The Joys of Small Church Ministry


My Experience in Small Church Ministry

 Back in the 1970’s, as a student at Faith Baptist Bible College, I was part of a debate team that debated the benefits of small churches versus large churches. I don’t know if a winning side was declared, but I came away feeling like our team won. Of course, large churches have their own advantages, but I had grown up in small churches. None of them had an attendance of over 150 people. Some had less than 100. I knew from experience that small churches often provided more opportunities to serve than large churches.

As a teenager, I taught Bible stories to kids, played the piano for church, helped with children’s church, and sang in church choir. My pastor dad started several churches during those years and I didn’t just sit on the sidelines. I got to do stuff.

My husband and I served as missionaries in Taiwan from 1980 to 1996. We learned to speak Taiwanese and we helped start two Chinese churches. In that ministry I not only taught ESL Bible classes, I wrote lessons which continue to be used today as ESL ministries download them off my website. That was small church ministry, but it was quite different from the average American ministry.

Since 1998 my husband and I have served as pastor and wife of a mission church in New Zealand.  This ministry is a lot like small church ministry in the States. I got to start our Discovery Club from scratch, and direct Christmas programs and puppet shows which I wrote. During our “What a World of Wonders” theme, Art and I got to dress of as an Egyptian Pharoah and princess. For the short time they were living at home, our daughters got to do stuff at church too. Lori led our puppet team for a year and a half.

Why wouldn’t you want to do stuff?

 Serving the Lord is a privilege. Why wouldn’t every Christian want to do stuff for God in a church ministry? God equips us with spiritual gifts to serve him. He prepares us for ministry and leads us to opportunities to serve him that make a difference. Yes, we need to balance the areas of our life, but It makes no sense to throw all that away when we can seize the opportunities before us.

 Benefits of Small Church Ministry

While small churches don’t fit everyone, this is what I see. Working with small churches is a very personal ministry. You can get to know, at least to some degree, every person who attends church regularly. The pastor and his wife know every child or teenager and have a personal relationship with them. Several of our church people in New Zealand have told us something like this: “Our children will always remember you. You’ve taught them a lot of things that have changed their lives.” Words like this make serving in church ministry worth all the effort.

Encouragement for Small Church Ministry

Of course, all churches have ups and downs. Maybe you’re in one of those down times and you see few visible results for your ministry. How can you stay encouraged at times like this?

In my book, Short Poppies, Levi comes to work in a small church ministry in New Zealand. His background in ministry is very different from this mission ministry and he has to deal with several issues that are common in small church ministry. One question haunts him from the beginning: How can I be sure my ministry is effective if I can’t measure it?

At the risk of spoiling the plot, I’ll give you a pastor’s answer: Pouring your life into people is always worthwhile, whether you can measure the results or not.

If that’s not enough, remember God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (NKJV) As we do God’s work in his way, he is using our labor, even when we don’t see visible results from it.

Short Poppies, Book 1 in my New Beginnings series, deals with small church issues on a mission field similar in many ways to the US. It is available during September 2022 for 99 cents. See my next blog when I launch Book 2 on September 22.

You can buy Short Poppies here  on Amazon and here at other online stores. (I have set the price at .99, but sometimes Amazon changes prices on authors without notification. Thanks for understanding if the price is slightly higher.)

How about you?

Which of these ministries have you performed in a small church setting on a regular basis? How do you keep the joy in your ministry?

  1. Preached a sermon
  2. Taught a class
  3. Played the piano or another instrument
  4. Led game time
  5. Served as a Deacon, Trustee, or other church officer
  6. Entertained groups in your home
  7. Provided transportation to church activities

Virtual Vacation in New Zealand – New Beginnings

Discover New Worlds

When you read a novel, you discover a new world and you may go where you have never gone before. My New Beginnings series takes you to New Zealand. If you want to visit those places virtually while you read the books, these links and photos will help you visualize those places.

 

Short Poppies

In Short Poppies, Book 1 of my New Beginnings series, Levi and MacKenzie visit many of the places in this list. For places not on this list, check out my Short Poppies Pinterest Board.

These are the places they visit, listed by chapter:

Chapter 6: Moeraki Boulders, #1 on this list

Chapter 7: Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct, #3 on the list

Chapter 10: Oamaru Harbour, #13 and Friendly Bay Playground, #15 on the list, and the Moana boat pin

Chapter 17: Waitaki and Oamaru Visitor Centre, #12 on the list

Chapter 27: Oamaru Public Gardens, #5 on the list, and the statue pin

Deb Brammer in a Moeraki Boulder

Art Brammer being eaten by a Moeraki Boulder

Give It a Go

In Give It a Go, Book 2 in the series, Jennifer, Brayden, and Alyssa visit these places which you will find on my Give It a Go Pinterest board.

