Small Church Pastors Have A Different Skill Set, Not A Lesser One

small church

In nearly 40 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned so much from other pastors.

And it hasn’t just been from pastors of big churches. Pastors of small churches have taught me a lot, also.

Typically, I get one type of wisdom from those in big churches, and a different type of wisdom from those in smaller churches.

Not lesser wisdom, just different.

Each has their strengths and I’m grateful for them all.

Wisdom Is Better Than Genius

This reminds me of a quote that’s usually attributed to Albert Einstein, though there’s no record of him actually saying it.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Other than the first four words, that quote is true. (Genius, by definition, is rare. I don’t possess it and I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who does.)

So let’s look at the quote without that part.

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Not Einstein)

Now that’s true. In life, in sports, in education, and in church leadership.

We don’t all need to be geniuses. Because wisdom, while also rare, is more plentiful, valuable and transferable than genius.

Tree-climbing Pastors

There seems to be one tree-climbing pastoral skill set that is valued above all others. The ability to put more butts in the seats.

Grow a large church and people will want to hear how you did it. They’ll come to you for advice. And not just about church growth.

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Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors