One of the big mistakes that many church planters and small church pastors make (and I speak from experience), is trying to multiply ministries too quickly. Having come from a very large church (averaging over 1000 each Sunday) to start a new church (with 11 on our first Sunday, 7 of whom were not named Rasbeary), I had to learn the hard way to change my thinking of what constitutes an effective church program.
Since a few church planters and pastor friends read this blog from time to time, I thought I would give a few thoughts concerning the danger of multiplying ministries too soon in a small church. It is a strong temptation. For one thing, we want to help people, and we want to get people involved in ministry. We also tend to equate growth or success by the number of ministries we may have. Yet we may end up diluting our success in the long run by spreading ourselves, our people, and our ministry too thin.
For example, we supported a church planter for several years. I watched each month as his letter head changed with new ministries being added to a growing list, many of which had little to do with establishing the church that he had started. This young man had a vision for reaching his state but unfortunately he got away from building up the local church. I am not even sure if it is still in existence today.
In the first 5 years here at LBC, I made some of the same mistakes. We got started and got a core group of 50 together. It was not a strong 50, either; most of them have since gone the way of all the earth. Before I knew it, I was doing everything from a weekly bulletin to organizing my own homemade children’s program called “Harvest hands.” And it was a good program, too. It just took too much of my time. I also taught a weekly teen program, started a homeschool program, and among other things I threw in a bus ministry as well (although in my defense I was not driving it when we got started).
Now, it’s not easy to admit mistakes, which is probably why some never do, but if it will help some young preachers out there, I’d be happy to do so. In hindsight, the church was started with soulwinning, follow up, a simple Sunday School, and three simple services. I multiplied ministries, however, several of which I had to later shut down. Hey, I was excited, folks were excited, and I was overflowing with enthusiasm, so don’t be too hard on me. I even included a chapter on it in FROM ONE CHURCH PLANTER TO ANOTHER, which by the way is a free download here.
It might do some good for church planters or those reviving struggling works to take an inventory of what their church is doing. Even some “staple” ministries of our independent Baptist churches may not be as necessary as we think. For example, the children’s church is a good ministry. We have one and it is a blessing. We also have a bus ministry, so we have many kids in our ministry whose parents do not attend. Besides that, it is a good ministry for our preachers who get to preach and work with the young people, and our “church” kids and their parents like it. However, it is a luxury and not a necessity. If a church is new or small, I believe it is better to have one assembly of 30 than to have 15 in the adult service and 15 in the children’s church. Especially if the pastor’s wife is the one running it. Not that she shouldn’t; but that it might be best if visitors saw the pastor and his wife together on Sunday, and she might be of more help in there in the long run.
The bus ministry is something else that has its time and place in a new church. I do not believe you would be wise to bring 50 bus kids in to a church that has a drive in attendance of 20. Yes, 70 looks better than 20. But 50 bus kids do not make a church. Better perhaps to run a van and bring in 10 kids and have 30. Better still to focus on getting 70-100 to drive in and from those enlist some who will bring in a manageable number of bus kids.
And that foreign language ministry might wait until you have an English church firmly established too. Just a thought.
Don’t get mad at me. This is 100% the opinion of James Rasbeary, and my opinion doesn’t buy much. But it is worth considering. Are you spreading yourself too thin? Perhaps you need to refocus on a back to the basics approach.