February 25, 2016 Ryan Stigile

How Small Church Thinking Holds Big Churches Back

Small Church A via Pexels

“We’ve had significant growth but we still think like a small church.”

I’ve heard that sentiment many times from leaders. In each instance, it pointed to a common challenge that comes with church growth:

We often lead from our past experience more than our current circumstance.

In many cases, this is valuable. But when your current experience is different (and larger) than your past, your past thinking can quickly become a barrier. To lead at a higher level, we must think in a different way. Here are 10 ways your team may still be thinking like a small church:

Decision Thinking

1) Every individual should speak into every decision.

When you were smaller, it wasn’t an issue to get everyone in the same room. Today, that’s not possible. Place those with the right gifts over each ministry area. Trust them to get the input they need to make good decisions.

2) Every decision must flow from or through the senior pastor.

This worked fine when decisions were less frequent. Now, every decision must still fit the vision set by the senior pastor. But that vision should clear enough that team members can easily recognize what does and does not fit.

3) Deep pockets deserve deep influence.

God provides for the vision as He chooses through the people whom He chooses. Stay more focused on the vision He gave than the people He gives through.

Ministry Thinking

4) We don’t need business principles. We have the early church as an example.

If the Apostle Paul walked into your building this Sunday, do you really think he’d say, “This looks familiar!” You’ve built a multi-faceted organization with an invaluable mission. Now you are responsible for managing it well.

5) The best solutions come from bigger churches.

It’s great to learn from bigger churches. But as I’ve shared before, copying practices without fully understanding them can do more harm than good. Filter outside ideas through your strategy and don’t be afraid to innovate on your own.

6) All our ministries should receive equal promotion.

Your bulletin hasn’t gotten any bigger since you grew, but I’ll bet you offer more ministries than you used to. Determine the few best next steps for your weekend attendees and promote them heavily.

Financial Thinking

7) Every purchase requires prior approval.

With a smaller budget, you probably needed to approve every purchase to protect limited funds. Today, your financial systems may be slowing down progress. Set a maximum amount each staff member can spend without prior approval.

8) Excellence is too expensive.

Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have. You have been trusted with more resources than you had as a small church. Now more is required of you.

Staff Thinking

9) “All hands on deck” is how anything gets done.

When you were smaller, every major project required everyone’s involvement. Today, you have dedicated leaders to maximize each area of ministry. Give them the margin to stay focused on the priorities you have set for their areas.

10) We need to hire the first decent fit.

It always surprises me when leaders act as if no one would want to work for their church or move to their community. Most high-performers are looking for a place with a great vision rather than a place with a great past. Additionally, many leaders overlook great potential staff currently serving as volunteers. (Not sure where to find great leaders? These guys can help.)

 

Which of these are you experiencing right now? What would you add as #11? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash

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Ryan Stigile

Ryan Stigile serves as the Executive Pastor of Rock Bridge Community Church, a 5-campus church with campuses in Georgia and Tennessee. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University. He lives in Dalton, GA with his wife Emily and their daughter, Addison.
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