Lessons Learned in Leading a Small Church

Lessons Learned in Leading a Small Church (from Ron Edmondson’s blog)

I am frequently asked about leadership in smaller churches. When I write about team development, delegating, and church growth issues, many pastors of smaller churches wonder how it all relates to their situation. That’s why this guest post by Daniel Darling appealed to me. Daniel is Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Hs is also the author of iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Here are Dan’s thoughts on leading a small church:

As a husband, father, and pastor, I’m a regular consumer of much of what the leadership industry has to offer. But I must confess that as I read helpful blogs and download podcasts from giants like Michael Hyatt and John Maxwell and Andy Stanley, I can start to feel intimidated.

Because they seem to be talking to people who are leading large teams of people in massive organizations that are doing really cool stuff in the world. And then there is me, leading a small church, doing the best we can, but nothing on the level that will attract the attention of Time Magazine.

So is my leadership important? How can I downscale the great leadership wisdom to a smaller context? This is a lesson I’m still learning, but in three years at our small church, here are five lessons I’ve learned:

Just because we’re small doesn’t mean we’re unimportant. Maybe you don’t have time to do a one-hour Bible study session with your worship team, because you’re just hoping that the volunteers who signed up actually show up. But that doesn’t mean that what you are doing on Sunday lacks importance, even if it is not the quality of Willow Creek. God cares as much about what happens on Sunday at your small church as He does in the megachurch down the road.

Strive to be good at a few things and don’t apologize for the ministries you don’t have. This was a huge lesson for me. I’ve often walked into the lobbies of the bigger churches in our area and immediately I begin thinking, We don’t do any of this stuff. We’re not a real church. But my friend Ray Pritchard has always counseled me this way. Do a few things and do them well. I’ve realized that the people who do attend deserve our best and they have come to our church fully realizing we are limited. They know what other, bigger churches have to offer and they still chose us.

Authentic is better than awesome. As a small church, we should work hard to make what we do as professional as it can be, because we do it to the glory of God. But it’s more important to work at being authentic than to work at being awesome. Because when the chips are down and real people need real ministry, they will go to someone they can trust. Even if they aren’t as cool as other pastors in town.

You’re Part of Something Bigger in Town. Your church, big or small, doesn’t represent all God is doing in your community. There are other evangelical churches at work as well. And every church is uniquely gifted and expresses a bit differently. When you realize that God has called you, not to do every kind of ministry and please everyone, but simply to be a part of the work of the larger body of Christ in your area, it will relieve the pressure to perform above the capacity of your calling.

Practice good leadership with your volunteer base. Don’t wait until you have a staff of 100 to begin applying sound leadership principles. Do it with your volunteer base in your small church. Treat them well, like you would treat employees. Think of each member as a vital member of your team, a team entrusted by God to bring the good news of the gospel to your small slice of His creation.

Thanks Dan! Good thoughts!

What do you think? Do you lead in a small church? What unique challenges do you face? What lessons have you learned? 


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