Joys and challenges await pastors of small churches. They report a sense of intimacy not common among larger congregations, enjoying the ability to visit the homes of all of their members and maintain close fellowship. Nearly 100 percent of able-bodied members are involved in church ministry and outreaches. Members give generously to missions.
Pastors of small churches often serve bi-vocationally or draw a retirement income. Vaughn, a retired law enforcement official, draws a salary that amounts to a small portion of his retirement income, he told Baptist Press. Neither Denson nor Goepfrich draw salaries.
“Many of the flock desire to take care of the pastor and his family, but realize there’s not the number of people available to make that happen,” said Goepfrich, who owns Goepfrich Financial Services, founded the American University of Martial Arts and is president of the Ambassador Martial Arts Christian Fellowship. “That doesn’t just have a burden on the pastor and his family, it burdens – at least in our church – the love of the people because one person can’t, and multiple people together in a flock of 14 to 20 people, cannot give enough to support fully the pastor and his family.”
Financial limitations also strain community outreaches, but the churches are active within the congregation within their communities. Hilltop, in an outreach supported by the North American Mission Board, distributed 140 backpacks of school supplies, 100 New Testaments and children’s Bible stories at the Kosciusko, Indiana, county fair, generating questions about the church.
Walk By Faith continues to serve a low-income housing development in Gainesville.
Austin Baptist offers free space at an RV Park it owns, and supports international missions through a project launched two years ago to collect a mile of quarters.
“That comes out to quite a bit of money when you start adding it all up,” Vaughn said. “But we’re a quarter of a mile into it, and we’ve already purchased some land, some sheep and goats, chickens and rabbits for some of the countries abroad. We’ve sent money to some children’s homes and orphanages. Our people are just looking out for those opportunities.”
Robin Stock, director of missions of the Northeast Baptist Association in Elko, Nev., praised the many pastors of small churches in the association for their commitment to fulfilling their calling.
“I think I’ve got the best association in the country,” Stock said. “The pastors we’ve got, they’re not here for money. They’re not here for prestige. They’re here because they love God and they’re going to serve God, for little or no wages, literally.
“Most of our pastors are probably making less than $2,000 a month and many of them have been here for a long time,” he said.
For months, Stock has been driving 400 miles roundtrip on weekends to offer pulpit supply to Kingston Village Baptist Church in Kingston, a mining and tourism community where 10 in attendance is a good day. He has recruited two other pastors to help, but averages about three Sundays a month at the church.