Pastoring a small church can be a rough go, especially in those seasons where nothing seems to be going right. You do the best you can to serve your people with the limited time, resources, and volunteers you have, but there are those times where you feel pulled in sixty different directions by sixty sets of expectations, all of which seem impossible to meet. The pressure to do more with less can get overwhelming and it’s tempting to think someone else could do better and that you’d be better off somewhere else. That, however, is a lie.
It’s important to remember that these seasons happen, and they’re not as bad as they feel. The warning lights on your dashboard can be helpful indicators of what’s going on under the hood, but they’re only indicators. Our feelings are the same. They can indicate problems, issues, and beliefs at work, but we shouldn’t be making decisions based on how we feel. The pressure of a hard season can make us feel inadequate, betrayed, lost, or depressed, but we need to bring those emotions to God and let him walk us through what’s really going on. Hard seasons come and go like the tide, and this one won’t last. Acknowledge your feelings, take control, and make prayerful, godly decisions based on God’s word and promises, not your feelings.
The difficulty of a season can also be magnified by the smallness of your church. If you only have 30 – 40 people, and 9 of them are complaining about something, that’s right around 25% of your membership. It can seem like everyone is unhappy and complaining. Additionally, if you are the only “staff member,” then you are the only place people can really bring their complaints and concerns. You get fed through a fire hose in those seasons and it can feel like a never ending torrent … one wave after another. Consider the source and substance of complaints. Sometimes, if the complaints are legitimate, you can invite the complainant to be a part of the solution. Now you have someone on your team. On occasions where the complainer isn’t ready for that responsibility, you may be able to find someone who can be trusted and invite them to help.
If you can look back and know that God has called you into this ministry (whether you think it’s punishment or not), then you need to trust him and weather the storm. I know that I, for one, have a tendency to assume responsibility for outcomes. That’s not our job. God alone is responsible for his church … and it is His church, not yours. It’s a reflection of Him, not you. Our charge is to simply be faithful with God’s church and charge. As Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church (a really big church, forgive me) has said, “If you’re going to take responsibility for the decrease, you will likely take credit for the increase.” God is at work in the hard seasons and we need to trust and persevere. This season is a tool in the hands of God to build and bless your fellowship, your ministry, and you. At the end, you will all be better for it.