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The First Step in Developing a Small Healthy Church

An excellent blog that every small-church leader should have on his bookmark list is written by Karl Vaters on his New Small Church website. One of his best entries is entitled “The Essential First Step to Having a Healthy Small Church. The great thing about this essential first step is that it is something that every church can do.

Here it is:

“Stop assuming that smallness is a problem to be fixed.”

Simple but great advice for small churches, denominational leaders, church-growth experts and anyone else working with small churches.

Smallness is not the problem. A small church is not broken. It is not unhealthy just because it is small.

I like the way that David Ray says basically the same thing in his book The Big Small Church Book.

“They (small churches) are the right size to be all that God calls a church to be. They are not premature, illegitimate, malnourished, or incomplete versions of ‘real’ churches.” p. viii

Before a small church can become all that God wants it to become, it must see itself as a church through which God can impact people’s lives. It doesn’t have to grow numerically before it can have that kind of impact. It doesn’t need a new building or a larger budget or more programs. It does, however, need a commitment to impacting the lives of those people who have been entrusted to its care.


A life transforming moment

In his book The Grasshopper Myth, Karl Vaters tells about the moment that changed his ministry. You can order the book through his website. It is a book that every small-church leader should read. He tells about some of the struggles that he went through trying to sort out the issue of church growth and the crisis that he came to that could have cost him his ministry. God graciously didn’t allow that to happen.

In 2008 at a staff meeting called to talk over ministry plans he suddenly stopped the meeting and blurted out this radical statement, a statement that contradicted everything that he had learned about church growth up to that point.

“We need to stop thinking like a big church.” p. 25

In those nine simple words, Karl has captured one of the most important lessons that small churches can possibly learn. You need to stop thinking like something that you aren’t (a large church) and start thinking like what you are (a small church).

I believe in the value of vision in a church but if our vision is so focused on what we hope to be in the future that we can’t see the potential of what we are in the present, then that vision can lead to an unhealthy church. A small church needs a vision that is built on the strengths that are part of small-church life.

Remember: “Smallness is not a problem to be fixed.”

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