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Monday, April 1, 2013

"Those Few Sheep": Pastors' Wives in Small Churches


This is for all the pastors' wives in small churches!!! We often hear ourselves saying that it's not about numbers. Yet, in our hearts, it's hard to not look at numbers sometimes. Amen?

Others may sneer at our attendance figures, too, declaring publicly that we're insignificant or ineffective. Or, they may just declare it quietly in their thoughts, as they dismiss us and anything we may have to say.

David faced similar ridicule, too, right before he faced Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17 we cringe along with him, as his oldest brother scolds him:
 28 ...“Why did you come here? Who’s taking care of those few sheep of yours in the desert? ..." (NCV)
Ouch! But we all know better. We know the rest of David's story! And God know the rest of our stories, too.

My family's story goes something like this:

When we switched denominations, we found ourselves starting over. My husband served bi-vocationally before moving up to a full time position. The next logical step would have been higher up, not down.

After 13 years helping that church turn the next corner or two, we moved across the country to a ... wait for it... *smaller* church. Not the typical aim of a pastoral couple, and it wasn't always our aim either.

 It was tempting to stay at our previous church, bask in the accomplishments, and coast. It was also tempting to hold out there until we could find somewhere bigger to serve. But neither option was the best use of our gifts. (And believe it or not, the smaller church was a better financial decision for us than staying, but that's a whole other post!)

Though frustrating at times, I do love small churches. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. I believe it takes a unique set of gifts and callings to minister well in them, just as it does serving in a larger church or a mega-church. What works in one setting doesn't always work in the other, and vice versa.

The thing to remember is that small churches are small for a reason -- maybe they're in a really small town; maybe they have some challenges to overcome from past hurts or controversies. That takes time -- lots of it, to build trust and confidence in your ability to lead them.

At our previous church, a former colleague of my husband's told him to give the church three years to turn around; and if nothing happened, to leave. Honestly, we thought that was giving up too soon, and we were right.

The church did turn around, but it took seven years before people began to realize that he wasn't just another revolving-door pastor. It took that long to really start gaining trust. It took being there and walking people through their darkest hours.

I have more to say, but I'll end there for now. What about you? Are you in a small church? Do you love it or hate it right now?

-rg-

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