By: Martha Lawley
I love that God makes each local church unique. We find in today’s churches countless variations including size, location, facilities, leadership, cultural practices, and ministry styles. Even within these categories we find wide diversity. For example, so-called smaller churches (less than 250 members) are each unique. Some gather in rural settings while others meet in urban or suburban areas. Some have older members while others have more young people. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all this diversity. Wouldn’t it be simpler if all churches were alike? I admit I used to think one ministry goal was to help churches look more alike. However, I’ve come to believe diversity among local churches is part of God’s great plan to build His kingdom. He has a unique plan for each church, strategically positioning and equipping her accordingly. I also believe ministry to women is an important part of this divine plan.
Over the next couple weeks, we’ll share articles designed to encourage women in smaller churches as they seek and follow God’s direction for ministry. My desire is to offer a balanced approach that recognizes the unique dynamics of a smaller church—her strengths as well as her struggles. I’ve discovered that some of the greatest obstacles we face in smaller-church ministry spring from our own attitudes. Therefore, we’ll begin by examining some common attitudes that can hinder women’s ministry in smaller churches. We’ll then consider some tender words of encouragement from Jesus and conclude with practical suggestions for women’s ministry in smaller churches.
When I attend a women’s event at a larger church, I cannot help but be impressed with what I see—the facility, the ministry opportunities, and the “If only we had these resources in our small church,” I’ve often thought. It can be mind numbing to visit a church that employs more people than the entire membership of your church! I don’t think I’m the only one who has felt this way. Big churches often have this kind of effect on those of us from churches with smaller congregations.
If we were totally honest, many of us would have to admit that, deep down, we’ve bought into the notion that bigger really is better. And who could blame us? Just about everywhere we turn, we’re bombarded with a thousand variations of the bigger is better theme. For example, “A bigger home makes a family happier.” “The more stuff I have the better my life will be.” “Would you like to super-size that?”
The belief that bigger is always better usually produces an unhealthy ministry mind-set that destines women’s ministry in the smaller church to mediocrity. Comparing ourselves to larger church women’s ministries can cause us to doubt the value of our own ministry and resign us to a future of limited impact void of any great expectation. I’m convinced that God desires to accomplish great things through every church, regardless of size. As we will see, the real problem may be our definition of success.
As members of a smaller church, we must critically examine the bigger is better philosophy. Begin by asking yourself, “What does the Bible have to say concerning size?” I pray the articles we’ll share will help you discover or affirm God’s perspective of ministry in the smaller church. Doing so will allow us to move forward in effectively ministering to women.
Next week we’ll look at 3 immobilizing myths in smaller church women’s ministry.
This article is adapted from a chapter written by Martha Lawley and found in Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry compiled by Chris Adams.