Church Leadership
Put People First: Why Many Small Church Pastors Can Spend Less Time On Sermon Prep
The smaller the church, the more discipleship is caught through relationships than it's taught through preaching.

Hanging Out Is Holy

It’s not that precise communication doesn’t matter in a small church. It does. But in a healthy small church the relationship the pastor and people have with each other makes up for the fact that you might not have been prepared with exactly the right wording for every moment of your Sunday sermon.

This is not an excuse for small church pastors to prepare inadequately or preach badly, but an encouragement to use all your pastoral skills and opportunities in the right balance. Because you have far more connection with congregation members than the Sunday morning sermon, you can do at least as much effective ministry away from the pulpit as behind it (or preparing for it).

In small churches, we do most of our pastoring during conversations in the church lobby, counseling sessions over coffee, and chats while cleaning dishes together after a church potluck.

Hanging out with congregation members (you may know it as fellowship) is not wasted time. It’s high-priority discipleship time.

Hanging out with congregation members (you may know it as fellowship) is not wasted time. It’s high-priority discipleship time.

People Over Sermon Prep

My encouragement to my fellow small church pastors today is this.


Do you know what passage you’re preaching from on Sunday? Do you know the main point(s) you want folks to get from that passage?

Get those notes down so you don’t forget them, then set it aside. (If you preach from a manuscript or need more than this amount of prep, I understand – adapt from this for your situation.)

If your week is going well and you have the time, by all means work on refining your sermon as much as you can. But if your time is tight this week (again), and you have to choose between spending a few more hours on the finer details of sermon prep (like getting your points to rhyme or choosing just the right graphic), or spending time building relationships with people (like visiting an ailing church member or playing with your kids) choose people over sermon prep.

Yes, preaching the Word matters. Deeply. Because discipleship matters. Deeply.

But in a small church, discipleship is caught through relationships more than it’s taught through preaching.

Put people first.

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March 08, 2019 at 10:19 AM

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