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Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 1

August 13, 2014

small-church5During the recent annual convention of the National Association of Free Will Baptists—the denomination of which the church I lead is a member—I had the privilege to lead a seminar relating to healthy small church ministry. I had spent time reading The Grasshopper Myth (Fountain Valley, California: New Small Church, 2013) by Karl Vaters as well as his blog ( With Karl’s permission, I used the title of a workshop along with some of his themes he posted on his blog. They are greatly expanded and specifically tailored to my audience of Free Will Baptist church leaders.

I am posting my notes from that seminar here over the course of several posts. Feel free to engage with each section or wait until the end to comment. If I can be of any help to you, especially in a small church ministry context, please do not hesitate to contact me. Most of all, I hope and pray this will be an encouragement to you who labor in the especially hard work of small church ministry. Your work may be hidden from the world, the church conference circuit, the Christian publishing industry, and maybe even your own denomination or church, but it is not hidden from the God who calls you to be faithful to your calling and will reward you accordingly. God bless you all!


I am sure there are many others, including some in this room, who are more qualified to present a seminar dealing with small church issues. Most of us are not new to small church ministry. I am relatively young and relatively inexperienced; but most of my experience is in the small church context. What I will say today is my opinion based on research and experience. That research includes what I believe God’s word says on the matter. I will not read or reference much scripture today, not because I do not think it relevant, but because I will assume we all agree to see this subject from a biblical standpoint. Also, while the Bible has much to say about the church and what we are to believe and teach, it really does not direct us much when it comes to church growth and church size. Some have tried to promote the mega church as “the goal” using scripture, but I will address that in a few minutes. Have any of you ever thought to yourself—or maybe even said out loud, “I pastor (or attend, volunteer in, etc.) a good church. If we only had more people, or more money, or better facilities, or some other thing, we could be a great church.” It has been both my experience and observation that when we adopt that attitude, we tend to begin seeing that attitude in our church. My primary purpose today is to encourage you with the truth that your church can be a great small church. Small and great are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist. Please let me state from the outset: I will not beat up on large churches! I believe there is a place in the kingdom for churches of all sizes. I firmly believe small churches have an important role to play in the kingdom, but so do large churches. Many of the books we rely on, web platforms we utilize, and songs we sing would not be possible without good, godly, Jesus-loving large churches! A great example of this is the Bible application many of you have on your phone or tablet. If you are using the most popular Bible app most of us use was developed by a single church. I will not demonize large churches simply to make me feel better about my small church; there are too many legitimate reasons to love my small church.

What is “The Grasshopper Myth”?

Karl Vaters is pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship[1] in Fountain Valley, California, blogger at, and author of The Grasshopper Myth. Karl started using the term “Grasshopper Myth” to refer to the inferiority complex suffered by many small churches and their leaders. The phrase comes from Numbers 13:32-33, “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.” What is The Grasshopper Myth? The Grasshopper Myth is the false impression that our small church ministry is less than what God says it is because we compare ourselves with others[2]. I have come to believe that a great deal of the problem lies in the mirror. Part of the problem is how we view ourselves. As small churches and small church leaders, we are not second-class members of the kingdom. We have a vital role to play. But the truth is that we will never accomplish God’s mission for our churches as long as we are busy navel-gazing.

[1] Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, 17575 Euclid St., Fountain Valley, California, pastor Karl Vaters. Cornerstone is associated with the Assemblies of God denomination.

[2] Karl Vaters, The Grasshopper Myth (Fountain Valley, California; New Small Church) Introduction.

Does this sound familiar? Does this describe your ministry? Please comment below. Check back next week for the next section of my seminar.



From → Church

  1. Thanks for sharing the link to the NewSmallChurch site. Found it very helpful!

  2. Good to hear from you! Hope things are going well. That is a really encouraging and helpful blog. On top of that, Karl Vaters is a really good guy. You should check out his book. Comment here anytime!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 2 | Life and Ministry
  2. Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 3 | Life and Ministry
  3. Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 4 | Life and Ministry
  4. Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 5 | Life and Ministry
  5. Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 6 | Life and Ministry

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