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

Church-growing pastors have become our go-to teachers for worship theology, marriage, finance, politics, you name it. Even though the skill set needed to attract a crowd doesn’t necessarily overlap with any of those other skills.

Swimming Pastors

On the other hand, there are a great number of wise, prayerful, missional, humble, and available pastors who could be teaching us a lot about some very important personal, relational and spiritual subjects.

But we don’t go to them for their wisdom. For one reason. Because the churches they serve are small.

In fact, not only do we not think we can learn much from them, we presuppose that they are failures.

After all, they haven’t been able to climb that church growth tree, so what can they possibly teach us about swimming?

Great Climbers Aren’t Necessarily Good Swimmers

Of course they can’t climb that tree! They’re fish!

Why are we expecting fish (small church pastors) to climb trees (grow big churches)?

On the other hand, why do we expect tree-climbers (big church pastors) to be able to teach us about swimming (relational ministry and soul care)?

Some of them may be great at both. After all, there are people who can climb trees and swim. But being a great tree-climber doesn’t guarantee they’re great swimmers. Or vice versa.

Everyone has something to offer. But as long as we’re judging ministry success by only one characteristic (numerical congregational growth) we’ll never see the skills, character traits and wisdom that other pastors can teach us.

And that means we’re missing a lot.

Learn To Swim From Swimmers

As pastors and church leaders, we can’t just take tree-climbing lessons. It’s important to broaden our educational range.

Take some swimming-in-the-small-church classes.

Learn the subtle skills of how to visit the sick, mentor new believers, tend to your own soul, and hang out with regular folks before and after church.

The majority of pastoral ministry is done in small ways. Most of us need to master small church swimming skills, not megachurch tree-climbing skills.

Both matter.

But it’s okay to leave the tree-climbing to others.

Fish gotta swim.

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.