3 Questions Every Small Town Pastor Needs To Be Asking

Do you remember the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken?” The premise is in life we have choices, and sometimes choosing to take the road less traveled can make all the difference. Today, I was looking through some old notebooks of mine and came across some thoughts I had written down in 2009. The church I serve was in the beginning stages of its transformation, and I was lucky enough to be in the middle of it. The church detoured from a road many other churches were already going down in our community to a road less traveled, and it truly has made all the difference.

I would like to encourage you to make that same choice. The opportunity to win people to Jesus has never been greater than it is right now, especially for pastors serving in rural and small towns. Yet, the opportunity for your church to decline and die is just as great.

Where you end up will be determined by the road you choose.

Before you make that choice, I would ask you to sit down with your leadership or board and honestly answer these three questions. Your honest answers will determine the road you ultimately end up on.

  1. Do we really care about reaching the world? Almost every pastor would say yes, yet their vision, their values, and their budget would tell you something very different. If you’re serious about reaching the world, you have to quit being inward focused. It’s impossible to please everyone in your church and reach those outside of it. You have to be ok with that, and you have to be willing to fight for those who look nothing like Jesus.
  2. Are we willing to work hard? It takes more than prayer and sound biblical doctrine to grow a church. Sometimes you’re going to have to hurt someone’s feelings. I’m not saying be mean about it. I’m just saying be honest. If someone can’t sing, don’t let him or her. If someone has constant bad breath, don’t allow him or her to be a door greeter. If there are paintings, or quilts, or décor that would freak people out, then get rid of it. You’ve been called to lead, not to be liked. God will do his part. You have to be willing to do yours.
  3. Are we willing to give up our preferences and embrace change? Denominations have been on the decline in America for the past 40 years. You want to guess why? Because they’re not willing or are too slow to change. Don’t let that be you. There are grandparents in your congregation that would be willing to give their lives to see their grandchildren in church, but they’re not willing to give up their hymns.

The only way that changes is if you cast a vision to reach the world, work hard, and convince them to embrace change. Take the road less traveled.

What road is your church on? Are you growing or declining? Let us know by leaving a comment below. If I can ever be of help send me an email through my contact page and we’ll set up a phone call.

Announcements, Bulletins, and When to Say No

Can you announce that the mission team is having a barbeque fundraiser this Saturday? The ladies quilting group won’t be able to meet next week either. Make sure to get that in the bulletin. Oh and by the way, last Sunday you forgot to mention that the Richardsons had their new baby here for the first time. Now they’re upset and will probably never come back. This is the communication nightmare that happens in far too many small town churches.

Today, I want to give you permission to say no.

For years, the church I serve heard these types of comments and suggestions.

Each time we would scramble to get every little detail in the bulletin and make every announcement that someone thought necessary. And you know what? We still didn’t please everyone.

Not only that, the more announcements we made, the less people attended the events we were announcing.

So, we made a decision. No longer would everything get promoted equally. The staff would decide what was worth promoting from the stage, in the bulletin, on social media, and through any other avenue we might use.

This did two things.

  1. It ticked people off.
  2. It helped us focus on accomplishing our vision.

You see, it’s impossible to please everyone and accomplish the vision God has given you at the same time.

If you don’t prioritize what you’re communicating, you’re failing to lead.

I know that’s harsh, but you know it’s true. You can’t treat everything the same.

When you try, you’re actually hurting the chances of getting people to engage in the ministry.

I can’t place the same priority on announcing sign up to be baptized as I do on announcing sign up to join the church softball team.

Does that tick the coach off? Maybe, if they’re more concerned about winning games than they are about seeing people go public with their faith.

If that’s the case, you probably need to get a new coach.

But what you’ll find more often than not is, if you are willing to have the conversation to explain why something isn’t getting announced, most people will understand.

If they don’t, it just shows that they’re more concerned with their event than the mission of the church.

Today, we have a generic bulletin that welcomes people to our church and doubles as our connection card.

The majority of Sundays we have one announcement, except during very busy seasons when we’ll have two.

These announcements always center around the vision of the church and apply to either new guests or at least 50% of the congregation.

