Pressing Issues in the Small Church: Ministries 02/06/2008

Series: Small Church: Pressing Issues

Speaker: Ed McCallum

Church Ministries 

Thirty-one pastors of EPC small churches (average attendance up to 200) took part in a survey to reach a consensus on the most pressing issues facing small church leaders.  The issue that surfaced at the top of the list was "Church Ministries."  Visitors to small churches often expect a full range of programs. Small churches only have the resources to do a few, meaning visitors don't return and members get tired and/or discouraged.


Probably most small church pastors have experienced the frustration of seeing visitors come a few times but then settle in larger churches because they can offer a wider range of programs for their family.  It's common to have the feeling, "If all those people had stayed, we could offer more programs right here."


The missional church conversation offers a good deal of hope.  One thread  of this broad conversation has to do with becoming an incarnational church more than an attractional church.  If a church's goal is to design a wide range of programs to attract people into the church, a small church is severely limited in what it can do.  However, if a church understands itself missionally its focus is on being a community of disicples living under the Lordship of Christ participating in God's mission to the community.  A missional ministry is incarnational.  It gathers and equips people with the goal of deploying them into their community as individuals and together.


I have found Kennon Callahan inspiring and helpful on this point.  In his book Small, Strong Congregations (Jossey-Bass, 2000) Callahan urges small churches to find one excellent ministry that they can pursue with passion as their gift to the community.  For leaders, this means cultivating an atmosphere in which people understand that calling and discern together what that excellent ministry is.  This kind of missional thinking can bring an outward focus, energy, and fruitfulness to a small community of believers.  It may or may not result in more people on Sunday morning.  It should result in a church fulfilling its covenant calling of being a blessing to others (Gen. 12).


Please add your comments on the topic. How have you navigated this pressing issue of "church ministries"?  What kind of incarnational ministries has your small congregation undertaken?  Have you read Callahan?  What do you think?

7 Comments | Login to Post Comments

Martin Rossol on Feb 17, 2008 6:19pm

I appreciate this specific effort by the EPC. I am a RE in a small (<100) church and we want to make a difference for Christ and eternity, and I think it will only happen if we are "connected" to the larger body. And that is not just other small bodies - that is with all of you out there, large and small. Please, get involved with us...

Anonymous on Feb 19, 2008 3:58pm

Hey Martin, Rob Buchanan here, I'm also the pastor of a smaller church in a semi-rural area - and working with the small church network. I'm glad you want to get involved and encouraging others. We have a unique set of challenges and I think we can learn from others.

Guy Boyer on Feb 19, 2008 6:54pm

Thank you EPC for this encouraging ministry. It's easy, as a small church pastor, to think, "The rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer." Resources like this affirm our place in the Kingdom and tells us we're not rookies playing minor league "A" ball hoping one day to reach the major leagues.

Anonymous on Feb 27, 2008 8:22am

Guy, great point. I believe there are many of us who feel a calling to where we are - we ARE in the Big Leagues! It takes just as much of a God-calling to the smaller church as to the large. Our hope is this network will help all of us be more effective for Christ.

Ed Bowman on Mar 6, 2008 9:12am

I am very pleased to see this initiative. We have less than 40 members and are located in a very small community. Last night a new member and I began going door to door doing a small questionnaire to engage our neighbors in thinking spiritually – was a great time and we made some new friends. One thing we are looking at and have local permission to do is start a “Welcome to Waskom” outreach to welcome new-comers and reach out and touch them with a welcome basket (currently being assimilated). Some local businesses are agreeing to give us discount coupons and we will provide a list of local opportunities to serve churches and community among other things. We also have started a local “café” style monthly newsletter since we don’t have a community newspaper to help keep area communication available. Some local businesses give donations for advertisement in order to help fund “ink & paper” and so far its been accepted. We include local events, people and happenings. Just a few ideas to throw into your thinking.

Joseph Johnson on Jul 24, 2008 11:50am

We too have under 40 active members; this sounds like a great means to focus our vision. We are in the process of joining the EPC and this I believe will be a great resource for us. I look forward to a great partnership!

Shane Davis on Jan 10, 2009 7:18pm

I think this is an excellent word. Being a para-ministry and missionary to India. I find we forget that the small churches are the backbone of the church of our Lord Jesus. We do not use the "network" that the Lord has given us. Our ministry is in Deliverance. cwim1@cwim.us