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Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life.
Encounter & Encourage, Equip & Empower
I Am a Small Church Pastor, and
I Am Not a Failure
If the title of this chapter sounds like an Alcoholics
I am a Small Church pastor. And I am not a failure.
e of recovery from The
I Am a Small Church Pastor
I have been the Lead Pastor of three churches in the last 25
years. More than twenty years in my current congregation.
Those churches were very different from each other in almost every way, except one.
They were all Small Churches.
Yet despite two-and-a-
Small Church pastor until very recently. I had convinced myself I was a big church
pastor stuck in a Small Church building.
I believed the myth so badly that I soon came to hate the small church building for what
it was doing to me how it was stifling my ministry.
Soon I started to hate myself for not being able to grow a big church.
Then I started hating the ministry.
Eventually I felt myself starting to hate God for leading me on, only to let me down. I
No one can make you feel inferior without
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 2|P a g e
Over the past thirty-
and who had no idea I was misusing their attempts to help me.
probably read many of the same books and attended the same conferences I have. You
one, and within a surprisingly short period of time the church grows, its ministries
expand and the pastor makes a name for him or herself.
Other pastors start wondering how that pastor did it, so eager ministers are invited to
hear how it was done. Other successful pastors are brought in to co-teach the
conference, and the struggling pastors sit in hopeful anticipation as successful pastors
share their stories and strategies.
some very helpful ideas from those conferences and books.
Years ago, when I started attending them, the leaders in my church always knew when
this was the key to getting our church to the next level.
-teach them to my staff and
catch the same vision I had
caught, but some would drag their heels.
The conference had told us about the heel-draggers, so I was prepared. They were the
Problem People, the Vision- -Never-Done-It-That-Way-Before crowd. I
was not going to let them get me down as I boldly stepped out in this fresh, new way of
But somehow, I could never duplicate the success of the pastor who gave the seminar
or wrote the book. After a few months of excitement, energy and expense, one or two
lack of interest.
The book with all the answers would drift from my desk to my shelf to my closet and I
would quietly blame the Heel-
Over the years I found it more cost-effective to read more books and go to fewer
seminars, but even the book-reading waned as the pattern repeated itself. The
conferences and books were more likely to leave me discouraged and frustrated than
excited and motivated.
So I quit.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 3|P a g e
For several years I stopped going to seminars and reading ministry books. I went to
movies and read novels instead. It was a nice break from the pressure to perform,
o it too.
supposed to be?
pastors. Their successes made me feel inferior because I
gave them consent by comparing myself to them. The
more I admired them and tried to duplicate their success,
the more I felt like the ten faithless Hebrew spies. The
megachurch pastors looked like giants, the giants felt like
enemies, and I seemed like a grasshopper in my own
The megachurch pastors who wrote the books and taught
the seminars never intended to do that to me. They were
trying to use their successes as a tool to help me. I was the one who turned it as a
weapon against myself.
And it all happened based on my failure to recognize one essential characteristic of my
The first time I admitted that truth to myself was one of the most liberating moments of
my life. As soon as I recognized it, I was OK with it. The more I became OK with, the
better I did it. I finally knew who I was and how God made me to minister. I was free
from the burden of trying to become someone I was never meant to be.
If my church is small, how can I call myself, my church or my ministry a success. How
can I even call the church healthy?
Yes they do. The problem is that too many of us have defined church success and
health by numbers. And not just by any numbers. By two specific numbers. Butts in the
seats and bucks in the offering. The higher the better.
This obsession with numerical growth is not healthy.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 4|P a g e
Those who write the books and hold the seminars like to
promote the success stories that result from their guidance,
and understandably so. But pastors in my position see
the casualties on the other side
of the ledger.
This drive for greater numbers and larger churches has
probably resulted in more pastoral burnout than healthy,
growing churches. Not to mention the tens of thousands of
confused and damaged church attenders whose opinions
and needs were belittled and shoved aside for newer and
bigger things. Many of them left their churches permanently
and never went back to any church at all.
In the chapter
challenge the premise that biblical growth and health can be
accurately measured by counting bodies. But for now let me
ask a question many pastors never ask I know I went
many years without considering it.
What is biblical church growth?
What does Jesus measure?
I fear that most pastors are like the child in the following true story. I was in the church
lobby after a
the bigger yo
I smiled, remembering when my own kids were that small and naïve.
there we were chatting about this, when all of a sudden,
Lauren had ever met.
