If you’re in ministry, this post is for you!
For decades local church ministry has been judged by the “Church Growth” movement, and thus “nickels and noses” were what mattered. Indeed, one could almost say that in most denominational settings as well as many independent settings, “church growth” was the single most important indicator of success in ministry.
This movement started in the “big box” seminaries (worthless, all), and spread to the pew. In time, the faithful church members began to judge their pastor by those nickels and numbers. Because a neighborhood church or a rural church wasn’t “growing,” the members began to think that their church wasn’t as healthy as the “big box” church in the suburbs. Those members packed their bags and traveled to that “growing” church, thus precipitating the decline in the neighborhood or rural church they were leaving.
Now, a generation or two later, the neighborhood church is all but non-existent. It used to have an annual Vacation Bible School, and kids were saved. It had a bus ministry through the neighborhood, and kids were saved. It had a youth group, and kids were saved (and called into ministry). It had an annual spring revival, and another in the fall, and families were saved. Now that church has closed or is a hollow shell of its existence.
And we all lost.
But many of us do still pastor rural or neighborhood churches. We have ten or thirty or sixty or ninety people. The denominations and networks tell us we are failures. And we often feel like it.
My encouragement: Success is to keep going.
Here are some helpful hints, based on my own experience, to help you keep going.
- Quit going to conferences put on by denominations and networks. They are worthless. Go to Bible teaching conferences to enhance your learning in the Word.
- Quit reading books about fictitious “200 barriers” and other make-believe group dynamic propaganda garbage. Life is too short and God is too good to waste your time with this stuff.
- Quit any attempt to put on a cool show. If you’re striving to be “relevant,” quit that too. Just be yourself. When your church comes together, sing a song–even if it is old, out of tune, and off rhythm. After this, open the Bible and teach verse-by-verse. When you do this, the “rich young ruler” probably won’t join your fellowship, but you will have staying power long into the future.
- Always try to have some kind of kids ministry. Old fashioned still works: do a children’s sermon or “sermon in a sack.” Have “kids church.” Teach Bible stories. Do it on Sunday morning if you can, but on Tuesday afternoon if you can’t.
- Make finances and church leadership simple. Don’t get bogged down in complicated leadership strategies. Deposit the money in a checking account and have a trusted member keep the check register, and print the bank statement at the end of the month. Simple works, is transparent, and saves time.
- Fellowship together. Have a pot-luck lunch, or a men’s breakfast, or a game night. This will enhance your church more than you’ll ever believe.
- Quit counting. Just preach. This Sunday. And next Sunday. And the following Sunday.
And, in the end, you’ll be able to stay, serve, love and be loved. And ministry will be a blessing.