The Strength of a Small Church Ministry

If you minister to kids or teens in a small, even a tiny, church, I have some questions for you,

• Do you ever find yourself dreaming of what it would be like to have enough kids in class to do the fun, large-group learning activities the curriculum calls for, instead of adapting them to your class of three to four kids?

• How do you deal with the frustrations of making time in your busy schedule to prepare the lesson for children’s church only to arrive at church to discover that there are no children because the “Millers” and the “Smiths” are out of town?

Do you ever wrestle with the “If onlys?” If only I had more people to give a hand. If only I had enough money to cover curriculum and crafts. If only I could have one Sunday a month to sit in Sunday school or the morning service. If only our church was bigger…If only… If only. . . .

Guess what? There are people from the First United Big Church who look across the fence and envy what you have! Today, I want to encourage you to step back and open your eyes to the strengths inherent in your small congregation—the intergenerational relationships and accountability that are the very fiber of your church provide unique opportunities for discipling children and teens.

Large churches spend countless hours in committee and board meetings—as well as a lot of money on consultation fees, resources, and strategy retreats—trying to develop ministries and programs that will have the impact of a small church. They recognize the value of the cross-generational fellowship and ministries that are part of your church’s DNA. They work hard to have the accountability and impact inherent in a small group, which is what you have in your church.

Many of these large churches are heartbroken over the numbers of teenagers who leave the church after high school graduation since their youth pastor is not allowed to minister to them anymore because they are “too old,” whereas, in your church the kids and teens know your pastor personally, and he knows them.

When there is a need in your congregation, it is taken care of immediately and simply.
The big church dreams of having person-to-person ministry without the burden of bureaucracy.

One of the most powerful ministries I have ever been a part of was in the tiny country church of about 40 people where I grew up in northern Ohio. This little church of farm families loved the Lord, loved the Word of God, and loved people. They understood that they were small and weak in the world’s eyes, but they served an Almighty God who was their strength and provider.

Everybody, regardless of age or ability, was needed for it to function as a Body.

As kids, we grew up knowing that we were an important part of the church. From about second grade on, we were active in the church’s ministry. Sunday mornings would find us taking our turn, standing by the front door with our dad or mom, welcoming people and handing out bulletins, or lighting the candles at the start of the service. By fifth grade we had graduated to collecting the offering and reading the announcements or Scriptures during the worship service. The widows, single moms, and elderly of our church never worried about being snowed in because we young people made sure their driveways were plowed and sidewalks shoveled.

The encouragement as well as the expectations that were placed upon us children made us feel that we were part of the whole church, not just a department. The pastor was our pastor, not just our parents’ pastor.

Our tiny church focused on being the Body of Christ, and we kids were valuable members. The impact of that congregation’s ministry is still felt today. Although the church closed its doors years ago, it continues to have a Kingdom impact. Of the eight kids in our Sunday school (grades 6–12) in 1969, one went on to found a missions agency, another became a foreign missionary, and I became a pastor. Three others have since served the Lord as lay church leaders. Big churches drool over statistics like that.

My point simply is this: Stop envying the big church.

Small churches

You play a vital role in building the Kingdom of God. You can reach people that large churches can’t, and large churches reach people you can’t. What is important is that you are faithful with what the Lord gives you.

Embrace the unique tools and opportunities you have in your congregation. Adapt your programs and ministries to your immediate situation and needs.

• Unable to have a children’s church one or two Sundays a month? Provide paper, clipboards, and colored pencils to the kids and have them illustrate something in that day’s sermon. Then show the pictures to the pastor after the service and explain their meaning.

• Encourage families to work together as a unit, focused on becoming ministry bases to show God’s love in tangible ways to their neighbors.

The Lord placed you where you are and has gifted you with everything you need to do the work He has given you to do. So open your eyes to how His power is being made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).