As a small-town pastor, I love the people in my community. I want nothing more—nor less!—than for them to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to believe upon it, and to be transformed by it. Every single one of them. But being a small church in a small town means that we have limited resources to accomplish that goal. What to do? How can we manage God’s resources for the greatest possible effectiveness and make a God-sized impact on our community?
The first lie in managing resources for the small town small church is that bigger equals better, that more people reached through less money spent is automatically the best use of our resources. We have limited money, so we have to make the biggest splash that we can with that money. Big events. Big worship. Big advertising campaigns. In other words, do it like the big-city churches do.
In industry that’s called “economy of scale,” and it simply means that making 1 billion widgets at a time means that each individual widget is cheaper to make than if you had a production run of only 100. And of course in industry that makes sense: design costs, worker wages, production time, advertisement . . . those are all quantifiable, unchangeable production costs that mean you can make more in a single run, you can make the most widgets for the cheapest price possible. Economy of scale wins.
Except your small town isn’t an industry, and the people that live there aren’t widgets. Your small town isn’t governed by production values and customer quotas, and so the rules of “economy of scale” simply get in the way of your efforts to try and reach out to them.
Your small town is a network of relationships. In your small town relationships are king. If that weren’t true people wouldn’t stay. But instead you have in your small town 2, 3, 4 generations of a families that have lived there all their lives. Because of relationships. Not because of slick advertising slogans. Not because of production values. Not even because of amazing opportunities. Relationships.
How would you change your approach to ministry if both you and your small town, small church could understand and articulate that truth?