Leadership and Small Churches
Having pastored a small, rural church, I had a taste of some of the unique leadership challenges of these congregations. Some are full of love but stuck in a time warp. Others are struggling in declining communities. Some intentionally use their smallness to reach people for Jesus. And a few are just plain mean.
LifeWay Research recently surveyed 350 pastors of congregations that average fewer than 100 in primary worship attendance. In this study they found that 67 percent of pastors of small congregations are frustrated with slow progress at their churches. While data on larger congregations isn’t available, I would venture a guess that similar percentages also represent bigger churches.
The entire report can be found here, but I found the following research snippet intriguing:
Although 70 percent of the pastors said the allocation of their church budget adequately funds current objectives, 40 percent agreed their church rarely has time to step back and plan appropriately. While more than half of pastors – 57 percent – have written a vision or mission statement adopted by their church, two-thirds rarely change who is responsible for certain work or responsibilities.
I know from personal experience that one of the biggest hurdles in pastoring a small church is finding the time to lead beyond next Sunday. Many small church pastors are bi-vocational (as I was), and they lean heavily upon lay leaders to accomplish things (as I did). As a result, small church pastors can become reluctant to shift or change people’s roles. Sometimes this lack of change is due to the fact that no one else is available. Some are thriving in their small churches, but in other cases, a lack of change is due to personal claims on church turf.
I believe that one of the major solutions to leadership challenges at small churches is longer pastor tenure. It takes time for any pastor to earn a few chips in order to make effective changes that the people will champion. This element of leadership is magnified at smaller churches due to the congregation size. Of course, most small churches tend to have shorter pastor tenures, which do not help the cycle. The people of the church are accustomed to a new pastor every two years, so they naturally fill the long-term leadership roles.
What do you guys think? What are other leadership hurdles at small churches? And what are some solutions that you have found effective in these churches?
After leaving a comment, stop by Chuck Warnock’s blog, Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor. He leads good conversations about small church health.