Small church pastors have some significant advantages in ministry. Here are a few ways to leverage your time and energy to make the most significant impact in your congregations.

  1. Set aside relational time. As you likely already know, relationships are essential in any church, but especially so in smaller churches. One of the great advantages for the people is to know others and be known. So particularly if you are wired to prioritize tasks and action items—like I am—you’ll need to be intentional about setting aside time for small talk and relationships. When I used to have board meetings, I would actually figure 20 minutes of relational time into the agenda at the beginning of each meeting. I didn’t put that on the public agenda, but I did write it into my own copy to remind myself of the importance of relational investment. When I started doing that, I noticed a significant improvement in the way the rest of our meeting time went forward.
  1. “Pay the rent” three days a week, then focus your ministry contribution the rest of the week. This is a piece of advice I need to credit to my coach, Colin Noyes, as well as author Lyle Schaller. The essential idea is that all churches will have certain expectations of the job description of a pastor—things they expect you to do that may or may not be a part of your giftedness or personal sense of calling. But especially in a small church of 200 people or less, where everyone plays multiple roles, you can usually structure your time so you spend three days a week meeting basic expectations. Then you have another three days to focus on a specific area of ministry contribution you feel called to make—something within your area of giftedness that you feel will be of long-term benefit to the congregation.
  1. Get the discipleship DNA right by focusing on peer discipleship groups. Another significant advantage smaller congregations have is the ability to focus on and improve DNA at the grassroots level. By DNA here, I mean the basic givens of an organism: what it does, what it prioritizes, what it naturally gravitates toward. Discipleship is a critical piece of DNA in the church. By focusing on getting healthy discipleship in at the very grassroots of a church, you can set it up to multiply and spread throughout the whole rest of the organization and beyond. One of the best approaches for smaller churches—in my opinion—is getting groups of 2 to 4 people meeting weekly to focus on their discipleship journeys together. No one needs to be in charge, and you can provide some curriculum or structure to give people direction. Two options include Life Transformation Groups (free) and The Guide for Discipling (purchasable as a download). Both are available in both English and Spanish.

These are just a few of the leadership ideas, tips and strategies in my latest book The Leadership Difference.

Note: This entry first appeared in the newsletter for

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash