Breaking the 200 barrier.
I wonder if any subject has received more attention in the last generation of church leadership training.
In some ways, it makes sense to spend so much time talking about it. After all, there is a fundamental shift that must take place when a church reaches around 150 – 300 in average Sunday attendance. Until that point, a church can grow by doing essentially the same things, only better. But at that size the pastor must make some significant changes in the way the church is lead.
In a recent article at BiblicalLeadership.com, Bud Brown* addressed the issue this way:
“In smaller churches the pastor is the hired hand; he’s the paid religious functionary. If anything is going to get done, the pastor has to do it. This has to be replaced with another model: the pastor leads people who do the work.”
I appreciate where the author of this very helpful article is coming from, but I still see one problem with this way of looking at church health and growth. This essential change in the way we pastor doesn’t need to be connected to breaking growth barriers or numerical increase to be implemented. It’s simply how every pastor of any healthy church should fulfill their calling.
No pastor should ever function as the “hired hand” or “paid religious functionary”, no matter what size church they serve.
From Chaplains To Equippers
In Ephesians 4:11-12, we read about something I call the Pastoral Prime Mandate. In that passage, pastors (along with four other types of church leaders) are called to do one thing: “to equip God’s people for works of service.”
Church leadership is about being an equipper.
But instead of this, too many pastors have been trained and are expected to act, not as pastors who equip God’s people to do ministry, but as chaplains who do all the ministry for church members.
Please note that chaplaincy is a noble and valuable ministry. We need more chaplains, not fewer of them. In prisons, the military, hospitals and many other places, chaplains perform an invaluable service for people who need ministry brought to them. (That’s an oversimplification of their role, but not an inaccurate one.)
But, while chaplaincy and pastoring have some overlap, they’re not the same thing.
Pastors are not called to do ministry for people. Pastors are called to equip others to do ministry. Certainly, in most smaller churches, there’s some chaplaincy for the pastor to do, but that should never be our main function no matter how small the church may be.
This is the primary shift that most small church pastors (and quite frankly, some big church pastors) need to make. We need to move from the chaplaincy model of doing ministry for people, to the biblical pastoral model of equipping God’s people to do ministry.
Equipping God’s People To Become Equippers
When we start pastoring in this, more biblical fashion, everything changes.
Yes, we will be setting the church up to break growth barriers, if that’s what God has in mind for that congregation. But even if the church never breaks through the 200 barrier (or 100, or 50, or…) equipping God’s people creates a much healthier, far more effective church than the typical congregation that expects too much of their pastor and too little of themselves.
When we step up and start fulfilling the Pastoral Prime Mandate, we will discover that many of the people we equip to do ministry will also be gifted to step up to become equippers themselves.
Whether an individual congregation grows bigger or not, when God’s people start getting equipped, the church becomes healthier, stronger and more effective (and no, numerical growth is not inevitable, even for healthy churches, as I’ve outlined in many places, including here and here).
Pastor, your church may not be called to break the 200 barrier (although if you do, that’s great, too). And you don’t need to become a crew chief instead of a pastor, if that’s not your calling.
But we all need to become more biblical in our pastoral role. We need to become better at making disciples, equipping God’s people and helping some of them become equippers, as well.
This is not just a strategy for numerical growth, it’s an essential element for health and effectiveness. As such, it must always be seen as a central component in fulfilling the call of God on your life, your ministry and the church’s mission.
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