The first church I pastored had 19 attenders my first Sunday, and we averaged about 125 when I left there about 2½ years later (which actually made the church larger than the average church in the US today). Those days were a long time ago, but I still remember fondly the joys of shepherding that group of people:
- I knew everyone in the church. I knew some people better than others, but I typically knew everyone’s name. I most often knew their stories, too.
- We prayed hard for God to bring growth. We were few in number, but we wanted God to grow us by helping us reach people. We knew that prayer was non-negotiable.
- The congregation quickly and warmly welcomed guests. Not every small church does that well, but my church did. In fact, they were sometimes overwhelming in their affection.
- We genuinely rejoiced with each salvation. Those first 19 people got so excited when God saved somebody that they couldn’t keep the news to themselves. They told everybody, it seemed . . . and God blessed their efforts by bringing us more people.
- Almost everybody sacrificed to pay the bills. We had to, actually. None of us was rich, but our mutual sacrifices produced the offerings we needed to get through each week financially.
- They took a risk to support missions. I was surprised when our deacons, at a time when we were already struggling financially, approved “tithing” out of our budget to support missions—but, I’m convinced the Lord honored that commitment.
- Those folks deeply loved me. I was young, inexperienced, impatient, and dumb – but that congregation loved me anyway. They genuinely saw me as their pastor with whom they shared life.
- We weren’t afraid to ask for help. Through our denomination (the SBC), we received funds that helped pay my salary. Our building had no baptistery, but a sister church down the road invited us to use theirs. Because we were small, we welcomed partnerships that made us a stronger church.
- We weren’t trying to compete with the church down the street (or, if it were now, on the Internet). We couldn’t compete, so we didn’t try. We were just ourselves—faithful nobodies who wanted God to use them.
- We celebrated traditions. Back then, I thought some of their traditions (e.g., annual homecoming, annual corn roast) were odd, but I think differently now. Their traditions helped make that church a family.
- Those folks prayed for me, taught me, and tolerated me. I’ve already mentioned they loved me. Out of that love, they were prayerfully patient with me. Had they not offered me both prayer and patience, I would have been in trouble.
- They launched me out with love. When the Lord called me to another church, my first congregation lovingly sent me out even while they grieved. I am who am I today at least partially because of this small church.
What do you enjoy about leading a small(er) church?
#7 and #11 are the same reason.
Thanks for letting me know. I miscopied the wrong version. I have now updated it.