The Quandary Facing Small Church Leaders

Who is in charge?


First the Downside:

  • Small churches face huge challenges.
  • Small churches have fewer resources.
  • Small churches have minimal services from professional leaders.
  • Professional leaders can do only so much alone.

Now the Upside:

  • Small churches often have a greater percentage of the congregation willing to take leadership roles.
  • Members of small churches often include skilled professionals in areas related to church needs (business, teaching, healthcare, social media, music, writing, art, drama, social work, etc., etc., etc.)
  • Mission opportunities abound—if only there was a plan.
  • Professional leaders don't have to work alone.

Recognizing Leadership Potential

LINK: Read this post. It addresses concerns that 2x2 has often addressed.

Here is a quote from this article:

Traditional leadership seems to still work when the problems are clear cut and the solutions are, even if difficult, at least known. But these are not usual times for congregations and their leaders. The challenges are not always apparent, and few speak with assurance about solutions. They found that innovative leaders no longer could afford to surround themselves with “their” people who instinctively supported the leader’s ideas. Rather, these new leaders had to ensure that diverse people with a range of interests, personalities, and gifts were included. This is where pastoral leaders in particular become anxious. Differences and conflict are inevitable when you seek diversity in the makeup of those involved. But it is out of creative tension that innovation is born.

Lovett Weems, Director

Lewis Center for Church Leadership

The reason the Church is stuck is because its leadership structure is vested in the past. The only plan is outdated and unrealistic. Our continuing allegiance to a structure that no longer works has many churches mired down. It takes a toll on pastors and members alike. We ask, “We are all doing what we are supposed to be doing. Why isn’t it working?”

If your congregation has tried to borrow money, you may have encountered this.

The first question from lenders: How many members do you have? They want you to have at least 100. That figure is meaningless today. The 100-member church typically has 25 attending regularly and only a quarter of them contributing—and most of them at 1970s levels.

The second question: Who is your pastor? Can you provide a bio? The typical pastor of a small church is so “part-time” that he or she has little engagement in the business of the Church. If lenders think they can rely on pastors to safeguard their investment in any way, they are probably wrong.

Modern Measures of
Church Leadership

In evaluating small churches it is a far better measure to look at their networking. How do they work with other churches and community groups—but then a lot of churches work in isolation within their denomination and in their communities. Change this and it may change the expectations of outsiders!

Another effective modern measure is the engagement of members. Supporting the offering plate is not the most significant measure. How are lay skills used for ministry. How are your business members guiding, setting goals, reaching out and handling finances? How are teachers sharing the Word? How are musicians, artists and writers enhancing worship and spiritual life? How are the social media experts connecting your congregation to the neighborhood—and the world?

In short, how are congregations using the resources they already have?

The failure to notice these significant measures of viability is related to our focus on "whose in charge." Churches can find answers—often right under their noses—if we look beyond this.

We all know who is in charge. It is none of us!