A Small Church Pastor Gets Honest

People are often surprised when they visit our ministry at New Hope. For many, they come expecting our ministry to be much larger in size than it actually is. I suppose some of this expectation is fueled by our online presence as well as the various projects I personally engage in throughout the week.

Quite honestly, I somewhat enjoy the surprise (or even the body language of disappointment from time to time) that people express. You see, we currently have two campuses that together total maybe 100 adults…just maybe.

People often ask me, in light of my background in leading both larger and smaller ministries, what I think is better. My answer: They both have challenges.

For the larger church, I think one of the greatest challenges is to NOT think that you’re superior or more legit than a smaller ministry. Unfortunately, I have witnessed several leaders of large ministries change their body language or tone of voice when they come to realize the size of the ministry I currently lead. Let the ignoring begin. Seriously? Yes. Contrastingly, I’ve also seen people’s postures change when they come to realize that I’ve created some projects and events that they respect. Suddenly, I become someone they want to listen to. This is equally unfortunate. One minute I’m a nobody, and then all of a sudden, I magically turn into someone important.

Note to self: Becoming a big-time Christian celebrity is not my goal in life, nor is treating fellow human beings as less than equals. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that we should treat others better and think of them more highly than ourselves.

For the smaller church leader, I think one of our greatest challenges is to NOT buy into our tendency to cover our own inadequacies and wants by projecting negativity towards larger ministries. We must not exist to compete against the mega. If criticizing a larger ministry only makes you feel better about yourself and your ministry, isn’t that nothing more than narcissism fleshed out? Let’s stop saying that we are more authentic, intimate, real, and people-focused. In my opinion, these kinds of comments are arrogance verbalized.

I’ll be honest. It is extremely difficult not to feel like a failure in a culture that measures success by numbers. Furthermore, the insecurity that most of us leaders, both in larger and smaller ministries, work so hard to hide can cause us to hold a delusional perspective on who we are and the significance of what we’re doing.

Let’s not forget that we’re on the same team. We’re supposed to be ONE CHURCH. Embodying the belief and practice that we ought to treat others better than ourselves will take us a long way towards unity.

Unlike an airplane emergency drill, please get oxygen to the other person sitting next to you before putting it on yourself. Get fresh air to the other person, and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. 

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Charles Lee
Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.