The Healthy Church Hub

Do you consider being a small church something to embrace or a stage to move on from? In this episode of Church Leadership Lab, we talk with Karl Vaters as he shares how to thrive as a small church and feel empowered to lead right where God has you. 

Defining a Small Church

Small is a relative term and can be defined in many different ways. Karl Vaters describes a small church in two ways:

  1. A congregation of 50.
  2. A congregation of 150.

These two congregations are considered small because although they are different, they have much more in common in how they are pastored. Within these two congregations, the pastoral capacity is the same. For one, the pastor can know everybody and be a part of everything. A higher relational connection can also be made between people within the congregation to help them feel more known, seen, and cared for. The main focus of a small church is not to grow to be bigger but to maintain health and be great no matter the size of the church. 

Benefits and Challenges 

Did you know that 90% of churches worldwide are considered small churches? Being a small church isn’t a season to try to get through as fast as possible, but it is something to embrace and own. Here are a few benefits and challenges of being a small church.


  • Relational connection for congregation members can happen every time the church gathers together. People can engage and build relationships at a Sunday service or a small church event.
  • People can use their giftings in a higher capacity. There are more leadership opportunities available and more ways to serve and give.
  • You are known, seen, and cared for in a healthy small church. It’s harder to hide. You can’t be anonymous at a small church.


  • It’s easy to be discouraged as a church leader within a smaller church. Most church leaders’ mindsets are to get bigger and grow—Minister where God has placed you and embrace your identity as a small church pastor.
  • It is challenging to rest. A small church pastor may feel pressure to be at every event and lead in multiple areas. Fighting for a break and finding time to relax is essential.

Ways to Rest as a Small Church Pastor

A small church has unique abilities that a large church doesn’t have; however, many pastors may find themselves trying to be a smaller version of a big church. This can lead to burnout, unrest, and poor execution due to limited capacity. Here are three steps to declutter and find rest.

  1. Embrace being a small church and stop trying to be a big church.
  2. Take inventory of everything you do and determine what is necessary and may not be needed.
  3. Figure out what you do best and focus on that.

The responsibilities of a small church pastor can feel overwhelming but be encouraged. God isn’t calling your church to be anything more than the best possible version your church can be.

Measuring the Health of a Small Church

It can be easy to look at metrics and numbers of giving, baptisms, or attendance to measure how healthy your church is. But for smaller churches, this can be a real challenge. Small churches don’t have a sample size large enough to measure a church’s health, and the numbers tend to break down and are inaccurate due to the size. In small churches, metrics are far less valuable, and as a church leader, you have to look more at the qualitative than the quantitative.

Conversations are one of the best ways to get a measure of the health of a church. As you lead, it’s essential to ask good questions to those you are leading alongside to get a pulse on how things are going within different areas of the church. It’s also essential to have regular conversations to evaluate what is going well and poorly and make changes to improve the church.

No matter the size of your church, it’s essential to have your boots on the ground and be purposeful in connecting, having conversations, and engaging with the people in your church. This will give a more accurate health measure for small churches and allow you to learn more about those within your church.

Final Five:

Book: Dirt Matters by Jim Powell
Last Thing You Listened To: Old School Gospel Soul Music
Technology: Canva
Quote: “The gospel isn’t a good idea; it’s good news.” 
One Thing You’d Communicate to Church Leaders: Don’t worry about telling your story so much as telling people about the part you get to play in God’s story.