Leading a small church is a unique, exciting opportunity to see God’s hand at work in a local community. Ultimately, a pastor’s goal is to lead their congregation to reach others with the gospel. It’s not Biblical to grow for the sake of numbers, but to fulfill the Great Commission.
Not all mega-churches are doing it right, but there are specific challenges facing small churches and plenty of pitfalls that can lead to stagnancy. Here are the top five obstacles that may get in the way of a small church with a central purpose of saving the lost:
1. Everyone Is Too Comfortable with an Insider Mindset
Do your members like their church just the way it is? It’s beneficial for members to view their church as a safe haven, but not when it keeps them trapped in a comfort zone that’s directly interfering with welcoming new guests.
If you assume everyone listening to your announcement about your latest small group knows who the leaders “Tom and Sue” are, you’re doing it wrong. When visitors get the impression that church is set up for people who are already “in the know” about ongoing ministries, they’re going to see it reflected in the way you talk.
Just because your church wants to grow doesn’t mean it will. But if your church doesn’t want to grow, it certainly won’t.
2. A Pastor Who Does It All
It’s easy for small church pastors to take over every aspect of church ministry without even realizing it. After all, with less than 200 people in regular attendance, there are only a set number of families to pray for, visit and teach.
Part of small church growth starts with the senior pastor knowing when to bring other members into leadership roles. This can also prevent pastor burnout, further enhancing the teaching offered every Sunday.
3. Too Many People Making Decisions
When small churches are like family, there are often too many mouths offering opinions. When everyone is informed, it often slows down the decision-making process because everyone believes they should have a say.
While it’s good to have members who want an active role, some decisions are best left to leadership only.
4. Rigid Scheduling
Because there is a lower number of attendees, sometimes it’s hard for church leaders to justify adding a second Sunday service or changing the times of certain ministries at the risk of upsetting current member expectations.
It’s up to small church pastors and leadership teams to make the hard decisions, and this could mean going against the grain in order to offer additional opportunities for visitors to attend.
5. Looking Back Instead of Looking Forward
Focusing on how the church, the community, the country and the culture “used to be” isn’t a productive way to grow and reach the next generation. Staying inside of a small church mindset involves constantly focusing on the past instead of leading your congregation into the future.
Work on developing a vision for your church that involves a clear direction – the direction God is calling your church to move.
Has your church faced similar challenges during key periods of growth in its history? What are some strategies and solutions your church has used to avoid getting stuck?
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