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The Secret to Pull Your Small Church Out of Mediocrity

I challenge the attendees of my smaller-church workshops to focus the ministries of their congregation on one or two things they can do with excellence.

Many smaller churches are trying to do too many things.

Often, they are still structured as they were when they were a larger congregation and trying to do all the ministries they did back then.

Or they are trying to compete with the larger churches in the area in an effort to attract people. Either reason will get a small church in trouble.

They simply don’t have the resources to offer a lot of ministries. Such churches offer all kinds of excuses why some programs or ministries are not effective and fingers are pointed, but the bottom line is they just do not have the resources to do more than a few things.

When a church tries to do more than their resources allow, they end up doing a lot of mediocre things. Great ministries are built around excellence, not mediocrity.

Despite what many people believe, a small church can enjoy an excellent ministry, but only if they focus on doing those few things they can do with excellence.

Leaders in smaller churches need to take a hard look at their structure:

How many committees and boards are really necessary? Committees and boards focus on making sure things are done right, but are they doing the right things? Does their work actually contribute to achieving the mission and vision of the church?

Committees and boards do maintenance work; you need to free people up to do ministry.

I would guess that most churches could eliminate 80 percent of their committees and boards, and no one would be able to tell the difference.

How effective are the ministries your church currently offers? Many of those ministries exist today because at one time they provided excellent ministry opportunities for your church, but have you evaluated their effectiveness today?

Things change, and what was effective in the past may not be effective today.

When I was growing up, the churches in our area offered two-week Vacation Bible Schools (VBS), and our small church was full of kids both weeks.

Later, when I was a pastor, churches offered one-week VBS. Today, I see churches offering weekend VBS, one-night-a-week-for-a-month VBS and other alternatives.

Still, many complain that it’s hard to get the kids to come because there are so many other things for them to do. Maybe it’s time to consider if this is really a good use of our resources.

I’m not picking on Vacation Bible School. This is just one example of how things have changed over the years.

I know many churches that still have vibrant Vacation Bible School programs, and it would be a mistake for those churches to eliminate that ministry.

But what about your church? Is this a vibrant ministry in your church or is this one that needs to be changed or even eliminated for something that might be more productive?

Many smaller churches will have much more effective ministries if they can focus on a few things they can do with excellence rather than trying to be all things for all people.

For some churches, that may mean doing only one or two things, and that is all right if they can be done with excellence.

Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.