My cohort Mark blogged yesterday on the “Random thought about the size of your church” I started to respond to Bryan’s comment, and felt that my response was way too long, and possibly distracting from Mark’s original question. Now I think this post is way too long.
In response to Bryan yes I do work a full-time job for IBM, I am also enrolled in school part-time (finally decided to get my degree in Theology), and I’m married and have a teenage son who happens to be my best friend. At church I am an assistant pastor, and I have been there now for 10 years and I am in my 5th year as an assistant. I am very busy and have to make good use of my time. Last year I experienced some anxiety and felt overwhelmed with all that I was doing, but I believe that pressure came from meeting school deadlines, and other personal reasons. But I prayed through that, and I must confess that today I have a fresh outlook on many things, but more importantly my calling.
Our church is about 250 including children, when I first started attending there we were around 100 or so, still small enough for everyone to know each other well and it had a good family feel to it. All churches will have denominational influences to some extent so lets all be honest about that. That of course does affect how we operate. I come from a pentecostal background and my church is pentecostal. I am not sure what sort of images that conjures up to those that are not, or have never been to a pentecostal church, but I would say we rather tamed compared to other Pentecostals. It’s a rare thing for there to be an out spoken tongue in our church, it does happen but not very often.
Just to offer another perspective I’ll share some areas as to how we operate at my church. We have three pastors, and we share many responsibilities. But it is clear to our church who the lead pastor is, not that it matters and only the lead pastor is full-time. The three of do our best to know all of the people in our church. I have the biggest disadvantage since I have a hard time remembering people’s names, great with faces, but poor with names. Unless I have a worthwhile conversation or I have multiple conversations with them, then the name sticks. Our church is growing and too me that is a good thing, but also presents some challenges. When we were at about 100 people it felt like a family, you knew everyone on a more personal level. Now that our church has almost tripled in size it doesn’t have that small family feel to it, and I don’t feel as connected with each member of our church.
However, we do make it a point to invite people to our homes, and go out with them for lunch. The people I invite over to my home are people who I feel or sense that want to be more involved and hope to be used by God in the church. In some ways I see it as an opportunity to impart into them in order to help build them up so that they in turn can be as a service to the church. Many of these become leaders (elders) in our church. Not all that I invite I have this in mind, many I invite just because, or they are Lakers fans and we watch a game together.
We also have small home bible studies that help build community among the members of the church. They have a designated leader that will lead in some worship, prayer, and some time spent in the word. This idea, or pattern is built on the concept of Moses assigning elders to help with the caring of the people (no new concept there, that’s been used by many churches). Also in Acts 6:1-7 where they assigned others to help with the ministries so that they can devote themselves to preaching and prayer ministry.
We also offer other means that they can access us without the bigger crowds. We have a Saturday morning prayer where the three of us always show up, and we get between 20-30 folks that show up on a good day. That is a great time to spend with us in prayer, and get to spend some time with us. I often go out and have coffee afterwards with anyone that wants to go and spend some extra time. The challenge here is someone who sees this as a opprotunity to get some heavy counseling, where they should have just setup an appointment. Which we will meet with anyone that wants to chat with us for whatever reason. I also teach once a week at our church this is a much smaller group typically around 20-30 folks (by the end around 8-15), this again would afford our members to have more quality time spent with me.
One thing for sure is that we are accessible to our members, and it is something we are very conscious of. My pastor is a die-hard people person, he will never change no matter how big the church gets. He still goes on his own to visit people from our church. I recall a story he was sharing with me about one of the young ladies that comes to our church, and her husband does not. He was really bothered by her coming, and my pastor went to his house to visit him and really made a difference in his life. Today he is coming now and then, but he stop complaining about his wife coming.
I am of the position that the size of the church does not define one’s calling. I know from conversations I have had with Mark that we both recoil at the thought and pressure that a church should be a certain size to be considered a success (not the best word but makes the point). There are so many books today on how to make your church grow, that I think it loses it focus on the divine purpose of the body of Christ. I also believe that the pastor is expected to be too many things, to too many people. I don’t believe we should stop whatever growth is occurring, for all I know we may not grow beyond this point, we might even shrink? We are a highly evangelistic church, and what I mean by that is that we believe that we should be telling the world about Christ, that translates to telling friends, neighbors, co-workers, and going out to the community and telling strangers about Christ. That in turn means that we do get new visitors that don’t know Christ, just last night we had about 5 new visitors, and a couple of them publicly gave their life to Christ. Even after I preached a dud sermon
So There you go Bryan, I told you it was long. Now hopefully someone reads it, at least you