Yes, all healthy things grow. But growth is never as simple as older equals
taller or healthy equals bigger. A pea will never be the size of a pumpkin and a rose
them or t
living things reach their optimal size at maturity, then they grow in different ways from
that point on.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 5|P a g e
What if that principle applied to churches? I have come to believe it does. If the church
churches of all sizes?
I am not a failure if my church reaches its optimal stage of maturity, then starts growing
in ways other than butts in seats for weekend services. In fact it is essential that a
church grow in other ways than its size if it is to take the next critical step in true church
growth from being healthy to being healthful.
There is a difference between healthy and healthful. And that difference matters.
several short-term pastorates before me, and it had taken a toll. But eventually we
arrived at a place where we knew the church was finally healthy for the first time in a
decade or more.
Then one day I was sitting behind the wheel of my car in the church parking lot and I
over some bad history, and now it was healthy.
What do you do with a healthy church?
As I sat in my car I realized that the leadership and I had just spent years under the
hood of our church, tinkering with all the mechanical problems, and now here I was
ch and I had no idea where to take it!
The answer? Healthy things need to become healthful things.
Healthy plants take in the proper nutrients and grow strong, but if they provide no value
ful. A healthful plant is not just healthy,
but is also supplying valuable fruit to others. For example there are healthy mushrooms
that are healthful to humans and healthy mushrooms that are poisonous, and therefore
not healthful to us at all.
The body of Christ needs to be more conscious of what healthful growth looks like. In
hy until it is healthful as well. And in Small
Churches that awareness has to start with pastors being OK with who God has called
us to be and what he has called us to do.
church and make it a healthful one for others to gain nourishment from. Not because we
needed greater numbers, but because our community needed greater hope.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 6|P a g e
The 3 Most Common Challenges Small
Church Pastors Face And How To Help
Small church pastors need friendship and encouragement. Especially from their peers in
pastoral ministry. Karl Vaters
Small church pastors are some of the hardest-working, most passionate and sacrificial
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
here 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. Discouragement is unquestionably the most
widespread burden faced by small church pastors and usually the most debilitating.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 7|P a g e
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.
Small church pastors need friendship and encouragement. Especially from their peers
in pastoral ministry.
coffee or lunch. Then listen to them, encourage them, and learn from them.
already. We need encouragement more than another surefire 5-step church growth
Just be there for a
You may find a lot of resistance at first. Most small church pastors have been burned by
2. Lack of Resources
but just as challenging, is the lack of ideas, methods and curriculum designed with the
small church in mind.
- or megachurch context. But most of
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.
Small churches need to be equipped with fresh new ideas and methods that can be
Limited training time
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.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 8|P a g e
-source sharing of ideas for
small churches, too.
So many small church pastors do the Saturday Night Scramble week after week to get a
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
Small churches need someone (maybe several someones) to come alongside them on
l 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?
similar questions. How
can you ease their burden? Pulpit fill-in so the family can take a much-needed weekend
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.
They 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.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 9|P a g e
While Megachurches Often Make Headlines, Most of the Congregations
in the United States Are Relatively Small.
By Bob Smietana
-November 17, 2021
SPRING GREEN, Wis. (RNS) The Rev. Derek Miller has seen the future of the
church in America.
And it is small.
On a Sunday morning in early November, Miller, guitar in hand, stepped up to
the microphone at Cornerstone Church of Spring Green and began singing the
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 10 | P a g e
A handful of people scattered in the sanctuary sang along, including a church
elder in the front row next to a pair of young kids tapping on tambourines. By
the time all the latecomers had arrived, there were 12 people in the
Things used to be different. Five years ago, when the church was at its height, as many
as 100 people would show up for Sunday service. But the 2020 election, the racial
reckoning after the death of George Floyd and COVID-19 have taken their toll. On a
good day, if everyone shows up, there might be 30 people.
Services are often a one-man show. On this Sunday, Miller led the singing, preached
the sermon and even handled the video for the livestream of the service, moving the
camera closer to the pulpit and greeting people online before preaching. And he wrote
the song the congregation sang during Communion.
Cornerstone is part of the fastest-growing group of congregations in America: the
minichurch. According to
study, half of the
congregations in the
United States have 65
people or fewer, while
congregations have fewer
from two decades earlier,
when the 2000 Faith
survey found the median
congregation had 137
people and fewer than half
of congregations had fewer than 100 people.
small congregations obviously indicates that a good many congregations are not
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 11 | P a g e
by at least 7%.
