3 Facts About Small Town Churches

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

What to Do When Your Hands are Tied?

Recently, I wrote a post about the need to fire staff and volunteers who may be hurting your church. This seems to be a big issue in many small town churches, but as one pastor reminded me, it’s often out of their control. In many churches, the pastor has very little power to do anything more than teach and preach God’s word. Everything else is handled either by a congregational vote or by a committee who may have a vision for the church that’s very different from the pastor’s.

So, what do you do?

A couple of ideas come to mind.

  1. Find another church to pastor that will allow you to lead.
  2. Plant your own church. Remember, it’s easier to give birth than raise the dead.

But, what if you don’t want to leave? You may really love the church and community you’re serving, you may feel God has called you there for a reason, or you may just need the salary they’re paying you.

What do you do then? Here are some thoughts.

Learn to be patient. A church that has been doing things the same way for years won’t suddenly decide to change just because you showed up. Realize this is going to take some time. Sometimes the best strategy may be to try to outlive those who are currently there.

Build relationships. Even with the people who oppose you. This is difficult, and sometimes not beneficial, but occasionally, you will win someone over if you take the time to care about him or her. Before you try to get a church to change, prove to them that they can trust you and you’re in it long-term.

Change what you can. It’s easy to get caught up in what you don’t have the power to change. Instead, focus on the things you can change. These may be very small things like church décor or even landscaping. It could be what curriculum you use for children’s ministry or Sunday school. Get out the church’s constitution and bylaws and figure out what you can change.

Focus on your family. The most important ministry you have is in your home. Spend time loving your spouse and kids. They should never feel like the church comes before them. Sometimes we think being a pastor means we’re always on the clock. That doesn’t need to be the case. The church can easily replace you. Your family cannot.

Pray. I still believe in the power of prayer. Prayer can sometimes move someone out of a position that doesn’t need to be there, and prayer sometimes moves you out of a church that’s unhealthy for you. Either way, prayer keeps your eyes focused on Jesus.

Having trouble transitioning a church and need someone to talk to? Visit my contact page and send me an email. I’d love to help or just be there as someone you can vent to. I’ve been in that position before, and sometimes it helps just to talk to someone who’s been through it.

4 Reasons Your Goals Never Get Accomplished

Just over a year ago, my wife and I set out on a journey to build a house. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To make a long story short, my parents had given me a little spot of land, but because of all the rules and regulations our county has in place, we’ve still yet to even get our deed. Without a deed you can’t build a house, and at this point, housing costs have risen so much, we couldn’t afford to build the house we want anyways. Which means, we’re stuck where we are. Not a great place to be, but a place many churches find themselves in as well.

There’s a story Jesus tells about a man who sets off to build a tower, which has come to my mind more than a few times during this whole situation. I’m left to wonder whether I’m this man who forgot to consider the cost.

Some of you pastors may feel the same way. There’s a cost to ministry, and often that cost is failure.

But I believe failure can be avoided, at least in most circumstances. We just need to avoid making some of these simple mistakes.

  1. Lack of preparation. When you’re passionate about seeing your church grow, it’s easy to skip over some of the prep work that needs to take place before you get started. It would be like trying to plant seeds before you till the ground. No matter what kind of goal you have, there’s always prep work that needs to happen first.
  2. Trying to do it by yourself. Every pastor needs a team of people around him or her who are working together to accomplish the same thing. You can’t do it by yourself, and even if you could, you shouldn’t. Ministry is meant to be done together. If you feel like you don’t have anyone on your team, you need to spend more time prepping those relationships.
  3. Trying to go too fast. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. There are going to be times when you need to push hard, and there are going to be times when you need to rest. Try to change too much too quickly, and you may find yourself looking for a new church to pastor. Remember to pace yourself.
  1. Forgetting to celebrate along the way. It’s easy to be so focused on accomplishing the goals that we forget to celebrate the wins that lead up to that goal. In the church I serve, we haven’t come close to reaching our goal for small groups this year. But we just saw three people give their lives to Christ because of the influence of a small group they were attending. I would be crazy not to celebrate that. Celebrating along the way gives you the momentum to accomplish your ultimate goal.

I’m sure I’ve left some things out. What would you add to this list? What are some of the mistakes you’ve made when it comes to accomplishing goals? Leave a comment and let us know. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.