If it doesn’t fit those criteria, it may get put on the screen that scrolls before service starts, or on social media, or on nothing at all.

The easy thing to do would be to avoid tough conversations and let anyone promote anything.

If you care about being a leader and reaching a vision, you have to prioritize the important.

What gets announced in your church, and who makes that decision? Let us know be leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church leadership, growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Ten Reasons You Should Quit the Ministry

I’m a firm believer that the world needs more churches and more pastors. However, there are some pastors out there who are doing more harm to the church than good. I’ve spent the past three years trying to encourage and equip small town pastors to grow their churches, but today I want to encourage some of you to quit.

Before you get too bent out of shape, I’m not saying you should quit serving God and loving people. Every Christian should do that.

I’m just saying you should find a new occupation.

Pastoring isn’t for everyone, and if you’ve been pondering if it’s really for you, I hope these ten reasons will give you some clarity.

  1. You didn’t know what you were getting into. Look, I get it. You were fifteen years old, it was an emotional church camp, and you felt like God was calling you to preach. Now, you’re a twenty-four year old youth pastor, you’re regretting the decision, and you can’t imagine doing this for the rest of your life. Do yourself a favor and step out of the position. God will take care of filling it when you’re gone.
  1. You’re in it for the money. Ha, if people only knew. Few small town pastors will ever be able to go full-time at the church they serve. Even then, the chances of getting benefits like insurance or retirement can be slim. If you got into the ministry to make big bucks, you’re going to be really disappointed.
  1. You have a hard time loving people. People are the best and the worst part of ministry. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them, so you have to be able to take the good with the bad. If you just like the idea of preaching in front of an audience, then pastoring probably isn’t for you. You need to genuinely love people in all stages of life and with all different types of personalities and problems.
  1. You don’t have a passion to see people come to know Jesus. The heart of a pastor has to burn with passion to see people come to know Jesus. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you are serving in a church that isn’t seeing salvations and you’re not frustrated by that, then you may not need to be a pastor. If it’s been a long time since you’ve personally invited someone who doesn’t know Jesus to your church, then you probably don’t need to be a pastor. Evangelism has to be a priority in your life and the life of your church.
  1. You can’t handle criticism. Every leader has to deal with criticism. Pastors don’t get a pass on this. God’s people have been perfecting the art of criticism for hundreds of years. Many pastors have been chewed up and spit out by “well-meaning” Christians. If your feelings get hurt easily, pastoring isn’t for you.
  1. You can’t handle praise. For some pastors, praise is more dangerous than criticism. They feed off of praise, and their ego gets bigger and bigger. This causes them to have an inflated view of themselves, which makes it impossible for them to connect with their congregation.
  1. You don’t enjoy it. Maybe you did at one time, but now it’s more of a burden to you rather than a blessing. If you find yourself dreading showing up to church on a Sunday morning, it’s probably time for you take a break and get some counseling.
  1. You’re not willing to learn and change. Ministry is constantly changing, which means pastors have to be willing to learn and change in order to reach more people. Unfortunately, many small town pastors continue to refuse to change even though their churches are dying.
  2. It’s time to pass the baton to someone else. Some of you have led very successful ministries for a number of years, but the time has come to step aside and let someone new take over the ministry. As we get older and our health begins to fade, we are no longer as effective as we once were. The best thing you can do is to ensure a healthy transition for the next pastor.
  1. It’s destroying your family. Unfortunately, we are seeing this happen more and more. You can be very successful in ministry and lose your family. Your primary responsibility is to love and serve your family. Don’t let the church take you away from that. If your family doesn’t love the church you serve, it’s probably time to walk away.

I hate to see any pastor quit, but sometimes it’s necessary for their health and the health of the church they serve. I also believe it’s necessary for the church as a whole. Jesus reminds us that for a tree to bear the best fruit, some of the branches that aren’t producing have to be pruned.

Have you ever questioned if you should be in ministry? Let us know about it by leaving a comment below, and if you’re ready to turn around your small town church around read my new ebook or contact me about coaching options. Also while you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership and more delivered to your inbox each week.