by Bill Easum

The issues below are the most commonly abused issues in churches with less than 300 in worship.

1. Clarity of purpose or mission. Churches need a mission, vision and value statement. The mission of most small churches is to survive. Most small churches either try to do too much or do not try to do enough.

2. A clear system for discipling people. The most effective ministries are built on Reaching, Teaching, and Sending, or Input, Discipling, Output.

3. Adequate staff. Churches need to decide what type of church they intend to be. Most small churches underestimate the need or feel they cannot afford it. Or they going to be a contemporary, small group based church or a traditional church. If traditional, they need the 1-100 (worship) ratio. If contemporary, they need the right staff and can have a ratio of up to 1 to every 200-250 in worship.

4. The most common hiring mistakes made at this size:

  • Hiring a full-time youth person or a full-time associate pastor.
  • The most needed additional staff person is a full-time music pastor.  Most pastors     refuse to accept this principle. What they have to realize is that music is almost as     important today as is preaching.

5. There is a direct relationship between the number of staff and the number of volunteers. The 125-150 worship church seldom has enough volunteers because it spends most of its time trying to get volunteers; It’s time for staffing:

6. Hire staff to equip the laity, not to do ministry.

7. Small churches usually do not know how to hire staff. PPR committees are usually involved too much. Usually the first staff person hired does not make it past one year.

8. You must move beyond the “Single Cell” Mentality. The single cell issue is “we are one big happy family.” This is why people respond to the idea of a second worship service by saying, “But we won’t know everyone anymore.” This is seldom overcome until a church reaches 500 in worship.

Multiplication is the key in every area of the life of the church. Deciding on what is important to multiply is essential. This is called leverage. We will talk about this later. This size church never has more than one or two serious leverage points.

The small church acts as a family. The large church acts as a family of families.

Providing more quality choices is a leverage point. Worship is usually the first area of ministry in which to start adding choices.

Whenever this mentality rears its ugly head, talk about it theologically. This mentality will come usually from Trustees, the choir, a matriarch or patriarch, turf or chaplaincy issues.

9. The pastor does not giving visionary leadership. Prefers the chaplain model. Prefers the small church. Develops deep and narrow relationships. Is not or does not get the right training or see any other models. Is not encouraged by the denomination to color outside the lines. Refuses to delegate or develop a staff. Pastors of small churches do not know how to help staff grow.

The number one pastoral issue: when you have staff, you have to worry about more than just how you will live out the mission, vision, and values.

10. Develop core ministries. Often churches with less than 300 in worship fail to develop core ministries. Core ministries are those ministries that are as important for the church to continue as Worship and Sunday School. These ministries are carried over from lay person to lay person, clergy to clergy.

A core ministry is anything that is considered so important that no matter who the pastor is or what the skill level of the laity is, the program continues. As they grow, program based churches often fail to expand their number of “core ministries” that bring new people into a relationship with Christ and their church and they stop meeting the needs of people and stagnate.

Encourage the longtime members to become permission-givers and allow new ministries to begin.

Pastors exercise permission-giving. When necessary ask for forgiveness.

11. Become more Intentional.

Especially in your care networks, discipling ministries, and communication.

12. Make targeted choices. Do not try to be all things to all people.

13. Develop Quality worship. Music and technology are the key.

14. Simplify the decision-making.

15. Upgrade all facilities. Nursery Parking Structure Restrooms

16. Expect more quality. People attending small churches do not expect quality. The larger the church the more quality is expected.

17. Develop a strong teaching ministry with a process. This must go beyond the normal Sunday School or weekday Bible Class. The key is intentionally making disciples.

18. Church leaders willing to begin to take calculated risks rather than maintaining the present system.

19. A passion for a strong adult and children’s ministry.