June 26, 2017 Chris Surratt

Why Small Churches Get Stuck: The Senior Pastor Does All The Ministry

Pastors who don't practice sustainable church leadership will eventually burn out of ministry. Here are 5 reasons why you can't do it all.

“If you want something done right, you have do it yourself.”

While I don’t remember actually saying that statement out loud, I definitely practiced it as I planted a church in 2004. This was a church plant, so it wasn’t in the budget to hire experienced staff to facilitate the major ministries in our church. We had also not intentionally developed volunteer leaders yet. So, this meant:

  • I was the music director
  • I was the worship leader
  • I put the media together for Sundays
  • I trained the small group leaders
  • I opened and closed the doors every Sunday
  • I met with every person who wanted to meet with a pastor
  • And… I prepared and preached a message each week

That weekly rhythm was not scalable for the church nor sustainable for me. Almost every small church senior pastor that I work with now is hitting the same wall.


Letting go of the work of ministry is one of the hardest transitions a pastor will make, but for the health of the church and the pastor, it has to happen.


Here are five reasons why you can’t do it all.

1. It’s unbiblical.

While I thought what I was doing was the expectation of a small church pastor, but it was actually unbiblical. Ephesians 4:12 says that pastors are to train the believers to do work of the ministry, not do all of the work of ministry.

2. It’s selfish.

The people in the congregation will never discover their spiritual gifts if the pastor and staff continue to do everything. We are discipling people when we release them to lead ministry.

3. It stops growth.

The church will only grow to the leadership capacity of the senior leader. That lid is around 200 people for the best of leaders. The only way to move past it is to raise up leaders and share the ministry load. Moses, one of the greatest leaders ever, learned that hard lesson from his father-in-law, Jethro, in Exodus 18.

4. It’s unhealthy.

Pastors who continue to carry the entire burden of ministry will eventually burn out of ministry. This is not sustainable church leadership. There are numerous examples of broken marriages and lives pointing back to unhealthy church expectations. Some of those expectations are congregation driven, some are self inflicted.

5. It drives off good leaders.

A gifted leader will only stay so long in an environment where he or she is not allowed to lead. And, this just exasperates the problem. The longer the senior pastor stays in control, the fewer potential leaders he has to lean on.

Senior pastor, if you desire health and growth in your life and in the life of your church, please stop doing everything.

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Chris Surratt

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.
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