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Stop Complicating Ministry: The Smaller the Church, the Simpler We Need to Keep It

Complicating Ministry: The Smaller The Church, The Simpler We Need To Keep It

So, you pastor a small, struggling church.

You’re trying to help it become less small and less struggling, but all the “can’t miss” answers from the latest church growth conferences never seem to work for you.

You don’t have a big worship team singing new songs, a dynamic small group ministry, a trendy youth group, maybe not even a building of your own to meet in.

That’s OK, you don’t need any of that to have a vibrant, healthy, effective church ministry.

We make church way more complicated than it needs to be. Some of that comes from (mis)reading and listening to pastors of big churches. We see them with professional-grade musicians, lighting, graphics and self-designed curriculum and we think we need to do that, too.

But we don’t.

Big churches didn’t become big by having cool new stuff, they added that stuff when it became the best way to manage the size of the crowd.

Parking attendants with matching shirts didn’t cause their growth, it was a byproduct of their growth.

The Simple Church Solution

Complicating things is never the answer.

Simplifying things almost always is, no matter what size church you serve, but especially if the church is small (whatever number you consider small to be).

Small churches need to stop trying to emulate the processes used by big churches, and start asking “what’s the simplest way to do great ministry, strong worship, engaging fellowship, deep discipleship and effective outreach at the size we are right now?”

Then do that. Experiment with a few ideas if you need to, but keep them streamlined and simple.

Innovation doesn’t mean complication. The most innovative churches always get there by simplifying their systems, not complicating them.

Small, Simple Examples

For example, every church growth strategist tells us we need vibrant small groups. And they’re right. Healthy churches need a strong small group dynamic to strengthen essential aspects of the faith like fellowship and accountability.

But that doesn’t mean we need the latest small group curriculum or system. If you’re pastoring a church of under 50, you don’t need a small group program, you are a small group.

Don’t subdivide an already-small group of people. Get everyone together for fellowship, conversation, prayer and learning.

Want great kids’ ministry? Sitting on the grass, coloring on cardboard while someone who loves kids tells them about Jesus is life-transforming.

Youth? Listen to them, be an example to them, show up at their graduation, their games, their concerts. And be a soft place to land when they’re teased at school, they fail a class or their parents get a divorce.

Families? Offer to watch their kids so mom and dad can have a much-needed night to themselves.

Seniors? Show them the respect they’ve earned, and take the time to learn what they can teach us.

On Sundays, we don’t need fog machines and lasers on stage—although if it works for you, go for it! Just teach the Bible using simple terms we can all understand.

Speak kindly and lovingly to hurting people.

Pray for those in need.

Encourage church members to invite friends.

Sing songs that work in your context.

In short, do the basics in a way that fits where God has put you.

Ministry will never be easy, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

This article originally appeared here.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.