Ed Stetzer Interviews Karl Vaters on His Book ‘Small Church Essentials’

Ed: How did you come to write Small Church Essentials?

Karl: Small churches are, by far, the most common expression of the gathered body of Christ. But they are highly undervalued and grossly under-resourced. I know because I’ve been pastoring in small churches for most of my ministry, including the small church I’ve been at for the last 25 years.

Despite the fact that we’re a healthy, vibrant, worshipping, missional church in very populated area, we’ve remained small.

That so-called ‘failure’ caused so much frustration and discouragement that I almost left the pastoral ministry. Then, a friend and counselor encouraged me to find ways of measuring church effectiveness beyond the numbers. That led me to write my first book, The Grasshopper Myth.

As I’ve continued to study, write, speak, and have conversations with thousands of fellow small church pastors, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how to do effective ministry within a small church context. The lessons from those interactions and my own experiences are the heartbeat of Small Church Essentials.

Ed: Why do you think it is so common for people to equate the size of a church with its level of health? Or as you put it, to filter everything through the “church growth lens.”

Karl: I think it’s based on some understandable, but faulty logic—namely, a healthy church will be fulfilling the Great Commission, which means it will grow numerically. That’s a reasonable theory. But any theory needs to be tested against reality. And when we do that, we discover that there are many churches who are fulfilling their role in the Great Commission without getting bigger for a wide variety of reasons.

Ed: How do you help pastors to shift their thinking from focusing on their church size to focusing on the health of their church?

Karl: Many pastors have given up in frustration after chasing the elusive goal of numerical success. But they’re not lazy. They just haven’t been given an alternative way of measuring success in ministry.

When they hear that numerical increase is not the only measure of health and effectiveness, they want to learn more and they’re thrilled to make that shift.

If you’re not sure if your motivations are based on numbers rather than health and effectiveness, consider this question: If you knew that what your church is doing would bless people and grow the kingdom of God even though it wouldn’t put more people in your church, would you still do it? If so, the motivation is probably health, not numbers. If not…

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Source: Christianity Today