Pastoring is one of the most difficult jobs in our society for a host of reasons which any readers of this will be well aware of. Many Pastors of small congregations feel the pressure to grow and evangelize, but aren’t sure where to start with limited resources. I’m going to give you FIVE of the things I did that not only grew my congregation, but reached the community, added tangible real ministries and value to the small congregation, and resulted in a financial solubility.
Laziness is not option and neither is canceling. Never cancel. Never cancel anything. If weather stops something, it’s not cancelled, it’s simply ‘postponed’. God’s work cannot be cancelled. Never cancel a Bible Study, never cancel a ministry. If you’re not sure somethings going to work, then make sure you announce it as probationary or make clear it’s a one month thing, or a a 90 day thing, etc. Be consistent if you want the congregation to be faithful. You set the bar.
No church is at capacity. We live in a degenerative society and culture, and evangelization/outreach/in-reach is top priority. Even if every seat in the small church is full, even if you think you’ve already reached your community, you’ve got to keep reaching out.
Number 1. Services. Add more services, keep the doors open. Wednesday Night Bible Study/Service, a Prayer Service / Vespers, and a weekly Music Ministry / Choir Practice, and a Youth Ministry Night. I know what you’re thinking, no one will come….But commit to a weekly schedule and ask the core group, the church board (aka parish council), to commit to this schedule at least for 90 days.
Number 2. Annual and Monthly Events. Propose an annual calendar that includes quarterly ‘meetings’ (aka, retreats, revivals, renewals). Two would be large, running three to five days, and the alternating would be one to three days of meetings. The quarterly events would coincide with the seasons. Having quarterly special events such as this allows for expectation to build not only in the congregation members but in the larger community.
Monthly and quarterly family nights should be planned with potlucks and games. Building a community must be intentional. A lot of people use social gospel efforts to build community and we can see they have little affect in building community. Social service has its place, but you’ve got to build community among your small group of members. They’ve got to like one another before you go feed the homeless.
Number 3. Youth Events. Commit to a youth meeting with youth from within the congregation and from the outside. Identify young adult leaders and organize an annual calendar of events. Commit to youth night being amazing and meaningful no matter how many show up, 3 homeschoolers or the entire local HS football team, make it great and be prepared. Start on time, every time, and again, make it great. Have your games and your material planned and timed, and make it great, every week, without exception.
Plan an annual summer camp yourself or attend someone else’s. If you plan it, it must be planned a year in advance, accepting payments 9 months in advance. Commit to your youth camp and commit to a head count. Make the youth camp a rally cry for the whole congregation / parish. Fundraising for the youth camp is an all year event that builds community and helps people get to know one another.
The small church pastor must be involved with the youth ministry, don’t leave it completely to others. Keep it excellent and stay involved. Lead spiritually even if the young adults become the face of the youth ministry.
Number 4. Excellence. Every liturgy, every service, no matter how low the attendance, every Bible Study, every youth meeting, every special event, no matter how low the attendance, must be treated as a major event and the people as being VIP’s. Food must be provided, parking attendees, umbrellas, clean bathrooms, good sound, and prompt starting times. Everything done should be done with excellence in mind, this is the Lord’s work after all. Facilities, however humble, must be clean and smell clean. Safety and safe environment, of course, but that’s for another thread.
Number 5. Love. The small congregation pastor probably doesn’t need to be told this, but you’ve got to love the people and love God. I used to ask my special speakers before they would address the congregation, “do you love the Church and do you love Jesus?”. You’ve got to flat out love the people like they’re your own children. You’ve got to flat out love Jesus to death. The small church pastor is a hero if things go right and the villain if anything goes wrong. It’s all on you. Just like a Father. So to take that kind of pressure, you’ve got to love the Church with all your heart, and love Jesus with all your heart.