
    I find soul winning the soul of the church and its groweth its hard work and rewarding so don’t ever be satisfied with small for we that are small help supply members for the large church.

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