By Karl Vaters
Our church grew and grew and we hit about 150 to 160, while we were in a tiny little building. So we moved into a local school, and within about a year we grew to almost 400. Then we started dropping like a rock.
I know how big we grew, because it’s fun to count when you’re growing. I don’t know how small we got, because I didn’t want to look at the numbers anymore. But we were well under 100, and we ended up back in our tiny little building.
What happened here? I made a couple of strategic errors.
1. Workers can’t be welcomers.
We were setting up and tearing down everything every week, and the regulars who were hauling chairs would normally have been the social glue to greet the new people. So we weren’t able to retain our visitors.
2. Being a pastor is different than being an administrator.
But the primary thing was this: I made the switch from pastor to administrator. I made that switch willingly, but I was miserable.
The numbers hid the misery from me—how can a pastor be miserable when his church has almost doubled in a year? By spending 95 percent of my ministry doing things I hate.
Below 200, a church can function under one pastor with a handful of volunteers. Over 200, it cannot be done by a single pastor anymore, and the lead pastor has to take on an entirely different role.
I think most pastors are like me. Very few go into ministry thinking, I want to spend my time working with city hall, fundraising, sorting out finances and dealing with staff conflicts.
They enter ministry because they want to feed the sheep. But you’ve got to pastor with a different set of skills above 200.
- The Power of Small: Church Size No Barrier to Thinking Big
- 7 Characteristics of Healthy Small Churches
- Can Small Be Healthy?
- When Big Goes Small: How Large Churches Are Learning From Those With Less
Karl is an author and the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California.