6 Honest Realities of Pastoring a Small Church

6 Honest Realities of Pastoring a Small Church


Leading a church is hard work.

It’s true. And it’s an understated reality.

The expectations for a pastor are often extraordinarily high, the resources available are often extraordinarily low, and the spotlight on their life is often extraordinarily bright.

At the same time, leading a church is also one of the most exciting roles. Seeing people take steps on their walk with Jesus and serve the community can be an absolutely incredible privilege.

Recently, we asked some of the pastors who are part of 95Network Membership to share in one sentence what they’re currently feeling about leading their church. The responses were candid, and we thought it would be beneficial to share some words that consistently came up in their responses.

So here are 6 honest words these pastors used to describe the role of leading a small church:

1) Overwhelming.

“I love the opportunity to help others come to know God, but I’m currently overwhelmed because, even in a small church, it’s a huge responsibility and a lot of work.”

This was the word that came up the most in pastors’ responses. The reality is that pastoring a small church can sometimes feel like you’re in over your head. Dealing with difficult people, managing your time between pastoral and leadership duties, and feeling like you have to be on-call can all be overwhelming.

2) Beautiful.

We love one pastor’s response:

“When the right combination of personnel and strategy come together, it’s a beautiful thing. When He is orchestrating it, it’s a beautiful, fulfilling, and restful work.”

Think about what Paul says in Acts 20:28: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Pastoring a church is such a beautiful opportunity to serve the people of God and see first-hand lives changed forever as people encounter Jesus.

3) Exhilarating.

“Leading a small church is a humbling, exhilarating, and exhausting responsibility.”

As you steadily fulfill your mission and see people encounter Jesus, it can be incredibly exciting. Walking alongside people as they take steps with Christ is encouraging, humbling, and inspiring, and really makes it all worth it.

4) Exhausting.

“I am currently feeling excited, but also exhausted.”

The truth is that sometimes pastoring a church can simply be tiring. It can feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions all the time. And especially in small churches, there are often people who are bi-vocational, leading a church while working another job. It can be a lot. And if you’re not careful, it can be easy to put off taking the time necessary to get rested and rejuvenated.  

5) Frustrating.

“If I’m honest, the right words would be extremely frustrating.”

Here’s the reality: Pastoring a church can often be frustrating. People disappoint you, initiatives fail, and conflict occurs. Sometimes the church doesn’t look exactly how you hoped it would.

But we must always remember this: Your worth is not dependent upon your ministry’s “success.” Ministry is what you do; it is not who you are.

6) Rewarding.

“When it comes down to it, I would say that pastoring my church has been so rewarding.”

Despite the sometimes intense responsibilities and feelings of being overwhelmed, the results ultimately are so rewarding. Be encouraged, pastor. You have the opportunity to change your community, one person at a time. Paul is telling the truth when he says in Ephesians 3:20 that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” — it’s so fun to be along for the ride as God does that in our ministry.

Pastor, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, isolated, excited, frustrated, or anything else, please know that you’re not alone. Our God never leaves. And you stand in union with thousands of other pastors who have been, and are in, that same place.

Be bold. Dream big. And stay faithful to the ministry God has given you.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58


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