Approximiately 80% of our Protestant churches across the country run 200 people or less. Even though a small church may feel like the minority, this staticstics proves that is not true! If that describes your church, you will truly benefit by today’s post by guest blogger, author and women’s leader Martha Lawley.
Are you currently ministering in a smaller church? If so, you are not alone. About 75% of churches in America have membership of 250 or less! Yet smaller church leaders often feel insignificant and alone.
I’ve been privileged to minister in smaller churches most of my life and am well acquainted with the unique challenges and blessings of smaller church ministry.
Let me begin by assuring you that I certainly do not have it all figured out – far from it. In fact, it seems to me that every time I think I’ve found the answer to smaller church ministry, God seems to change the question. Perhaps you can relate.
So why this post? As I visit with other women ministering in smaller churches, I’ve discovered some things that challenge my conventional thinking and help me see more of God’s perspective. I’m hoping you might also find these insights helpful.
For a long time I believed an important part of success in smaller church women’s ministry was to make the ministry as much like a larger church ministry as possible. In other words, whatever they were doing, we should try to do – just on a smaller scale. While there may be some areas that this holds true, I was missing a valuable truth about God’s perspective.
God loves diversity. We see His appreciation of diversity throughout His vast, beautiful creation. I’m learning that diversity is also an important part of God’s plan to build His kingdom. For example, God intentionally establishes a variety of local churches of different sizes and shapes. Each church has a unique culture of its own and is called to unique ministries based on the unique gifts God has place within each local body.
Knowing God has a distinct plan for each local church – regardless of size – highlights the importance of our role as leaders in clarifying God’s unique plan for our women’s ministry. We are constantly challenged to separate the “good” things from the God things. Of course, this is easier said than done. However, staying focused on the things God has called us to do and resisting the good things that are not part of His plan for our ministry is a vital step in being good stewards of the resources God provides.
Speaking of resources, we’re all very aware of the limitations we face in smaller church ministry. Interestingly, in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), the master’s primary concern was not how many resources the servants started with – but whether or not the servant was a faithful steward of the resources they were given. It’s the same for the smaller church. We may have fewer resources than other churches. But whatever we have is what God has given. Ministry in the smaller church is an opportunity to demonstrate good stewardship of all He has entrusted to us. In short, good stewardship is not about what we do or do not have, it’s about what we do with what we have.
I’ve also learned the hard way that if we’re not careful we can become so focused on our limitations that we take our eyes off our mighty God! With His help, each limitation can lead us to a fresh acknowledgement of how sufficient our God truly is!
Finally, I’ve learned that it’s easy to overlook the advantages of being a smaller church. Perhaps the most significant advantage of smaller church ministry is the strong sense of community frequently found in smaller congregations. A strong community is the best environment to build relationships – an essential ingredient to effectively sharing Christ and discipling believers.
I truly love ministering in a smaller church! While challenging, women’s ministry in the smaller church provides a perfect opportunity for God to reveal His amazing power and glory! And like ministry anywhere – there is rarely a dull moment!
What do you think? What have you learned from ministering in a smaller church?
Martha Lawley formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women: Revised and Expanded edition, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry web site. She is also the author of Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing for His Return. Martha is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier and serves her local church in various areas of leadership, and is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.