Why don’t more small church pastors attend church leadership conferences?
It’s not because we’re lazy, uninformed or don’t want to learn. It’s because of several significant, but removable roadblocks that keep most of us from coming.
In recent years, church leadership conferences have had a much bigger impact on my life and schedule as I’m being invited to speak at more of them. Attending all these conferences – as both a speaker and an attendee – has also taught me a few things about what most conferences are doing well, and how we could (must) do better for the average-sized church.
While as many as 90 percent of churches are small, the registrations at most conferences often have less than 50 percent of attendees from smaller churches.
Because of that, those who hold conferences aren’t getting an accurate picture of the church. Since they have far more attendees from bigger and urban/suburban churches, the average church seems bigger, newer, richer and younger at a major conference than it is in everyday life.
If you oversee church conferences, here are 9 ways to reduce that disconnect and remove some of the roadblocks that keep many small church pastors from attending your events:
1. Take Small Church Realities Into Account
At a recent conference, I saw workshops for breaking the 200 barrier, the 500 barrier and the 1,000 barrier, but not a single one for how to pastor well while we’re under 200.
Yet as many as 80 to 90 percent of churches are in that category.
Don’t just help us break through barriers, help us know what to do before we break though.
2. Have Some Speakers Who Look Like Us
We can only learn so much from someone who has blasted through growth barriers in their church.
While we appreciate their stories of numerical increase, we also need help from those who have learned how to lead a church to health and effectiveness while staying small. Pastors who have overcome the frustration of trying to get bigger. Churches that have found a niche of powerful, effective ministry on a small scale.
3. Stop Making Assumptions About Us
One of the few times small churches are ever mentioned at many conferences is when we’re told how many churches are dying, stagnant or stuck.
This is important information that should never be ignored, but we need to get past the assumption that all small churches are stuck, or that all numerically-steady churches are stagnant.