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?
- Preached a sermon
- Taught a class
- Played the piano or another instrument
- Led game time
- Served as a Deacon, Trustee, or other church officer
- Entertained groups in your home
- Provided transportation to church activities