There are a lot of small churches in the world.
By most estimates, over 90 percent of churches are under 200, and over 80 percent are under 100. In fact, it’s not unusual for half of the congregations within a denomination to have 50 or fewer people in attendance.
So why does it seem like there are almost no resources specifically designed to help churches of that size?
Even my books and articles, which are written for small church pastors by a small church pastor, are aimed at all churches under 250 or so. Certainly, most of it also applies to churches under 50, but there’s very little specifically targeted specifically for the church of 50 or fewer.
There are three primary reasons for this:
1. The Busy Small Church Pastor
The people who are most qualified to write about the challenges and blessings of churches under 50 are those who have led them for an extended period of time.
But most of those pastors are too busy pastoring while working a secular job, or pastoring more than one church at the same time, to write about it
2. The Lack Of Small Church Experience By Church Leadership Writers
If small church pastors aren’t writing a lot of pastoral books or curriculum, who is? It’s pastors of larger churches, or people who have spent most of their time working for publishing houses, magazines and websites that come from a larger organizational perspective.
That’s understandable from the standpoint of publishers, but it means there’s a disconnect between the needs of most pastors and the skills of those who have been tasked with answering that need.
3. The Law Of Large Numbers
As I outlined in Small Church Essentials, the Law Of Large Numbers states that the larger the group is, the more predictably it will behave, and the smaller the group, the less predictably it behaves.
In churches, this means that larger congregations will have more in common organizationally, so they can share new ideas more readily. But the smaller the church is, the more each church is different from other churches – even other churches of the same size and denomination – making it harder to find common ground and share universal principles.
Certainly, there’s some common ground, no matter what size a church is, but the areas of common ground are not where most small church pastors are needing help. It’s the areas in which small churches are different where we need some assistance. But that’s where the circumstances often change from congregation to congregation.
So why am I outlining these issues? Do I have a point-by-point solution to them?
No, I don’t.
I’m letting you know this for two reasons:
First, if you pastor a church of 50 or under, while you can always learn something from pastors of big churches, the knowledge overlap will be far less than it is with other small churches.
This is not because the big church leaders are teaching badly, or that you’re doing anything wrong. There are simply more differences than similarities between big and small churches (not differences in mission or passion, but differences in methodology and strategy.)
Second, if you pastor a church of 50 or under and you have some ideas that you think will help other pastors of churches like yours, I want to know about it.
Let Us Know What You Know
Send me your ideas and articles to NewSmallChurch@gmail.com. We’re working to expand what we do here and at NewSmallChurch.com to include more voices for more small churches.
But you’ll need a thick skin. I won’t publish anything until it’s good – really good – both in content and writing style. And it needs to be practical, not theological or controversial (like we need more of that online!).
But please don’t let that scare you off. I’m willing to read short articles (1,000 words or fewer, please) that are almost ready and offer some editorial nudges. Or hear proposals about article ideas.
Bottom line, I need your help. Lots of other pastors need your help.
If you’ve learned something practical about pastoring a very small church, we need to get that information out to others.
Let’s do this together.
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