If you were trying to help someone, would you want to know if you were unintentionally hurting them?
Sometimes that's what happens when big churches try to help small churches.
Not every time. Not even most of the time. But often enough that many small church pastors have stopped looking for help from their big church counterparts. Not because they don't want help. Not because they've given up.
Because they're tired of being hurt.
And I don’t mean hurt feelings. I mean actual damage caused to churches, pastors and their ministries. Because that’s what happens when we make and act on assumptions.
Here are 7 assumptions I’ve seen well-meaning big churches and their pastors make that cause unintentional harm to small churches and their pastors.
1. It hurts when you assume small churches are broken churches
There are a lot of healthy small churches in the world.
But almost every conference speaker who reminds us that 90 percent of churches are under 200 does so while shaking their heads or wagging their finger in disappointment.
When that happens, small church pastors like me leave your conference either discouraged or determined to fix something that may not be broken. Either way, our churches aren’t getting the leadership they need from us. And your conference is less likely to get a return visit.
2. It hurts when you assume you know more about pastoring our church than we do
The bigger a church gets, the more they have in common. When a church gets into the thousands, their systems, structures, methods and leadership principles are similar, no matter what their theological differences.
But every small church is unique, because the smaller the church, the greater impact every person has. And people are weird. (I say that with love. Truly.)
In a big church, aside from a handful of key leaders, individual members have minor impact. In a small church, everyone affects the whole. Not to mention the differences in geography, theology, denomination, ethnicity, demographics, finances and more.
When we give advice to smaller churches we must always collaborate with the boots-on-the-ground leadership. An outsider’s opinion is helpful, because new eyes can see things the old eyes have long ago stopped noticing. But the smaller the church, the greater the need to collaborate with local leadership.
That’s harder to do with a blog, a book or a conference talk. So we need to speak and write with more humility.