These are the places they visit, listed by chapter:

Chapter 7: The Victorian Precinct: see the corner historical building (Things to do in Oamaru)

Chapter 9: Blue penguins waddling in from the coast

Chapter 12: Zigzag bridge at Oamaru Public Gardens

Chapter 13: Dunedin’s railway station and Baldwin Street

Chapter 18: Friendly Bay’s Steampunk Playground

Chapter 19: Coronet Peak and Queenstown Gondola and Ledge Bungy

Chapter 20: Lake Wakatipu

Chapter 23: Harbour at Friendly Bay

Chapter 29: Monarch Wildlife Cruise in Dunedin

Chapter 32: Gazebo at Oamaru Public Garden

Chapter 35: They eat a hangi meal.

Deb at the Steampunk Playground in Oamaru

 

Art and Deb at Whitestone City in Oamaru

 

 

You could be a winner!

You could be the winner of this ebook, Second Opinion by Hannah Alexander.

To enter: just comment on this Book Blast in the comment boxes below or send a comment to this address: DebBrammer@gmail.com.

I will choose a winner to receive this ebook at random from all my Book Blast readers who comment in the next three days (before August 10, 2022.)

In my May Book Blast, I gave away Private Justice by Terri Blackstock. The winner was Anna K.  You can see who this month’s winner is in my next Book Blast and read more about Second Opinion at the end of this Book Blast.

Coming September 22, 2022!

This is an exciting time for me! I’ve just finished writing Give It a Go, Book 2 in my New Beginnings series. I should get it back from the proofreader in about a week. Then pre-launch readers will take a look at it after that. I’ll make final changes. On September 22, 2022, I’ll launch it and it will be available to buy as an ebook. Though I’m done with the basic writing, I have many tasks to complete before September 22.

All three books in this series feature Americans partnering with New Zealanders in church planting ministries. I really enjoyed writing this book because the situation really made me think. What would it be like for a non-missionary widow, about fifty, to date a missionary pastor who had lost his wife? What kind of changes would she have to make if the relationship ended in marriage?

 

Pastor Greg needs a new wife, but how can he begin to date when he lives in the goldfish bowl of a mission church, ten thousand miles away from his home in America?

Two years after the death of his beloved wife, Greg finds being a single pastor creates a lot of problems. When a married woman misreads his intentions, Greg feels the Lord leading him to look for a new wife.

Jennifer is happy with her life and job in America and glad to live close to her children and grandchildren. When MacKenzie suggests Jennifer take a puppet team to New Zealand, Jennifer suspects a matchmaking scheme and responds with a definite “uh uh.” No way is she going to fly to New Zealand to throw herself at a missionary pastor she respects him too highly to consider dating. Or is dating even possible in their situation?

When the compelling nature of the mission trip calls to Jennifer, however, she agrees to go, to pass new skills on to mission churches—and nothing else! When Greg asks the unthinkable, will she be willing to give the idea a go, trusting God to lead her down a different path, not knowing where it will lead?

Pre-launch Readers Wanted!

Do you love reading Christian contemporary fiction? Would you enjoy taking part in the publishing process? If your answer is “Yes!” you might want to become one of my pre-launch readers.

Pre-launch readers read a book before it is released so that they can help the author in several ways. Right now, I’m looking for three kinds of pre-launch readers.

  • Review builder (AKA ARC reader): They prepare reviews of my book ahead of publication to post a few days before launch day.
  • Feedback reader (AKA beta reader): They give feedback to me to improve my writing.
  • Buzz group (AKA street team): They share posts and memes during my book launch with social media.

You choose what level of involvement you have in my launch. If it all looks like fun, you can do all three.

Review builders agree to read my book by September 15. (They should receive it by August 16.) They are encouraged, but not required, to post a review of the book at an online bookstore (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, or Rakuten Kobo) in the week prior to launch day (September 15 to 22.) A review can be as simple as a couple sentences stating what you liked or didn’t like about the book. As an independent author, I greatly appreciate every honest review. If a person really doesn’t enjoy the book and can’t think of anything good to say about it, she is free to bow out, but a review builder shouldn’t feel pressured to give a certain star rating or feel she can only give positive remarks. If you choose to be a review builder, I will guide you to the information you need.

Feedback readers agree to read my book by September 6. (They should receive it by August 16.) They give me feedback about various aspects of the book. A feedback reader is not a proof reader or an editor or even a writer. A feedback reader is someone who reads a book like an average reader and helps the author know what works and what doesn’t. The author considers the comments of her beta readers, considering what changes can be made to make the book stronger before submitting the final form for publication.

 After you read the ebook, you would share your viewpoint as a reader. I’d give you some questions you might want to answer and you could comment on anything in the book that you like or don’t like. When I receive your comments, I would gather comments from all my feedback readers and consider making changes to make the book stronger. I promise to consider the suggestions you make, but I may not make all the changes you suggest or explain my reasoning. If several feedback readers mention the same concerns, I’ll know I need to make changes in those areas.

