Carey Nieuwhof: “Overcome these tensions and you’re closer to progress. Avoid them and you can stay stuck a long time.”
3. The pastor carries expectations no one can live up to.
In most small to mid sized churches, the pastor is expected to never miss a wedding, funeral, hospital call or meeting, visit people in their homes, write a killer message every Sunday and organize most of the activities of the church and be present for all functions AND have a great family life.
The key here for those who want to grow past this is to set clear expectations of what you will spend your time on. I visited for the first two years and when we went to a groups model, explained (for what seemed like forever) how care was shifting from me to the congregation. I stopped attending every church event. We have a great counseling referral network. And I started focusing on what I can best contribute given my gift set: communication, charting a course for the future, developing our best leaders, casting vision and raising resources.
4. Tradition has more pull than vision.
This is not just about traditional churches—it’s true of church plants too. The past has a nostalgia to it that the future never does. Even the recent past. Remember how great the church felt when it was smaller, more intimate and met in the living room/school/old facility?
The challenge for the leader is to cast a vision that is clear enough and compelling enough to pull people from the familiar past into a brighter future.
5. The desire to do more, not less.
As you grow, you will be tempted to do more. Every time there are more people/money/resources, the pressure will be strong to add programming and complexity to your organization.
Resist that. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Often the key to reaching more is doing less. By doing a few things well and creating steps, not programs, you will help more people grow faster than almost any other way. The two books that have helped me see this more than any other resources are Andy Stanley, Lane Jones and Reggie Joiner’s Seven Practices of Effective Ministry and Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church. These two books helped our team resist the pressure to do more simply because we could.
Often complexity is the enemy of progress.
What tensions do you face or have you faced in small to mid-sized churches?
How are you handling them? Leave a comment.