While most congregations are small, however, most worshippers attend a larger
congregation. Another prominent report, the National Congregations Study, found that
while the average congregation is small about 70 people the majority of
churchgoers are worshipping in a congregation of about 400 people.
The report reflects the reality that religious Americans are being sorted into two kinds of
churches megachurches, and minichurches like Cornerstone.
The Rev. Derek Miller leads the worship
service at Cornerstone Church of Spring
Green on Nov. 7, 2021, in Spring Green,
Wisconsin. RNS photo by Bob Smietana.
Among the worshippers at
Cornerstone that Sunday was
Lisa McDougal, a longtime
friend of Miller and his wife,
Deb. McDougal said she
appreciates being part of a
small congregation, where
relationships matter more than
the spectacle of a Sunday
interested in a large congregat
Ryan Burge, assistant professor of sociology at Eastern Illinois University, knows about
pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, Illinois, a small American Baptist
congregation, a job he first started while a grad student.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 12 | P a g e
Small-church pastors can often be under tremendous pressure, said Burge. They are
often the only person keeping
one else to preach or lead services.
And if they leave, what will happen
to the church?
Still, even among small churches,
there are differences.
buffer between you and the
hen you get to 10 to 15
At Real Hope Community Church
in Oswego, Illinois, a Free
Methodist congregation about 50 miles west of Chicago, the Rev. Jill Richardson said
her congregation of about 20 people tries to focus on building close relationships and
reaching out to the community.
The church recently bought its first building, a three-bedroom house near downtown
Oswego, which it hopes to rehab into a meeting space for worship and community
events. Richardson hopes to have a community garden as well, though the project will
The Millers, who met at a Maranatha campus ministry while students at the University of
Wisconsin, pastored a church in Madison for years before starting Cornerstone. They
hoped to build a church that had close ties to the community.
After a friend died of a heart attack during a friendly game of racquetball, Derek Miller
volunteer fire department. He now serves as the ambulance chief for the department,
providing emergency care to people being transported to the hospital.
His volunteer work as an EMT which during COVID-19 has meant providing testing
and vaccinations allows Miller to minister to the community.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 13 | P a g e
elped grow the church so my recommendation would come with
formerly home to a Congregational church
burned down. Little was saved from the building but some stained glass and the church
bell, which is now displayed outside the new building that stands on the same site. The
fire proved a catalyst for the church. Members rallied to rebuild and neighbors donated
to the cause, providing about $30,000 in assistance.
The new building, which can seat about 200 people, features a large fellowship hall
where the congregation hosted community meals pre-COVID, and a modern sanctuary
equipped with a pair of projectors mounted on the ceiling. The back wall, which soars
more than 30 feet high, is paneled in ash board, all milled from a more than century-old
tree that once stood on the property and was taken down after the fire.
Things began to fray during the Trump era. The Millers were skeptical of Donald
Millers shared their doubts Miller
Things got worse in 2020 after Deb Miller, who serves on the Spring Green village
board, recorded a short home video detailing why she would not vote for Trump, despite
being a lifelong Republican. The video was picked up by a group called Republican
Voters Against Trump and went viral, eventually being shown in a montage during the
Democratic National Convention a turn of events that caught her by surprise.
The pandemic put Derek Miller
as pastor and EMT in conflict. He saw
people with COVID-19 die in the
ambulance and when he insisted on
social distancing and wearing masks in
church, some people objected or left.
Derek and Deb Miller at Cornerstone Church of Spring Green, Nov. 7, 2021, in Spring
Green, Wisconsin. RNS photo by Bob Smietana.
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 14 | P a g e
One saving grace for the Millers has been that they do
their income. An IT professional, Miller ran a consultant business for years and
eventually went to work for a local utility about eight years ago.
Balancing all three roles can be a challenge and the life of a small-church pastor is
never easy, even in the best of times. These days, with COVID-19, polarization and the
church like Cornerstone over the long haul. Will there be enough people who share the
and refugees which they believe are also issues the Bible cares about to make the
Still, he believes in the importance of small congregations. He worries that in larger
or to feel cut off from
involvement or decision-
n small churches because I believe ministry belongs in the hands of regular
Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has spent
two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting,
profiles and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications and
websites. Most notably, he has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends,
senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean,
correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 15 | P a g e
By Karl Vaters
-November 9, 2021
Pastors want bigger churches. Church members? Not so much.
majority of them are strong, healthy churches doing great ministry. But if you ask the
Is that too simplistic a way of viewing the church? Of course. Every one of us can point to
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 16 | P a g e
What Does a Better Church Experience Look Like?
