Changes in small towns seem to be bigger.
Think about it, if one family moves out of town it doesn’t sound like much. A family of 4 moves out of a city of 100,000, that is .004% of a population change. But that same family moves from our town of 300, it is now a 1.33% change. Then if you consider that a family of 4 leaving a church of 50 is an 8% change, you start to see that somethings seem bigger in smaller towns and churches.
This last year, we had about 8 members move out of our town and leave our church. With an average attendance of 40-50 in a town of 300….that is a big deal.
The waves appear bigger when the boat is smaller. The fish seem bigger in a smaller pond. Whatever analogy you wish to use, the reality is that the ebb and flow of normal changes impact the small communities and small churches to a greater degree.
So how do small town pastors deal with these extreme fluctuations? Here are a few tips that I have learned and used over the years in my small town.
- Expect Change – We are creatures of comfort. Very few people actually enjoy constant change. However, when we expect change, it gets easier. To use a sports term, don’t be caught on your heels.
- Embrace Change – Nothing makes change harder than refusing to let go of what used to be. I’m not saying we forget or vilify the past. I am saying that we need to look toward the future and embrace change.
- Encourage Change – Romans 12:2 says that we should be transformed…that means changed! Change shouldn’t be a negative to endure, but a positive to be encouraged. If your church looks the same as it did 10 years ago, there is a problem.
- Have Faith in Christ – Remember what Jesus was doing, while the fishermen were panicking during the storm? He was taking a nap! Although we lost 8 people, they all are active in churches in their new towns. We have also had 6 new people start attending. Jesus had this under control the whole time.
- Have Fun in Change – Comfort is boring, but we like it because of the illusion of control. When you really get that Jesus is in control, the fear of uncertainty becomes the excitement of the adventure.