Most small churches and their ministry leaders are overworked. As I wrote about before in “5 Ways to Strengthen Your Small Struggling Church“, the average church size in America is 75 people and 99.5% of churches have fewer than 2,000 members. In almost every single one of those churches, a few dedicated people carry the majority of the weight and shoulder the heaviest burdens. Whether the root of the problem in your “thin-stretched” church is laziness, unqualified leaders, or sheer lack of manpower – a solution is needed to maintain healthy leaders and a healthy church. While there are a plethora of possible solutions, especially considering that every church and every situation is unique, here are a few suggestions for when your church leadership is stretched too thin.
1. Take a step back and evaluate.
Most churches are trying to do too much, including yours. The temptation becomes even stronger to try to offer something for everyone when the majority of our consumeristic church culture expects the local church to provide any and every possible ministry. People leave small churches all the time because larger wealthier churches have more options. Please hear me small churches and small church leaders – Do not try to be those churches! You can’t do it all. Find what you do well and do it excellently. Take a step back and spend time evaluating the ministries and efforts of the church. Figure out what you do well and what you don’t do so well and refocus all your time and energy on a few things that you can do excellently.
2. Stop doing some good things.
If your church is stretched too thin and a small number of people are carrying the majority of the load, you will most likely need to stop doing some good things. The fact is, most of the ministries in your church are doing at least some good. But doing too many good things stifles your church’s ability to a few great things. After you have spent time evaluating everything that your church is trying to do, take a brave step and be prepared and willing to stop doing things that are ineffective or are simply taking too much out of your leaders for too little fruit. Will people be upset? Yes. Will people’s feelings get hurt when you decide to cut the budget from their ministry? Yes. Be cautious, be tactful, and remind people whose money it really is and whose church it really is. In order to give your burden bearers a breather, you probably will need to stop doing some good things.
3. Pray expectantly, work diligently.
Don’t forget to spend time asking God to provide laborers for the harvest. He cares about the burdens of small struggling churches, especially those carrying more than their share. Pray fervently and expect God to provide exactly what you need in order to accomplish what He has planned for your church.
As you pray, continue to work as well. As you pray for laborers, purposefully and intentionally seek out potential leaders and laborers. Disciple younger believers and train them up in maturity and wisdom so that they be groomed for and step into leadership positions. Pray expectantly, work diligently.
When a few people carry most of the load and the function of each ministry depends on the presence of one or two leaders, it is absolutely vital that those leaders remember to rest. The world won’t end if you cancel for a week. The church won’t die if you take a week of vacation. Sometimes your leaders may be able to go long stretches without needing rest, other times they may need more frequent breaks. Make sure that those carrying the majority of the weight know that they have the freedom to take a week off – to have a date night with their spouse instead or take their family for a trip on a long weekend. Make rest a part of the weekly, monthly, and yearly routine at your church. If you do, everyone will be better off and your church will be a healthier place.
In small churches we often talk about the 20/80 rule – 20% of the people do 80% of the work and give 80% of the offering. This reality is one that we must figure out how to deal with in our churches to avoid becoming unhealthy churches filled with and led by unhealthy people. These are just a few suggestions for churches where this is especially true.
What would you add to the list? How have you dealt with this problem in your church?