When people go to a church, or when unchurched people think about going to church (if
king for a better
That better experience can happen in a church of any size or style. Small, big or mega.
Traditional, contemporary or hipster. Denominational or nondenominational.
The categories church people use even fight about are not just a non-issue to the world
around us, but the fact that they matter at all to us is increasingly seen as one of the
What people really need, and increasingly say they want from their church experience,
whether long-held traditions or new fads.
What people really want from the church are the characteristics the New Testament has
always told us the church is supposed to be about.
The Evangelistic Attraction of a Better Church
People want to attend and serve at a church where they can experience being loved by the
God who made them. They want to know why they exist. They want to be called to
something greater than themselves.
They want to connect with others who are asking the same questions and looking for the
same answers. They want to participate in doing good for others, with others.
They want to be in a community of people they trust so much that when they fail to live up to
their ideals, someone will call them on it without getting legalistic or mean about it.
The most powerful evangelistic tool in the world is not a program, a special service, a
Worshipping Jesus, loving each other and caring for their community. In other words, a
Equipping pastors to equip leaders for life 17 | P a g e
so easy to get caught up with Christmas decorating (inside and out), Hallmark
movies, seasonal activities, touring Christmas light displays, and gift purchases
fully aware of the true meaning, yet our investment of time and resources
gives evidence as to how intentional we must be to live counter-cultural in a
post-Christian culture. I love the joys of Christmas: fun, food, family, and
fellowship. However, to remove Christ from Christmas is to participate in
just another social gathering.
Recently, while reading my devotional one morning the Scripture referenced
The passage resonated. There really seems to be little room for Jesus in
Christmas. Society has secularized the sacred. Thus my charge, infuse the
story of Christ this Christmas in both deed and action. I trust the suggestions
make room for Christ
this Christmas. What a difference it will make in our world!
Christmas song is said to be Fill large Ziploc bags with snacks (peanut better & crackers,
individual servings of canned fruit, small boxes of juice, plastic spoon/
having sold more than fork, and toiletries) to be handed off to homeless people
125 million copies.
It continues to be recorded by new Invite a neighbor or co-worker to a Christmas program,
artists every year and captivates new cantata, or on-line service, or in-person service.
Intentionally greet sales clerks and shoppers going in and out
fans around the globe. of stores with a smile and a Merry Christmas.
If a frantic shopper or by-passer offers anything but some
Interestingly enough, holiday cheer, offer them in return a Christ-like relational
according to Hymnary.org., response.
the most popular Christmas hymn Taking the opportunity to introduce our immediate family
to our ministry partners, we typically include a family photo.
in North America is Not this year. Christ will be the focal point of our Christmas
The hymn begins: Add a devotional book to the gift you give your neighbor
Joy to the world, the Lord has come. If you know someone in a nursing home, drop by and bless
Let earth receive her King. them with the gift of your presence.
Let every heart The Salvation Army relies on money raised in red kettles to
serve more than 25 million people in need. Ring the bell or
And heaven and nature sing, better yet, give to help those who have so much less.
And heaven and nature sing,
Dad Gillum passed away on Christmas
And heaven, and heaven Day of 2018. Another family fed us
And nature sing. while we were under hospice care. In
turn, each Christmas we find a family
The words were penned by a British under hospice care to serve. Give to
Baptist pastor, Isaac Watts, who meet viable needs.
wrote this poem about Psalm 98.
Visit someone in prison or
Interestingly enough, the focus is not send a card to a solider
on the coming of Jesus, away from home.
I like Pastor Rick
unlike other Christmas carols,
rather the Second Coming of Jesus. Make this
More than a century later, time of
a Boston music teacher set this meaningful
poem to music. It just that happened fellowship,
to be released at Christmastime, thus personal growth,
becoming a holiday favorite. joyful worship,
- Source: cbn.com cheerful sharing.
Such wise counsel from
May this be the focus
of our hearts this Christmas...
to create spaces in our lives for
others to see the Savior.
On the FIRST DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, salvation full
On the SECOND DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me,
everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
On the THIRD DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, peace in my
heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
The Twelve Days of Christmas marks the span On the FOURTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, love for
between the birth of Christ and all men, peace in my heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
the coming of the three wise men,
On the FIFTH DAY JOY
beginning on December 25 and runs through
January 6 (the Epiphany). FOR MY SOUL, love for all men, peace in my heart, everlasting
life, and salvation full and free.
