A mid-sized church gives off an all-American vibe. Like the photo of a husband and wife standing in front of their family home with their 2 smiling children and a dog, all seems perfect—but there’s always more than meets the eye.
The Challenge for Mid-Sized Churches
The small church can accommodate amateurish quality because the key attraction is its intimacy and family-like warmth. But the medium-sized church’s ministries must be different. Classes really must be great learning experiences. Music must meet aesthetic needs. Preaching must inform and inspire. —Tim Keller
A mid-sized church could have anywhere between 200-450 people. Both the pastor and congregation of mid-sized churches like the benefits of a larger church with the sense of not being too big. However, this is an awkward size that comes with a unique set of challenges.
Coaching Pastors of Mid-Sized Churches
Challenge #1: Resistance to change
Things might “feel” as though they are moving along nicely. But in reality, churches do not remain static; they are either growing or in decline.
Coaching to overcome resistance to change
The necessity to change may be low due to the appearance of health e.g. a staff-led church, well-attended worship services, children’s and youth ministries, etc. But the challenge is for the pastor and leadership to anticipate when the church is still in a healthy place, what they need to do to grow.
The real issue is the question of vision: Where are we headed? Where there is no vision people are frustrated and over time become rigid and resistant to new ideas. When you introduce vision, pay attention to the nuances of how to best communicate. Before you work on the “How?” it is mission-critical to clarify “Why?” and “What?”
Key questions to ask about their vision:
1. What is your vision?
2. What are you doing well as a church?
3. What can you prune to maximize what you are doing well?
Challenge #2: Church growth bias
Bigger is not always better. Being a product of our growth-by-addition, American church culture is sometimes contrary to the multiplication mindset that is exponentially more fruitful in the long-run.
Coaching to overcome church growth bias
One frustration that you will face while coaching medium-sized church pastors is the inability to grow through this barrier. Your client might aspire to be a larger church, growing into the 1,000s. There are valid reasons for this: diversified ministries, larger presence in the community and more impactful events to attract new church members. Another option is to plant a church.
Church planting has the advantage of helping leaders see that they are actually well-suited for daughtering a new church that could double or triple their impact with the added benefit of attracting and mobilizing apostolic leaders. Leaders of this caliber are attracted to churches with a vision for church multiplication. They are more likely to leave churches that don’t share that vision because they are drawn to a mission that will potentially reach people far from God that the existing churches are unable to reach.
Key questions to ask about church planting:
4. What ministries are developing leaders from the harvest?
5. How can you multiply the impact and not just grow by addition?
6. How would planting a new church impact your ministry?
Challenge #3: Lack of Urgency
Pain and discomfort can be catalysts for change; however, leaders can fall into a lethargic culture by creating a false sense of security when things are running smoothly.
Coaching to overcome lack of urgency
“No pain – no gain” is more than a euphemism. It is a principle of change. Pain impacts the sense of urgency for leaders and the greater the pain a leader experiences the more open they may be to change.
Pain, discomfort, frustration are all strong motivators to change. It is sometimes better to wait until the sense of urgency is great enough to engage the leader as a client; otherwise they may not be as willing to adapt to their situation, acquire new skills or struggle. This is a delicate balance that you need to discern as a coach.
Key questions to discern the pain point:
7. What is draining your energy?
8. How can you increase your enjoyment in this area?
9. How will you hold yourself accountable to grow in this area?
Challenge #4: Church of small groups
This is a case of what has gotten you here may not take the congregation there (meaning the next growth barrier).
Coaching to build small groups
With a robust small group ministry (80% or more of adults in small groups) you can coach leaders to address both leadership development and pastoral care. Maximize small groups to provide pastoral care. And utilize small groups to spot, train and mobilize future leaders.
The vast majority of pastoral care issues can be handled in small group environments through the loving relationships found within. Roughly, 20% require the expertise of clergy. counselors, or specialists that go beyond the skill-set, experience or expertise of your typical small group. So it makes good sense to invest in leaders to pastor, care for and facilitate small groups of all kinds. And use this important environment for leadership development..
Key questions to ask about small groups:
10. What is your vision for small groups?
11. What percentage of your adults are in small groups?
12. How are you using small groups to spot, train and mobilize future leaders?
Challenge #5: Good quality preaching, music and equipping ministries
The quality is good enough for a mid-sized church but the challenge is real. Large churches will tend to be excellent in all three categories.
Coaching to develop excellence in growing ministries
A mid-sized church can remain medium by maintaining good preaching, music and equipping ministries; but to achieve the next category, the large church, excellence is more and more important. “Excellence” is an overused, loaded word. It can camouflage a plethora of issues. It can also be used to set a certain standard. That is how it is being used here.
Feedback is critical to attain and sustain excellence. Honest, consistent feedback is one of the strategic practices a team can apply to grow in the three areas. Caring and compassionate feedback with a high level of empathy can go a long way to move from good to great or medium to large.
Key questions to ask about raising the bar of excellence:
13. What’s working?
14. What is not working?
15. What needs to change?
Bonus Challenge: Helping the pastor move forward
Another challenge is helping pastors adapt their own leadership to accommodate their vision for ministry. It’s important to revisit, confirm, and build excitement around that vision and then help them strategize the best way to move forward.
Key questions to ask a medium size church pastor:
16. What is your vision for growth?
17. How can you maximize each person’s gifts on your team?
18. Are there individuals on your team that are being called elsewhere?
19. Who else do you need on your team?
20. What are the most important things that you can do now for the greatest impact?
21. What’s one new initiative that you could introduce that will catalyze growth?
22. What will you actually do?
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