Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Good things in small packages...

Smallness is often under appreciated.  I like it when the folks at my local branch remember my name and know who I am.  I do not like it when I have to call through a menu que to speak with someone a thousand miles away when I do certain business with that same bank.  As much as I see benefits to a multi-national bank, I do not want to be one customer number in a bank too big to fail.  I want to talk to Jeanette and Kat.  It reminds me of my small town roots in Nebraska.  I value that.

It seems that most first time visitors to a congregation appreciate a certain amount of anonymity.  But after that, they appreciate on being known.  I work hard to get to know the names of my people and call about 85-90% of the folks on Sunday morning by first name.  Sometimes I feel like I am approaching the limits of my memory chips -- or just getting old.  One great virtue of the small congregation is knowing and being known.

Having grown up in a small parish and having served in a small parish for my first 13 years as a Pastor, another benefit of smallness is ownership.  A small congregation does not depend upon paid staff like larger parishes do.  They know that if you are going to have a nursery, you will need to staff it or if the stall ran out of toilet paper you better get a new one or if you spilled coffee on the floor you will need to clean it up.  Larger congregations make it easy to think that these chores belong to "somebody else."

It is a healthy thing to be fully invested in the church and it is not so healthy to be detached from it -- as if you belonged but only to receive and not to give of yourself.  Small congregations generally count on and encourage this kind of ownership.  In exchange for your sense of responsibility, you belong.  If you belong, it comes with certain responsibilities.  Larger congregations tend to struggle to instill this kind of ownership and responsibility over the parish, its facilities and its mission.

Some are quick to write the obituary for the small parish.  Not me.  I think there is a lot of life there and a lot of lessons to be learned by those of us in larger congregations (with over 200-250 in attendance).  So, if you are in a small parish and often feel like you are never big enough or good enough, let me encourage you.  Do the best you can and let the Lord deal with the results of your witness and works of mercy.  Which is the way it should be anyway!


Jeremy Loesch said...

I've really been enjoying reading your blog. You have very interesting pieces and provide links to other thought-provoking items.

And today...thank you for the encouragement.


Anonymous said...

I serve as a pastor of a small congregation. About 55 of the faithful are at worship on Sundays.
There are aggravating dynamics in a small church to be sure. Like a close-knit family, tensions can run hot at times. You need a can-do, make-do attitude. Forget about having the latest and greatest office equipment. You, shepherd, will get to shovel the snow and mow the lawn. Your weaknesses won't remain undiscovered for long and your people will be pleased to remind you, jokingly, to bring you back down to earth if need be. Financially, it can be scratch and claw. Brothers in multi-staffed congregations will wonder how come you don't have the wide array of specialized ministries they consider essential. All that said, you will find out that your people will allow you generous time to study. They will see your growth as a servant of Christ stems from your in-depth love of His Word. So, there are going to be pluses and minuses. The pluses will win out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement. While we want to grow, small is still great.

Anonymous said...

The rural parishes of LCMS will
have to adjust for survival. Many
will have to swallow their pride
and find another parish to form
dual parishes with one pastor.