5 Questions for Living Small and Dreaming Big

Church growth and impact over the last decade extend beyond the megachurches we hear of most often. The small church has been on the rise as well, freed from past restraints of limited resources and underdeveloped vision. Innovation and technology are driving a new wave of exponential impact.

Small churches are finding ways to leverage bivocational staffing. Some are giving away as much as 50 percent of their resources. Others are seating fewer people in one place, but reaching more across multiple campuses and online.

These churches are as likely to exist in small towns and impoverished areas as they are in rapidly growing metropolitan suburbs. For many church leaders, it’s a great time for living small and dreaming big. Here are five questions to consider as your church seeks to make a bigger impact on your community and the world.

  1. Does your church possess a focused ministry toward discipleship results?

Technology is available to all today and simplicity is in. Because so many resources are readily available online, small churches can produce high-quality programming for worship, children, students, and small groups.

Larger churches are also deprogramming to streamline and narrow their ministry focus. The smaller church is simple by nature; the larger church is seeking to become simple by choice. Church ministry programming is more similar today than ever.

  1. Does your church have a leadership pipeline designed to raise up the next generation?

Creative use of bivocational or volunteer staff is expanding. In the past, bivocational ministry was relegated to small towns or small congregations. Today, more churches are strategically empowering and training a less expensive volunteer and bivocational work force. The typical church dedicates up to half of its income to personnel. Once facility and operational costs are taken into account, ministry resources are often less than ideal.

It’s important for churches to have adequate staff, but in this season, it’s equally important to train and equip many volunteers to serve in high-capacity leadership roles. When a church can devote 25-35 percent of its income to staff, leaving a greater share for ministry and community investment, the results are often exceptional. The identification and development of future leaders is a near-constant need.

  1. What committed partnerships does your ministry possess?

Trusted local and global partnerships are common. Smaller churches need the power and influence of outside organizations to have the opportunity for expanded impact. In the past, churches acted more independently, were less trusting of parachurch organizations, and were more loyal to their denomination.

Now, many of these walls are being broken down and cooperative partnerships across faith tribes are becoming the norm. Committed ministry partnerships allow a small congregation to experience a large impact both locally and globally. They also permit large churches to be more effective with their resources.

  1. Do you have a plan to reach more while building less?

Smaller buildings create more cash flow. One of the major contributors to limited financial resources is church debt. When congregations wisely under build in order to multiply services, tremendous amounts of resources are released for new ministries, staff positions, mission opportunities, and multisite development.

Ministry is more fun when you have more liquid resources. As land and building costs continue to increase, more efficient use of space and dollars will become the norm. Even large churches are learning how to multiply in smaller venues.

  1. How is your church making disciples according to its unique calling?

Uniqueness is being celebrated. Thirty years ago, almost every church looked alike. When it came to meeting times, styles, and programming, worship offerings were pretty much the same. As the church became more contemporary, only a few popular ministry models were adopted because few knew how to create a different kind of church.

Today, we have entered a time when leaders are dreaming biblically sound visions in fresh ways. These visions are being lived out down the street and around the world. Technology brings everything in real time and allows us to get there quickly.

Like never before, the eyes of church leaders are open to explore their unique God-given vision and calling. Success is now measured in disciple-making and community impact rather than building size or budgets.

There has never been a better time to lead a church. Large or small, urban or rural, local or dispersed, every church can make an impact locally and globally. How will the questions above challenge you to live small and dream big?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd McMichen

Todd McMichen has served for over 30 years in a variety of roles in the local church, doing everything from planting churches to lead pastor. While on staff he conducted two major capital campaigns helping to guide his local churches through sizable relocation projects. Those two churches alone raised over $35,000,000. Since 2000, Todd has been a well-established stewardship and generosity campaign coach, as well as a conference leader and speaker. Todd is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic College in West Palm Beach, FL and Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife Theresa, and their two kids, Riley and Breanna. You can contact Todd at todd@auxano.com or 205-223-7803.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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