Encouragement for the Small Church
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I currently work within a small church. I have also had experience in a mega-church. Both have their merits and pitfalls - the grass isn't always greener on the other side, it's just different!
Redefine SuccessSometimes I have to stop myself from falling into the trap of comparison. Constantly comparing the smaller, limited resources of my small church and imagining what could be achieved 'if only' we were, bigger, better, more successful. Just look at what the mega-church down the road is doing - why can't we do that too . . .
Apart from being completely unrealistic and setting myself up for depressing disappointment, it also starts making me believe that what God is doing in and through my small church is somehow inferior, or even a failure. If God is in it, it is far from a failure! Yes, it may be small, the impact may not make the headlines of the local press, but if it is making an impact in the lives of those we touch, then we are successful.
Bigger, louder, brighter are not necessarily hallmarks of success. Through an earthly-coloured lense it might be, but looking at your church from the perspective of heaven, using God's success criteria you should ask yourself 'Am I doing what God has called me to do?' If your answer to that question is 'Yes', despite how hard it may be, or how discouraged you may feel, you are living out God's plan for your life and that is success!
"It's often tempting for a worship team or pastor to wish for bigger, greener pastures with bigger budgets and larger buildings. But oftentimes I hear of the difficulty in larger churches to truly connect with others in ways that go beyond the superficial or 'Sundays only'. "
(Paul Baloche, Worship Leader Magazine - July/August 2015)
Embrace CommunityIt is often much easier for small churches to engender a sense of community, of family amongst their congregation. You actually know people when you go to church. You have relationship and you are able to share your life within the support and encouragement of a faith community. You are known and accepted for who you are, despite your failures and mistakes. It is much harder to 'hide in the crowd' in a small church.
Innovate, Don't ImitateAnother trap small churches can fall into along side comparing ourselves to other, larger churches is the trap of imitation. Large churches have the resources to record worship albums and broadcast their preaching on TV and radio. Again, if we are viewing this as criteria for success, we may be temped to copy how they do things so that we too can be as effective as them.
Limited resources, musicianship, instruments etc. are a fact of life in a small church. Trying to produce the same full-band sound with orchestral accompaniment of that amazing song you have heard on a CD may not be the best plan for your church. If you can re-imagine the song and adapt it to a smaller acoustic version, or even play it successfully on a single instrument, then great - go for it! But I have found some amazing songs I know and love and sing along to with gusto on the CD just simply will not work without the large full sound either playing it, or indeed without the arena-sized audience singing along to it. If this is the case, know your congregation and don't use that song. You will be setting yourself up for disappointment.
"Discovering the voice of our congregation is accomplished by leading worship focused on the place God has called us to serve, not the place we wish he had called us to serve. It is leading with contentment not comparison."
(Dr David Manner, Worship Leader Magazine - July/August 2015)
Connect With OthersSmall churches are good at being community with each other, but this can become quite insular after a time.It is good for those in small churches to not only look our beyond their church walls to the un-churched in their community, but also to the other small local churches in their community. Together you can achieve more than what you can on your own. By combining resources and manpower as well as demonstrating the unity of The Body of Christ in your community, much can be done for the Kingdom.
Not only this, but it can be healthy for small churches to engage with larger church gatherings. Here in the UK we have an annual Christian Music Festival called 'The Big Church Day Out' where tens of thousands of Christians gather to listen to top Christian bands as well as worship together. There are also many other larger church gatherings and conferences happening at various times throughout the year.
For the small church these serve an important function in that they firstly let you know that 'you are not alone!' there are in fact many other Christians around you. The battles and challenges you face are shared with thousands of others, you don't need to walk this walk alone. Secondly, they are a good place to share ideas, to understand different ways of doing things. They may serve as inspiration or you may find some extremely useful resources to enhance your ministry and outreach when you return home.
Follow the Holy SpiritMost importantly, and most simply - follow the Holy Spirit.
Wherever you sense The Spirit going, go there.
Whatever you see the Spirit doing, do that.
Whatever you hear the Spirit saying, say that.
God is ultimately in control of your church. The small church and the big church and the extremely large mega-church are all beautiful and necessary expressions of The Body of Christ. God is in control - trust Him!
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