While researching the meaning of the carol,
On the SIXTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, power from
is seeking to discredit its origin. on high ... JOY FOR MY SOUL, love for all men, peace in my
heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
Traditionally, the song is believed to be a poem
written by Catholic clerics to help Christians On the SEVENTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, a body
learn the essential elements of the faith while glorified, power from on high ... JOY FOR MY SOUL, love for all
avoiding persecution. History records that the men, peace in my heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
sweetheart, rather a code for God. On the EIGHT DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, a robe and
The recipients of the gifts represents anyone a crown, a body glorified, power from on high ... JOY FOR MY
SOUL, love for all men, peace in my heart, everlasting life, and
who has accepted Christ as their Savior.
Each gift mentioned portrays an important facet salvation full and free.
of the story of true faith. On the NINTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, mansions
above, a robe and a crown, a body glorified, power from on
gifts in the song (according to the PNC financial high ... JOY FOR MY SOUL, love for all men, peace in my heart,
Christmas Price Index,) would everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
cost between $105,569.80 to $170,298.03. On the TENTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, streets of
pure gold, mansions above, a robe and a crown, a body glorified,
(Sources: msn.com and vox.com)
JOY FOR MY SOUL, love for all men,
However, the eternal benefits of a Christ- peace in my heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
follower cost a man his life. Jesus became flesh
On the ELEVENTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, a
and dwelt among us, lived and died that we thousand songs to sing, streets of pure gold, mansions above, a
might have salvation, full and free. robe and a crown, a body glorified, power from on high ... JOY
FOR MY SOUL, love for all men, peace in my heart, everlasting
Take a moment and sing life, and salvation full and free.
The Real Twelve Days of Christmas
as a song of gratitude for the grace gifts of On the TWELFTH DAY of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, eternity
mansions above ... JOY FOR MY SOUL, love for all men, peace
in my heart, everlasting life, and salvation full and free.
- Source: Ferda Dolunay
We are incredibly blessed to have such a diverse and gifted team I believe that 2022 will be highly impacting as fresh
inspiration gives birth to significant ministry. A new initiative
forward to hosting the Heart 2 Heart session, BELIEVE, at the that will be implemented is Heart for Haiti, as we find the
upcoming State Leadership Conference, January 28-30, 2022, heart of God to serve and encourage ministry wives who
Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando. desperately need our prayer covering and encouragement due
to political instability and threats of life and local ministries.
This year, Zoom conversations have granted us the opportunity
to forge new friendships while getting to know one another In February, we will be reading a complimentary devotional
better. Discussions have focused on: that was given to each pastor, Called to Love, an anthology of
devotions designed to help us live and love like Jesus.
Prioritizing Our Priorities Devotions include inspiring meditations from notable
Standing by Our Man spiritual leaders such as Mark Batterson, Joni Eareckson
Tada, Tony Evans, Francis Chan, and Sammy Rodriguez.
Grief Counseling From our hearts to your home, Merry CHRISTmas. As
Expectations our hearts prepare Him room, we will receive the spirit
Doing Ministry Unusual of Christmas, Peace, the blessing of Christmas, Hope, and
the heart of Christmas, Christ.
How exciting! Pastor Greg & Chasity Brown are expecting a
baby girl mid-May, 2022.
We congratulate the proud parents as well as siblings, Casey and Gavin, who will be great helpers.
your home and your heart for this priceless gift from above.
Pastoral Care Letter From my heart to yours…
It seems that time is rapidly approaching the most wonderful time of the year and that is
the celebration of the birth of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we prepare for
the many celebration festivities let us not forget that He is alive today and that He is the
greatest gift of all!
This is also an opportunity to show your Pastor and family just how much your
congregation loves and appreciates them for their untiring devotion. Pastors are such a
blessing to everyone and anything we do for them is never too much. I want to encourage
you to make sure this Christmas season is one they will cherish always.
You might consider placing a large basket or box in the foyer of your church and have
everyone place items of food in it for a special Christmas dinner.
As this is the last Pastoral letter for the year of 2021, I want to take this opportunity to say
a great big Thank You so much for your continued faithfulness to your pastor and family.
Let’s together make the New Year an unforgettable one for every pastor in this great state
and with your help it can be done.
My prayer for you is that the Lord blesses you and your family tremendously during this
Frankie S. Dotson
State Pastoral Care Director