I’ve been restless in my small church, but I still believe it’s where my family and I belong.
Yes, that creates tension in my heart and head sometimes. But it also positioned my husband and me to lead a new small group that’s been what our lives needed this past year. God has shown me (again) how He doesn’t waste anything. He uses our perspectives, restlessness, and ideas to grow our faith and bring Himself glory. (Read more about that.)
Being active in a small church with about 100 people on a Sunday morning has taught me much, blessed me greatly, and prompted many questions. I’ve learned more about myself and my preferences. I’ve discovered how my gifts fit into God’s kingdom. I’ve pursued ideas because if I wanted a study or project to happen I had to lead it. People have shown up with meals after we adopted babies or as my son recovered from second-degree burns. A couple our parents’ age has poured into our family. We’ve befriended college students and other families.
But I’ve been feeling stuck in my small church.
So when I saw a post about the launch team for “Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of under 250” on Facebook, I was intrigued. I’m not a pastor. I don’t work for my church. But I do care about the future of our small church (and churches in general) and wanted a fresh perspective as the wife of an elder and a small group leader.
“A healthy small church on mission with God can and should be hearing from God through various voices in the congregation. If we truly believe in the priesthood of believers, what better place to practice it than in a healthy small church?”
– Karl Vaters in “Small Church Essentials”
I’m not the only one in this size of church. Vaters quotes information that says half of North America’s 320,000 churches are Protestant churches that have about 80 in their weekly attendance. One a church reaches 100 people, it’s larger than 60 percent of its peer churches; at 140 people, it’s 75 percent larger; and at 200, 85 percent. The numbers don’t matter but the sentiment does: Leading and being active in small churches is important because that’s the majority of what The Church is in America.
“Equip the saints, reach the lost, and glorify God. If you and your church are doing that, it doesn’t matter what size it is. It’s not about big or small; it’s about big and small. While I believe small churches will play a more visible role in the future growth of the church, I don’t believe we will replace big churches or megachurches, nor should we. The body of Christ is better with all of us than without any of us.”
– Karl Vaters in “Small Church Essentials”
This book is definitely written directly to pastors, but I still benefited as someone invested and interested in seeing improvements in our church. It’s divided into four sections that are then broken down into smaller chapters that address everything from church philosophy, purpose, starting and stopping ministries, vision-casting, service, discipleship, leadership models, and planning. Personally, it helped me gain perspective on both the role of a small church and where I fit into that.
About the book
Big churches get all the love. Articles, books, and conferences often feature leaders of large congregations. Yet big churches are a small part of the ecclesial landscape. In fact, more than 90 percent of churches have fewer than 200 people. That means small churches play a big part in what God is doing.
“Small Church Essentials” is for leaders of these smaller congregations. It encourages them to steward their role well, debunks myths about small churches, and offers principles for leading a dynamic, healthy small church. It affirms small church leaders and shows them how to identify what they do well and how to do it even better.
This 256-page paperback book is published by Moody Publishers (March 6, 2018).
About the author
Karl Vaters has been a small church pastor for 30 years, also authored “The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us,” and travels extensively to churches and conferences to speak about leading a small church well. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
I received an advanced complimentary copy of this book as part of the launch team, but these thoughts on the book and small churches are my own.