Small Church Pastors Need Both Skis

Pastoral work glides on two skis:  leading and loving -- and love is always the lead ski.

I used to think that loving was the only ski required for an effective small church pastorate.  But that is not the case.  Most small church parishioners want their pastor to take them somewhere.  They desire to make a difference for eternity rather than merely going around in circles.  They long for life, energy, spiritual passion and momentum.  They want to see something happen!

It is a myth that members of small congregations don't want change.  Except for a few dysfunctional power brokers, saints in small churches don't want to settle for status-quo.  As Carey Nieuwhof says, "most people actually want change.  They just want well-led change."  (And some of the "dysfunctional power brokers are just good-hearted folk who love their church too much to let it be hijacked by stupidity.)

Resistance to pastoral leadership in a small church is almost always a matter of trust.   They want their pastor to lead -- but are afraid they may be led off a cliff.   They want to know their shepherd really cares for them -- individually and corporately as a flock.  

Earning trust requires humility, compassion, understanding, and good deal of empathetic listening.  It means helping them fulfill their deep desire for spiritual renewal and mission engagement.

Effective small church leadership is loving the church too much to let her languish in the swamp of despair and mediocrity.  It is removing obstacles that get in the way of Christ's mission of multiplying disciples by inviting, connecting, growing and sending.

Love is the the entrance ticket.  If you don't love them, you can't lead them.  But leading is the responsibility of every pastor -- regardless of congregation's size.

(Photo from American Birkebeiner Foundation)


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