Were you recently appointed as the new pastor of a small church?
Over the summer, I’ve met with new pastors, freshly ordained, who have been appointed to very small churches in rural areas, or some churches in urban pockets that have been in decline for years.
What are some possible ways the small church pastor can help grow the church through evangelism?
First, undergirding each of these ideas with the work of prayer. That’s a given as I raise these ideas. Pastoring and evangelism is a spiritual work. You will not get far without being filled with the Holy Spirit and seeking a fresh filling on a regular basis.
The other assumption is that you are a pastor worthy of following. Not everyone is skilled to pastor, and not everyone is a good leader. There are times when appointments or calls are not a good fit. Prayerfully consider if you are in the right place to utilize your gifting
That being said, let me suggest a few avenues of evangelism for the small church pastor.
1. Call on church members that have left in the last few years.
Your church may have had members leave under previous pastorates due to all sorts of different issues. Sometimes, people just drop out and no one remaining knows why.
Consider calling on former church members who have left. You might send a letter to everyone introducing yourself as the new church pastor and that you’d like to arrange a visit with them. They might call and come to your office, or you might be invited to their home. However you arrange the visit, the point is take the time to visit.
Your purpose would be to introduce yourself as the new pastor of their former church. You might hear their story of why they left. They may have left over reasons of conflict or a mis-understanding.
But sometimes, you’ll simply find someone who dropped out because they were overlooked for too long. Your visit may reinspire a fresh desire to visit.
While you visit, you may also end up doing some healing prayer ministry or find another spiritual need.
You might encounter someone who doesn’t know Christ, but thinks they are a Christian because they’ve grown up in church.
You may find that the former members have transitioned and gotten involved in another church. Celebrate that. Offer to pray with them before leaving as an act of closure.
Keep this in mind: their reason for leaving may reveal some of the unhealthy issues in your church. Are you prepared to pray through and deal with those issues?
Nothing can take the place of of such personal contact with former members that have dropped out of church.
You will encounter some bitterness, but don’t take it personally. It might be the opportunity to work on forgiveness and healing.
2. Love the people who still attend the church
Some church people could be demoralized because the church is not yet growing. As you seek to express care and concern for those who have left, love those who have remained faithful to the church and it’s mission, in spite of the challenges.
You will be challenged by the strong personalities, the conflicting ideas, and possibly the complaining that has become the norm.
If you are the new small church pastor, you’ll need to show love.
Then lead them forward. As you begin to personally reach new people for Christ, you’ll need to lead your current congregation in
- welcoming new people,
- making changes to old systems
- adapting to the changes that will come.
Do this in a context of love. It won’t be easy.
3. Spend time in the community.
Find a way to spend regular time out in the community. At this point of my life, I’m choosing to exercise regularly, and be a regular face at the park (I don’t use the gym). I’m getting to know people that way, some of whom are wanting to spend more time with me.
You might spend the same time at a coffee house, at a restaurant, or some other regular gathering place of people.
In some communities, that might be a civic organization, a volunteer group, or some affinity group gathered around a hobby. Listen to how this pastor spends time in the community
Lead your church by modeling evangelistic behavior by being out in the community.
I once coached a small pastor in personal evangelism over a few months. The result of spending intentional time in the community was 2 new baptisms. Listen A small church pastor tells stories of evangelism.
4. Be Intentional in your personal Evangelism.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be only at 4pm on Fridays. Rather, talking about your faith should be part of every day life.
I get to talk a lot with pastors at conferences I give or attend, and often on the telephone as well about some of their challenges with personal evangelism.
This is what I hear from pastors about their personal evangelism
- “I don’t have time for personal evangelism.”
- “I’m not good at doing this evangelism thing.”
- “I wish I could get out of the office and actually talk with people.”
- “I wish I had learned this in seminary.”
- “I have no experience in personal evangelism, so how am I supposed to lead it in my church”
There can be a variety of reasons why pastors have a hard time with evangelism.
Even though your church members will take up a lot of your time, don’t forget to be intentional to look for ways to share the gospel as you go.
5. Have a Friends and Family Day
Shortly after you get going, organize a special Sunday where intentional effort is made to re-invite former members who are no longer connected to a church. Make every effort to use that event to launch a new sermon series, a new small group program, or some other “Come back” event after the initial service.
Even if your former members come for a visit, rejoice they have come.
Take the opportunity to clearly present the gospel as part of the sermon.
You might include pictures of the past, and find ways to tell the story of the congregation via the pictures. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but enough to tell the story of the church faithfully and remind the gathered people of why that church exists.
There is no single solution for the small church pastor
These are simply some ideas that have been tried and found effective.
Others can chime in with more advice, but this list is simply a place to start.
As you pray and discern the leading of God, you’ll receive the wisdom that you need to handle the church that is front of you.
It will not always be easy, but you will see God’s hand in what you are doing.
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