Most of my ministry has been in small churches and I love them! But I grew up in a church with over 500 in worship, so my first small church pastorate was almost a disaster. Out of that experience, I quickly developed some rules for pastoring a small church:
Rule #1: Realize a small church is not a miniature big church. Remember “Mini-Me” in Austin Powers — an exact clone of the big guy, only smaller? I learned quickly that small churches aren’t “MiniMes.” Worship, decision-making, pastoral care, and just about everything else in a small church is different from large church ministry.
Rule #2: Assume all your members are related. I discovered this rule one day after venting my frustration with one member to another. His four word reply is still ringing in my head — “Yeah, she’s my cousin.”
Rule #3. Don’t underestimate your members. Small church members can be just as gifted, committed, and excited as large-church members — sometimes more so. Many people actually prefer a small church because they can find a place of service and get to know people more quickly.
Rule #4. Don’t overestimate the pastor’s importance. Lyle Schaller says small churches are member-driven. Pastors may come-and-go, but members keep the church running. Plug-in rather than charge-in is my approach now.
Rule #5. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. While pastoring my first small church, I couldn’t wait to move up to a larger congregation. Looking back, I realize that those folks saw my restlessness, but loved me anyway. I wished later that I had stayed longer.
Today I’m still pastoring a small church. Small churches fit me, and hopefully, I fit them better now, too.