When it comes to small congregations, the pastor’s role cannot be overstated. After all, unlike large, mega churches, with multiple pastors and assistant pastors, small churches usually have only one or two pastors at the most. This means there is a great deal of pressure and responsibility placed upon these individuals to meet the needs of those within their congregation.
Although mega churches seem to garner the most press, they are actually in the minority. Christianity Today estimates that some 90% of all churches would fit into the category of “small congregations.” This means most churches in America would be considered small or medium-sized at the most. Therefore, looking at the issues faced by these type of churches and how to remedy them is wise.
Despite holding the majority, having small congregations comes with a number of problems.
While discouragement can be experienced by all pastors, even those of large congregations, pastors of small churches are especially prone to this issue. According to a Christianity Today article, “Discouragement is unquestionably the most widespread burden faced by small church pastors—and usually the most debilitating.” Often, these feelings of discouragement come as a result of several factors, including feeling like they are somehow standing in the way of their church’s success and growth if numbers remain low.
According to pastors themselves, the single best way parishioners can help their pastors fight away feelings of discouragement is to encourage them. This can be accomplished by sending them to conferences where they will be surrounded with other pastors experiencing the same feelings. Parishioners should also express their gratitude to their pastor, ensuring they know they are making a difference, even if the church isn’t growing as they would like.
Another common problem among pastors of small congregations is a lack of resources. This is obviously a result of having a smaller number of congregants paying tithes, thus resulting in less revenue for the church in general. Add to this the fact that most curriculum available is geared more towards large congregations, with big bank accounts, and it’s easy to see why small church pastors tend to feel a bit down over the lack of resources they experience. This is a huge issue, as only 10% of resources are designed with small churches in mind.
Unfortunately, not much can be done to remedy this issue. That is, until the companies that produce resources for churches acknowledge the fact that small congregations also need curriculum. In the meantime, congregants can modify existing curriculum as best as they can or look to Pinterest for the resources they need to teach and minister.
Many pastors of small congregations have to work a secular job in order to make ends meet. This means they are scrambling to put together a sermon for Sunday morning after working a regular job all week. They also have to take care of all the church needs themselves as they don’t have a staff or pastors on which to depend. All these factors combine to make a lack of time a serious issue for those pastoring small churches.
Parishioners should ask their pastor how they can help. Offer to mow their lawn, run errands, repair their home, visit church members who are in the hospital, or anything else just to share some of the load. This will take a great deal of pressure off them, and give them more time for sermon prep or just to spend time with their family.
In addition to the problems many small church pastors face listed above, they also have to deal with the following problems shared by everyone within small churches:
Problem People: There are difficult people in every church, no matter the size. However, when it comes to small churches, it seems these problem people become more prominent perhaps because there are just less people. They might also have more power due to the responsibilities they hold within the church and the fact that its not shared among as many people.
Church leaders can’t give in to people who seem committed to making problems in the church, no matter their power or responsibilities. They must consider the overall health of the congregation as more important than any single person.
Lack of Volunteers: The sheer size of the congregation means there aren’t as many people who can volunteer. This also means those who do work in the church often become overwhelmed with what they are asked to do.
Church leaders can’t take advantage of those who will work in the church, even though that can be easy to do. After all, when volunteers are few, those who will work get called upon often. However, leaders must resist the temptation to lean on them too much as it might ultimately overwhelm them, causing them to leave the church.
Small churches serve a vital role in their communities, making their health and longevity important. Thankfully, considering the common issues they deal with and contemplating solutions is an important step in securing the future of these special congregations.
~ 1776 Christian