A Little Whine Please / edited version

This is an edited version of an earlier post. It was edited b/c I misinterpreted information that I had received. Upon further reflection, and some deserved chastisement, I believe my writing was harsh, was born out of frustration, and misrepresented what LifeWay was trying to accomplish.

LifeWay recently conducted a study on small church ministry and presented their findings to 110 pastors in Lewisville N.C. Lifeway found the following 6 challenges to be the most daunting for small church pastors:

Here are the top 6 challenges to small church ministry that came from a sample group of pastors from across the Southern Baptist Convention. 1. Not enough time. 2. Resistance from the congregation to change. 3. Lack of commitment from members. 4. Too few workers in the church. 5. The church is too old. 6. Lack of money. Some of the lesser cited problems were: worldliness of the church, age of the pastor, too few people, and demographics.

Not enough time? Not enough money? All of the problems they cited could be present in any church anywhere in the world. The question is really this: What will our pastors do with the information? Will our pastors allow time constraints, money, and relational issues trump their call to preach the word and love the people. Will we as pastors whine about the problems or lead through them. WE NEED GOD-CALLED PASTORS who will lead as shepherds.

At a recent meeting at the Tennessee Baptist Convention our rural church affinity team met to discuss the challenges that small rural churches face.  Rural Pastors, Directors of Missions, laymen, and our state staff met to discuss Rural Church Ministry. We began to understand that the real problem in most small rural churches is LEADERSHIP! Instead of indicting our churches we indicted ourselves. Here are some of the observations that came out of our meeting:

1. Pastors need to understand the call. 2. Pastors need to be shepherds. 3. Pastors need to persevere. Pastors need to be willing to stay where God put them. They need to be willing to invest their lives. (Long intentional tenure) 4. Pastors need to understand their people. 5. Pastors need to be willing to be bi-vocational if God calls them to a place with little money. We observed that many of the problems that rural churches and small churches face is either tied to a lack of leadership or directly caused by poor leadership.

We also observed that the rural small church is, for the most part, a wonderful place to be with wonderful people to serve (there are always a few exceptions). There is a ton of heritage and hope found in our small and rural churches. Every church has problems and challenges. There are churches with worldly and difficult people in the country and in the city. There is never enough money, and there are never enough workers. You can either dwell on the problem and whine about it, or you can be patient and focus on the ability of God to bring lasting change. I pray that God raises a generation of faithful men.

Published in: on May 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm  Comments (16)  


  1. GUILTY! You got me here. I don’t mean to, it just comes out. Pastor’s conferences shouldn’t be gripe sessions, but unfortunately there is often nobody to vent to, and I do think everyone needs a place to vent. We can’t vent to our churches. We may vent to God I suppose. Who understands the vents better than other pastors in similar situations? It can be taken too far, however, and be “dwelt” on. It’s easy to get beaten down as a pastor, and it’s good to know that others get beaten up sometimes too. Know what I mean?

  2. Wow.

    It is too bad you missed the conference.

    The research asked the pastors their greatest challenges and the presentation was about that very thing– the challenges.

    A shame you see that as whining. I see it as information from small church pastors serving faithfully in their fields of service. More research to come… to help small churches in their incredibly important task.

    Ed Stetzer

  3. I am the worlds worst about complaining. I do know what you mean and some pastors get beaten down more than others but I think they are in the minority. I think when pastors get in a large group they have a bent toward the “misery loves company” concept. This is why I don’t go to a lot of pastors meetings anymore. Usually these gatherings have a tendency to make pastors (me) doubt themselves, God’s calling, and even God’s ability to change people. I have found that it is better for me to vent to one person who will help me refocus on my job instead of my frustrations.

  4. Fair enough– but the survey was not done at the meeting.

    It was done of a ramdom sample of pastors across the SBC and then reported at the meeting.

    I think you have unfairly characterized these pastors, using our research as the tool, and I think that is unfortunate.


  5. Mr Stetzer,
    I wish I had been at the conference. I will be looking forward to what the research uncovers. Small churches and rural churches are the backbone of our convention and they do, at times, struggle. More than anything, they desperately need pastors who will stick it out with them.

