So You Are the New Pastor of a Small Church, Now What?

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?

Evangelism for the New Small Church Pastor

Two Assumptions

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.

Read 6 ways to organize a friends and family day.

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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Video: How to find the best evangelism course for your church

In the video, I answer a reader question about how to find the best evangelism training course for your local church.

Listen in:

[Feed Readers may need to click through]

Recommended Resources

My own Evangelism Teaching on DVD

DVD Evangelism ConversationsI have a DVD set that focuses on a conversational style evangelism that would be effective in:

  • casual conversation between friends
  • causal conversation between strangers

Read more about the Effective Evangelism Conversations in the store

It is a recording of a live seminar I gave in 2012.



Video: Dr. Michael Green examines What is the gospel

Dr Michael Green Evangelism and the Early ChurchMichael Green has had a tremendous influence on my ministry through his books that I read while in seminary.

Michael gave the first talk at a recent confidence in the gospel event.  If you have 18 spare minutes, listen to his challenge to us to be faithful to the Apostolic Gospel.

Michael Green provides the keynote address exploring the question, “What is the Gospel?

He explores how the apostles approached the gospel by looking at the three word roots that are found in the New Testament for spreading the Christian message:

  • euangelizō, meaning ‘to tell good news’,
  • kēryssō, meaning ‘to proclaim’, and
  • martyreō meaning ‘to witness’.

The consultation, entitled, “A Faithful Gospel: How should we understand what the gospel is?” is the first in a series of five, taking place as part of the Evangelical Alliance’s ‘Confidence in the Gospel’ initiative.

(Feed readers will need to click through to watch).



  1. When we communicate the gospel, is it heard as good news? What can we do to ensure people see that the good news of Jesus is good news for them?
  2. How can we make sure we are staying faithful to the whole of the apostolic gospel, not just the parts that suit us?
  3. 2000 years later, how can we be part of the process of ‘bearing witness to the facts’ of the good news of Jesus?


  1. How does the gospel we present compare to the gospel presented by the early Church? What is missing from our presentation of the gospel?
  2. In terms of how we communicate the gospel, what can we learn from Michael’s overview of the early Church’s approach?
  3. The apostles placed great importance on connecting the gospel to the Old Testament. How should we do this, when our audience has a limited understanding of the scriptures?

Free Download for further study on What is the Gospel?

More questions and a synopsis is found at the Evangelical Alliance Website:

 Books by Michael Green:

Video: How Your Church Can Grow in Evangelism

As a church leader, what if you don’t excel in personal evangelism?

Can your congregation still enjoy conversion growth?

Watch these three pastors in this 10-minute video about how churches can grow in evangelism.

Darrin Patrick, Mark Dever and Matt Chandler spend some time talking about their different evangelism approaches.

You might like these books for further reading:

Personal Evangelism

Get More Church Invitations: Relevant Sermons

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

How preaching leads to more church invitationsRecently, I was asked via Ask EvangelismCoach about ways to increase the number of invitations to church that members give to their network of friends.

Review these posts to get on board with some of the answers

  1. More church invitations: Friends and Family
  2. Get More Church Invitations: Prayer
  3. I want you to come to my church

Today, I want to add number 4.

Understandable and Relevant Sermons

The preached sermon is the focus of our worship gatherings.

If you are the pastor, take a review of your sermons.

a. Are your sermons simple to understand?

In other words, will my friend understand the sermon?

Have you explained theological terms in plain language?

Are you keeping the theology in the textbook, but making theology accessible to people who may not understand?

I think some modern preachers do this well.  I listen to podcasts from Andy Stanley, David Jeremiah, Tim Keller.  These men explain theological terms and concepts in words that are easy to understand.

In the church we are currently visiting, the preaching pastor does this well as he has been teaching on core doctrines of the church.

In the church we are helping plant, our teaching pastor does this as well as he connects theology with real life.

I’ve also listened to some sermons that felt like doctoral dissertations, full of seminary language, full of theological language, and full of concepts that really don’t make sense outside of Christian circles.

My preaching professor once said something to the effect that sermon preparation is digging in the mine, but the sermon is the cleaned up jewel that is easy to see. I’ve always kept that in mind as I strive to keep my sermons simple to understand.

Jesus taught with simple illustrations that were grounded in real life. His stories were simple, but left the listener with profound stirrings and thoughts.

If your members find that your sermons are simple to understand, you make those sermons accessible to their friends.

You want your church members to say “My friend needs to hear this.”

b. Are your sermons relevant?

In other words, will my friend get something out of the sermon that applies to their life?

Or are your sermons so disconnected from real life, it’s just a black hole of information that serves little purpose?

I’ve been in churches where tight theology is more important than relevance.

I’ve visited churches where sermons were educational exercises in university level thinking about economics.

I’ve heard sermons that were running commentary on current events and arguments over which presidential candidate should be elected.

I’ve heard sermons on spiritual warfare that would freak-out a non-Christian who is exploring faith.

Is your sermon applicable to real life situations that my friend might benefit from?

This is where sermon series on personal finance, marriage, relationships, and other life topics are a good source of a preaching material.

Even for those who favor expository verse by verse preaching need to make the effort to connect their sermon points to real life, either in application or illustration.

If your members find that your preaching connects the word of God to real life situations, you’ll find your church members regularly thinking “My friend needs to hear this too.”

c.  Are your sermons accessible?

It used to be that sermons were recorded to cassettes and cds, copied, and then passed around.

In today’s technology enviornment, there is no reason you cannot put your sermons on your church website for easy sharing.

If you are still using cassettes or not recording them at all, consider this video:

Resources for easy sermon capture:

There are plenty of benefits of recording and putting your sermons as an MP3 at your website.

  • Your members can get into the archive at any time and listen via their computer or download it to a device.
  • The links to the sermon audio can be emailed and shared in social networks.
  • Your members who are out of town can listen to the sermon on-line.
  • Your members who have moved away can still hear your sermons online or through their downloads
  • Visitors can catch up on prior sermons online in the series.
  • Church Visitors can get a sample of your preaching style.
  • The Word of God is distributed and God can use it wherever people choose to listen.
  • Your archives are on-line for 24 hour global access.
  • No more additions to a clumsy tape storage system.

With sermon recording now this easy and inexpensive, perhaps it’s time to start getting the Word back out there with some low cost recorders.

Your Next Steps to Sermons that attract visitors

As you prepare your sermons, think about the unchurched person who will be visiting this Sunday and ask yourself, what might you need to explain better for them.

Find ways to start getting your sermons online and accessible in other ways than just showing up on Sundays.