Small church pastors are some of the hardest-working, most passionate and sacrificial people anywhere.
They serve without fanfare, helping in ways most people will never see. And they face challenges that many will never experience.
In over five years of writing, speaking and talking with thousands of small church pastors of virtually every denomination and background, I’ve noticed there are three challenges that tend to pop up for them (us) on a regular basis.
Discouragement is unquestionably the most widespread burden faced by small church pastors — and usually the most debilitating.
I would estimate that more small church pastors have left the ministry before their time due to overwhelming discouragement than any other reason — maybe more than all other reasons combined.
It comes from a combination of factors, but most of all from feelings of failure for not hitting the goals for numerical increase that are set, either by others or by ourselves.
How To Help
Small church pastors need friendship and encouragement. Especially from their peers in pastoral ministry.
If you’re a local pastor, call up a small church pastor and offer to buy them a cup of coffee or lunch. Then listen to them, encourage them, and learn from them.
But, whatever you do, don’t tell them what you think they’ve been doing wrong, or offer to “fix” their church. We’ve heard and tried all the ideas, advice and “sure things” already. We need encouragement more than another surefire 5-step church growth program.
Just be there for a hurting fellow pastor. Then follow up later to say “hi” again.
You may find a lot of resistance at first. Most small church pastors have been burned by promises of helpful friendship before, so there’s a lot of mistrust.
But keep at it. They’ll be grateful, you’ll be blessed, and the kingdom of God will be advanced.
2. Lack of Resources
The financial needs of small churches are usually very obvious. What’s not as obvious, but just as challenging, is the lack of ideas, methods and curriculum designed with the small church in mind.
Most of what’s out there is coming from a big- or megachurch context. But most of what’s designed in a megachurch simply doesn’t translate to an average size church.
Up to 90 percent of all churches qualify as small, but probably less than 10 percent of resources are designed to be used in a small church context. This is a massive hole that we need to address.
How To Help
Small churches need to be equipped with fresh new ideas and methods that can be used with
- Limited money
- Limited staff
- Limited training time
- Limited facilities
Websites like Pinterest have become go-to places where people with common interests share wonderfully creative ideas for repurposing old materials, DIY projects, kid-friendly crafts, inexpensive interior design and so much more.
There’s no reason why we can’t do the same kind of crowd-source sharing of ideas for small churches, too.
So many small church pastors do the Saturday Night Scramble week after week to get a Sunday sermon written. It’s not because they’re lazy, but because they’ve spent 40-50 hours of their week in a secular job to pay the bills, then a couple evenings conducting Bible Studies, making home visits and so on.
Many of them are tasked with pastoring more than one church, with little or no help. Add family obligations to that mix and there’s very little time left.
How To Help
Small churches need someone (maybe several someones) to come alongside them on a regular basis and ask “how can I help?”
If you’re a member of a small church, call up your pastor and ask what burden you can relieve from their shoulders. Cleaning the church? Stacking chairs? Cooking meals? Babysitting, so the pastor and spouse can have a date night?
If you’re a fellow pastor or denominational official, call and ask similar questions. How can you ease their burden? Pulpit fill-in so the family can take a much-needed weekend off? Offer to pay their way to a conference or couple’s retreat?
Any and all of that would be a greater blessing than you can imagine.
Support And Recognition Goes A Long Way
Small church pastors need to be recognized, honored and supported for the essential role they fulfill in the kingdom of God.
If you know of a small church pastor near you, don’t wait until they ask for your help. They probably won’t.
Give them a call. Buy them coffee or lunch. Ask what they need instead of assuming you know. Pray with and for them.
And learn from their examples of humility, sacrifice and compassion.
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