If there’s one thing that frustrates me the most about small town pastors, it’s the assumptions they make about the churches they serve. They assume their church won’t change, so they never challenge them. They assume their church won’t grow, so they never inspire them. They assume their church’s best days are behind them, so they resign themselves to a slow and painful death. Be careful about the assumptions you make because your assumptions may be the biggest problem in your church.
The church I serve has defied every assumption. There’s absolutely no reason we should be where we are today. Churches in towns of 2,000 people shouldn’t average 600-700 people in weekend attendance. That’s unheard of.
They shouldn’t be able to start a new campus, buy a new building, and grow to 350-400 people in weekend attendance at that campus within the first two years.
Our staff is not that smart, we’re not even that talented, and we certainly don’t have a lot of money.
So, what’s our secret? I’m honestly not sure, but I can tell you what I believe is a huge part of it.
There are people in the communities we serve that are looking for an uplifting church that presents the message of the Bible in a way they can understand and apply to their life.
And the more I speak with other small town pastors who are seeing success, the more I realize this is true for rural communities across the United States.
Now, does that mean every church should modernize? No. There’s still a percentage of people who love the type of church they grew up in and don’t want a change. If your church is healthy and is serving them well, then continue what you’re doing. Just know that the people who enjoy that style of church are becoming less and less, which means it’s going to be really difficult to ever grow.
The fact is the churches that are going to see growth in the future are the churches that are going to be willing to change.
If that’s the type of church you want to lead, let me give you three other facts I believe about most small town churches.
- Your church has more potential than problems. I love talking about problems. I love thinking up excuses about why something won’t work. If I’m not careful, I can be the negative person in the room. So, I know what it’s like to be frustrated with a church, but I honestly believe that your church has more potential than problems. It’s a lot easier to see the problems, but the potential is there. You may just have to look a little harder.
- You’re probably doing way too much of the wrong things. I know the church I serve was for a long time. You have to scale back and focus on what’s most important and what is going to have the most impact. This probably means you’re going to have to cut some programs that people love. You may need to cut a service that no one’s showing up to. You’re going to have to say no to some things, so that you can give your best to the most important things.
- Your church won’t grow until your leadership grows. You may have to humble yourself and ask for help. You may have seminary degree. You may have a doctorate in theology, but sometimes those aren’t much help when it comes to leading a church. I would encourage you to read books, listen to podcasts, and get coaching in the areas that you need help.
If I can be of help to you, I’d love to talk with you. Visit my contact page and send me a message, or look me up on Facebook. I love helping small town pastors discover their potential. As always, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.