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Smaller churches often accomplish more by doing less.
Sometimes a smaller church feels it must compete with the larger churches in the community to attract people.

This is always a mistake because the smaller church simply does not have the resources to offer the same ministries as a larger church.

Taking a “shotgun approach” to ministry also misses another fact: God has a unique vision for your church. 

Our churches are not called to duplicate the ministries of other churches, but to discern and begin to fulfill the vision God has for each congregation.

Several years ago, a smaller church leader called saying their congregation was going to launch a youth ministry and wanted my advice on how best to do that. 

My advice was not to do it because in that community there were several much larger churches with youth ministries that attracted hundreds of young people every week.

I said to the caller, “Your church has three kids. How will you compete with what the other churches are doing?” 

He understood and clarified my comments by asking, “So you are saying we should look for another ministry to offer the community?”

My answer was an emphatic, “Yes.”

In many cases, the reason smaller churches want a youth ministry is they see it as the way to preserve the future of their church. 

While understandable, trying to start a youth ministry is a problem if the church has no youth for a base group and no one in the church is gifted and passionate about doing youth ministry.

It is much better to build a ministry in your church by identifying and using the gifts of your members, helping them find what ministries they are passionate about doing, and seeing if that will meet a need in the community.

When your congregation is seeking to discern God’s vision for the future, it is important to remember that God will not give your church a vision for ministry if:

â—     There is no one in your church with the spiritual gifts to make that happen

â—     No one in the church is passionate about doing that ministry

â—     It does not meet needs in your community

Where these three things come together is where you will find your God-given vision.

In most churches there is usually a lot of activity, but assessing the results at the end of the year often find that no advancements have actually been made. This results from a lack of clear vision.

When I think back to my own pastoral ministry, there were some years we could look back over the preceding months and see positive things that had been accomplished.

Other years we were just as busy but had no real results at the end of the year. We had done a lot in those years but accomplished very little of lasting value to the kingdom of God.

Staying busy is no guarantee of a successful ministry. We need to focus on the ministries that will really make a difference in people’s lives within the congregation and the larger community and on those initiatives that fulfill what we believe to be God’s vision for our church.

I often say to church leaders that if their churches stopped doing 80 percent of what they are now doing, no one would ever know the difference. 

That percentage may vary between churches, but the fact is that much of what we do really matters very little.

If congregations, large or small, will begin to focus their resources and efforts on the things that really will make a difference to the people in their communities, when they look back over the previous year, I think they’ll see a big difference in what they accomplished.

Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Ind., for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter: @DennisBickers.

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