Is a small church destined to mediocrity and failure? I don’t think so. Many smaller churches need and want help. But, most online sources deal only with the needs of larger churches. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t help our smaller churches much. Getting a small church to grow spiritually and numerically is a difficult task.
Sometimes there are underlying factors contributing to their lack of growth. But, that is beyond the scope of this post. I may deal with some of those at another time. Regardless of those issues, smaller churches lack the resources that larger churches enjoy. They have limited financial resources and are working with a limited volunteer staff. And, if the pastor is bi-vocational, the problem is further complicated.
This scenario often means that the ministry suffers in many ways. Many smaller congregations want growth, but don’t know where to start. Often leaders of smaller churches are discouraged, believing that their limitations have confined them to ineffectiveness.
Create An Effective Ministry With Limited Resources
1. Minister to Members, but Connect with Your Community.
Your church will close its doors if it maintains an inward facing ministry. If you only connect with the people of your church it will dwindle away to nothing. The Great Commission is too often the Great Omission in most smaller churches. Don’t try to compete with the larger congregations and their programs, you can’t. But, there’s one thing you can do just as well. You can reach your community on a personal relationship level. The connections you have within your community are vital to your church. They won’t respond to your message until they trust you. Listen to them with an open heart and an open bible. Show how much you value them by developing ways to contribute to your community.
2. Get an Up-To-Date Website.
If your church isn’t on the web, it doesn’t exist. No one looks in the Yellow Pages anymore. Having a web presence isn’t a “big church” strategy. Setting up a website is easier now than ever. If no one in your congregation can figure it out, pay the kid down the street fifty bucks to do it for you. Make sure it looks nice and has all the important information on the home page. I’ll have an entire post on that issue later. And, while it doesn’t have to be fancy, it shouldn’t look sloppy and unattended either. Pastors must lead in the technology area as well as others. You must use the website to connect to your existing and potential members. Promote your website from the pulpit, on church literature and in the community.
3. Change Things Up.
Someone has said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got“. This is true in growing a church as well. Evaluate your services and existing ministries. If they aren’t creating a consistent return on the investment, then change it. It is poor stewardship to continue an ineffective ministry. This is especially true when your church is operating on limited resources. It wears you and your congregation out. It’s discouraging and self-defeating. If it’s a waste of time then be honest about it and make some corrections. If you decide to stop a ministry, try to replace it with something more effective. Changing things up can get your folks excited about inviting others to church.
4. Use What You’ve Got.
I know many churches that get stuck waiting for just the “right person” to fill a certain ministry slot. One lesson I’ve learned is to just work with who God has given you. Stop trying to “fit a square peg in a round hole”. Don’t expect people to change if you give them a position, it won’t happen. If you try it you’ll regret that decision every day. Fit the task to the person, not the person to the task. One individual might be spiritual, but not good with practical issues. The opposite can be true as well. Quit frustrating yourself attempting to make folks be something they aren’t by micromanaging them. Just give them positions where they function best. Let people with talent and passion serve within their own capacity. Recruit people to a vision, not an organization or to you as an individual. Create realistic goals and accountability for them. Get your passionate talented people on board in the ministry of the church.
5. Use Technology.
Use a little technology to help bridge your resource deficit. Make your Sunday School more interesting by using PowerPoint. Keep your class engaged by creating downloadable PDF handouts from the slides. Start a podcast and upload it to Stitcher or iTunes. Use Twitter to create interest in your sermon topics and special events. Upgrade your sound system and lighting so your services are easier to listen to and to see. Give them a way to connect during the week and make it shareable with others. Use technology wisely to help you make the best of the resources God has given you.
6. Evaluate Your Services.
Get your leaders together and evaluate the services. Ask the tough questions. Are the messages biblical, timely and powerful? How can they be more effective? What is your music and song service like? Are people connecting with the ministry of the church? What can we do different? What can we add? What ministries can we drop and use the resources we save to upgrade more productive ones? How can the overall ministry of the church be improved to be more effective and pleasing to God? Always look for more effective and efficient ways to communicate the gospel message.
7. Use A Short Sermon Series.
Sometimes you may want to zero in on a certain topic to stimulate growth. You can do this by using a short 3 or 4 week sermon series. I found that long series, such as book studies, are best for Sunday evenings. A short series provides encouragement, instruction and motivation without becoming boring. Organize your series ahead of time. Let the other leaders in on how to pray and what they can do to promote it to the church and community. A short sermon series will help your congregation remember the messages. It provides a reason for your folks to invite others to attend. If you make your services biblical and practical, they will be memorable. If you do this, your people will not hesitate to invite others.