Karl Vaters is a small church pastor. He wanted to be a "Big" church pastor but one day he came to the realization that he was and is a small church pastor. Most churches in the United States are under 250 people. These are the people for whom Karl wrote this book. How many time have you gone to a conference and realized that the speaker is from a church that the entire size of his congregation is larger than the county in which our church is located? Vater's book is refreshing and challenges us to be the church God is planting in our community regardless of size. One quote among many that struck me was this: "This drive for greater numbers and larger churches has probably resulted in more pastoral burnout than healthy, growing churches. Not to mention the tens of thousands of confused and damaged church attenders whose opinions and needs were belittled and shoved aside for newer and bigger things. Many of them left their churches permanently and never went back to any church at all."
Sometimes in ministry, we can feel like a grasshopper in the midst of the giants of ministry. Karl cites a quote attributed to Elanor Roosevelt who said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Small church pastors don't have to believe the grasshopper myth. They are not grasshoppers to God. They are God's messengers to the communities to which God has sent them.
Karl tackles the big questions for smaller churches. "What is biblical growth?" It's an important question. "What does Jesus measure?" We've all heard that healthy things grow. Karl deals with that in a great way. The bottom line according to Vaters is this, "All healthy, living things reach their optimal size at maturity, then they grow in different ways from that point on." There is no miracle grow formula for churches.
One of the things that I really got out of this book is that Vaters is not making an excuse for poor growth principles, instead, he is providing a blueprint for healthful growth.
As a children's ministry guy, I recognize that often times we swap stories about the size, depth, and scope of our ministries. (Not really a kidmin only issue). We do it with camps, retreats, events, etc. It's just part of who we are as people. We judge success by size. I don't think that we can discount that size often times can lead to impact. But the impact doesn't have to be limited to size. Whether you have a group of 5 or 50 it doesn't' matter. What you do with that group does matter.
Karl's blog can be read at https://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/. I would encourage anyone who is serving in a small church to check it out. In his last post, he talked about a myth that we often perpetuate. That myth is that our budget will reflect our values. Certainly a case can be made for that, however, Karl explains that just because it doesn't make the budget doesn't mean that the value isn't being lived. Often times in small churches the work is done regardless of things being budgeted.
The subtitle of the book
is "Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us." We don't have to be divided on by our size or by our thinking. There are not a lot of books written for the small church pastor. This is a good one. Another book that is older that deals with children's ministries is Rick Chromey's "Energizing children's ministry in the small church." It was last published in 2008 but has some great principles for small church kidmin principles. The truth is no matter what size our church is we can effectively reach people for Christ.
Both books can be found on Amazon.