The Small Church

For good or for bad?

From Shepherding the Small Church, by Glenn Daman

Within the small church, it is not the position that gives power and authority to the individual but the relationships the person has with the other members. Consequently, the pastor is often not the primary leader of the congregation. That role is often given to an individual or individuals who, by their personal interaction with others, influence the rest of the church.”

This is especially true regarding the vision and direction of the church. Whereas in the large church, the senior pastor sets the direction of the church, in the small congregation the vision must arise from the people themselves. Rather than the pastor being the vision setter, he becomes the vision facilitator, one who helps and coaches the congregation as they set the agenda for the future.”

The small church is owned and operated by the laity rather than the pastor. Because of this, the pastor is less important to the operation and health of the small church than the larger counterpart. While the pastor may retain the title, the power of the church belongs to the people who have built and operated the church for generations. If the pastor comes into conflict with that authority, then the pastor will often be asked to leave.”

3 thoughts on “The Small Church”

  1. I think I’d have to disagree with the whole premise here. For a moment, let’s just say that these powerful people are godly and not carnal (carnal people are destructive to any church, but especially to a smaller church). “Authoritative laity” can be found in any church…in fact, I think people should be encouraged to serve passionately in their area of giftedness. There are more of these passionate people in a larger church, and they should be encouraged to see the “big picture” of church ministry when working in their area of giftedness and passion. Certainly, in the mega-churches of today where the church is very young and does not have a lot of history, there is a smaller influence from powerful laity. However, any church that has been around for a while will experience this leading from within as the pastoral staff changes. It is very important for any pastor coming into a congregation for the first time to seek to understand these people and get them on his side as far as vision for the church’s future ministry. If he is not patient in learning the history and culture of the church, it is like shooting himself in the foot. Powerful, passionate, spiritual laity is very necessary because a pastor only has 24 hours in his day, just like everyone else, and his areas of giftedness and experience are limited.

  2. Just FYI. The book isn’t against small churches but merely making an observation. I really do agree with you. The reason I asked for good or for bad was because I think it can work both ways (positive or negative). But I think his observations (generalizations) are mostly right on. When we think of powerful laity, we do think carnality. But the truth is, Christ is the head of the church and the pastor should only lead with a biblical agenda. I think he has the responsibility to convince the laity of biblical principle. And this is easier to do in a larger church than a smaller church. For good or for bad… What do you think? BTW, very good and thought provoking book.

  3. I have not read the book, but I am guessing that his generalizations are only relevant because small churches are most often found in small communities. Since these small communities experience little turnover as far as people are concerned, the churches also tend to have less turnover of members. Many of the members have been there for years and years. Because of this, the laity in a small church could potentially have more power than the pastor simply because they have been there longer. It takes a long time for a pastor to truly understand the culture of the church he is entering (or to gain the respect and trust of the people he is pastoring). Trying to set vision that is not clearly spelled out in Scripture can be very difficult. Also, I think carnality breeds in smaller churches because of the lack of “change” or perhaps because of the lack of challenge to certain ways of thinking. The turnover and movement in larger churches in larger communities keeps people from being “set in their ways” simply because they must keep examining new ideas.

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