Buzz group members would agree to share at least some of the posts I share at launch time. This would include memes and posts that show what my book is about and give buy links. I never pressure people to buy my books and buzz group members get to choose which posts they share. At present, I primarily post on Facebook.

 If you choose to be my pre-launch reader, you would receive these benefits:

  • You’d get the first peek at my new book
  • You’d be able to take part in the writing process
  • I would acknowledge you in the book
  • I would gift you the published ebook when it comes out
  • I would send you a small gift to thank you for your participation

If you are interested in becoming one of my Pre-launch readers, please email me at this address: artdebbrammer@gmail.com . I will send you a letter that will give you more details.

Special offer in my next Book Blast:

I will offer Short Poppies, Book 1 in New Beginnings, at one quarter of the regular price! That gives you a chance to read Book 1 before Book 2 comes out.

 Now for the free drawing of Second Opinion by Hannah Alexander.

And the winner is …  It could be you! All you have to do to enter the draw is to leave a comment in one of the comment boxes below or write to me at this address: DebBrammer@gmail.com .

Here’s my review of Second Opinion, #1 in Healing Touch series:

Archer Pierce is the single pastor of Dogwood Springs Baptist Church and also serves as chaplain to the ER department of the local hospital. Lauren McCaffrey is a caring nurse in the ER. Grant Sheldon, a father of twin teenagers, has recently lost his wife, and is struggling to come to terms with her death. This small-town series brings caring church members and caring hospital staff into contact with a hurting community. It deals realistically with church and medical issues and explores the path from romance to marriage with Christian singles who want to please the Lord. I’ve just read this series for the third time and enjoyed this distinctively Christian novel just as much as ever.

I highly recommend this book and this series.

How to Disagree in Church Business Meetings

dvargg1You hear about the silly church that split over the color of the carpet. “How ridiculous!” you say—until the decorating committee in your church wants a burnt orange carpet and your daughter is planning her upcoming church wedding in bright pink.

I believe the biggest threat to church unity is personalities that see every decision as wrong vs. right, and they’re right! Some issues are moral issues. The virgin birth of Christ, the infallibility of Scripture, eternal security of the believer—these are important doctrinal issues that I could not, in good conscience, compromise. But I’m not talking about moral issues, things that are morally or Scripturally right or wrong.

Most issues are not a matter of right versus wrong, but one of choosing the best way of several options. I may have strong opinions about the color of the kitchen, when to replace the roof, or what kind of water heater to use for the restrooms. But these are not moral issues. One way may last longer, be more cost effective, and work better than another. But neither issue is morally wrong. I have to be prepared to give in on these issues even when the way I think is best is outvoted.

I believe a healthy church business meeting should allow members to voice their opinions on the subject at hand, and to state the reasons for those opinions. Nicely. Decisions should not pit one side against another with one side winning and another losing. Instead ideas should be evaluated on their merits, with members voting for the choice they think is best. Once the vote is taken and a decision is made, members should support the decision, or at least not verbally oppose it. In this way church members can work with each other instead of against each other.

When have I said too much in a church business meeting? I’ve had people ask me this question. The point of the meeting is to discuss issues, find out how people feel, and make good decisions. If you’re concerned that you’re saying too much or saying the wrong things in a business meeting, you might ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I dominating the discussion by saying a lot more than other people?
  • Am I stating my opinions nicely, and giving my reasons for them, without representing my view as the only right view?
  • Do I keep repeating something I’ve already said, even if I use other words, to answer remarks others make?
  • Am I putting the ideas of others down in a personal way that demeans, or am I talking about the pros and cons of any option in a fair way?

Ask God to give you good balance in the comments you make in business meetings. Then your comments can be helpful and loving at the same time.

 

Celebrating Matariki (Maori New Year) as a Christian

Now that Matariki (the Maori New Year) has become a public holiday in New Zealand, Christians need to be discerning about how they celebrate it. Matariki emphasizes stargazing and family, good things, but as this article points out, the roots of this holiday point to Maori gods. Though many Kiwis find meaning in life from these Maori legends, Christians need to recognize these beings as false gods, an affront to the true God in heaven.  We need to find life’s meaning in the God of the Bible.

If you wish to celebrate Matariki, here are some good ways to do it.

  • Study the stars which God made.
  • Remember that these stars, the Pleiades, were in place when Job 9:9 and Job 38:31were written some 4000 years ago. Thank God for the accuracy of Scripture.
  • Consider Isaiah 40:26 and rejoice in the way God sustains nature, calling out the stars each night.
  • Celebrate the family God has given you and recognize God’s goodness in establishing the family from the beginning of creation.

For more about Maori creation stories see my blog about a parent or teacher’s response to them.