  6. Mr. Stezer,
    To those 110 pastors . . . I appologize. I pray your research at LifeWay will help pastors understand their calling to a rural or small location can last longer than the national average pastoral tenure and that leading through time issues, money issues, and relational issues is just part of the job. My goal and your goal is the same. . .healthy churches.

  7. Thanks, brother… we are in this together. The small church IS the SBC and we need to serve them more effectively. Thanks for that shared concern. God bless.


  8. Mike,
    You got Yoda (Ed Stetzer) to comment on your blog! Now I’m not just guilty of complaining, but envy as well! (JK).

  9. Do you think he will be cool with you calling him Yoda? I am sure that if you would just misinterpret some of his research and verbally attack a group of defenseless pastors like I did yesterday you too might recieve a visit from the Force. Hint: Using second hand information instead of the original source results in future appology.

    I still think we whine too much over issues that everyone deals with.

  10. I think he’d be honored. I didn’t make that designation for him up though. I’ll give your suggestion a try. You already got Stetzer, is there anyone else I could misrepresent in the hopes of drawing them to my blog? Shoot for the stars.

    Maybe we whine too much, but there is a very real challenge in our situations that are unique to our situations as well. We probably bring more of it on ourselves than we’d care to admit, but surely not all the fault for the way those challenges present themselves are to be laid at our feet (That was a very cumbersome sentence).

    Anyway, you zeal for the rural church is a great encouragement to me. I LOVE Little Mountain by the way. They’re “my people!.” Keep up the good work Mike.

  11. We do have unique stuff to unpackage and deal with as pastors. Perhaps there is a difference between whining and venting. Venting seeks a real God honoring solution while whinners just want to whine.

  12. There was a group of navy Seals on a covert operation in a foreign country. They were being sent to rescue some hostages. When they got to their destination, they ran in telling the people that they are Americans and were there to save them. However, the hostages just looked at them like they were crazy. No one got up to leave with them or anything. But then one of the Seals got an idea. He took off his helmet and set hit gun to the side and got down in the floor, laid right up close to a group of the hostages, put his arm around them, and softened the expression on his face. He staied there for a while until one of the hostages made eye contact with him. His whispered to that man, that he was an american sent to save him. And asked if he would leave with him. The hostage said yes and stood up. This continued until everyone stood up.
    The same is true about the role of a pastor. I think your assesment is right on Mike. And to frank about it, it doesn’t really matter what the problems are, what it boils down to is this: How down and dirty are you as a pastor willing to get to pursue the purpose of Chirst in your church? Stats are great for telling us what we are doing right and what we need to improve upon, but if no one is doing the dirty work in the fields to find solutions, what good are these stats, and why are we wasting our time with them (stats)?

  13. David,

    Stats can direct us initially. Hopefully they can lead us to ask the right questions of ourselves. Ultimately the pastor has to decide what he is going to do with the information.

  14. A 15 year old is killed in auto accident. A rural community and Academy in anguish and especially a family. A pastor’s model of ministry will determine everything he does in response to the situation.

    Ed is right. The research was not an issue of complaining. It was a report of specific answers to specific questions. However, I forgive you for missing that because those statements are not usually given as answers but as complaints. Hence the importance of standing for a shepherd model of pastoral ministry. Are we to assume that resistance to change is a bad thing? Are we to assume that a 70 year old deacon who has served the church for 40 years is an obstacle for kingdom work because he is not convinced that the church needs to follow the latest “it” strategy after years of watching the “it” strategy bring disaster?

    I think that you are spot on Mike. Pastoral leadership working within a congregational frame work is the call we must heed!!

  15. Perry,

    The research will be delivered to our pastors. I would imagine that it will be well done, factual, and full of statistacal insight. At the end of the day though, a pastor will have to decide what he is going to do with the information. Will that information encourage him to a greater love for the people God has called him to our will it reinforce the temptation to move on to greener pastorates based on the external challenges that he is facing?

    My point, which is taking me a long time to get to, is this: Pastors need reasons to stay. They already have 10 reasons, based on the challenges they face, to leave. Everyone has the “fight or flight” response . . . all I am trying to say is lets encourage the fight in our pastors instead of the flight.

  16. Exactly! I agree.

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