Acts 22:22 (NLT) “The crowd listened until Paul said that word…”
The small town pastor and church typically don’t have as big a ‘pool’ to draw from as churches in large urban and suburban areas. Yet Jesus, the builder of the Church, expects our churches to have significant impact wherever we are located. So for those of us in small towns there is an even greater need to intentionally cast a wide net.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Every pastor has a certain demographic they naturally attract.
It might be hipsters or it might be hunters, but no matter which, each of us has some group we naturally attract. That’s one reason the average church in the US is about 90-100 people. So let’s say yours is hipsters. If you are leading in a large urban or suburban area there’s a good chance there is a large pool of hipsters for you to draw from. But if you are in a small town that pool shrinks proportionately. So while you may be able to have a functioning church with a certain demographic in a large area, you will have a struggling church in a smaller area. Therefore you have to be even more intentional about not shrinking your audience.
That means you have to consider lots of variables and how those variables are affecting your ‘pool’. I know that if we are teaching and preaching the Truth, then sometimes that Truth will shrink your audience as it did for Jesus in John 6, but we need to make sure that the only reason for shrinkage is the Truth, not our opinions or style of presentation. For instance, I have a dog, a yellow lab named Jake. He is a great dog and has been a part of our family for over 10 years. I am not one of those who consider him to be my son and me his daddy, nor is he the brother of any of my kids. He’s my dog. But there are people who consider their pets to be their kids and they talk to them and treat them as such. Nothing wrong with that for them. One time, while using a story about Jake as an object lesson in a message, I emphasized that I did not think of him as my kid or me as his father and I probably came off as belittling to those who did. I wasn’t thinking about how my opinion might shrink the audience (I guess that’s the definition of thoughtless) and we lost a family from our church roll that day.
Now if you are thinking, “Well if that’s what offended them, then just let them go,” then you are falling into the trap of unintentionally shrinking your audience. Because if you say that enough, eventually you will have only a few diehards left to pastor and you can all console yourselves with the fact that you are the only unoffendable and mature people left. Problem is you don’t have much influence any more because everybody else is gone!
We have been chosen by our Master to pastor in a small town and that means we are equipped by Him to cast a wide net, to attract a diverse and large audience.
And it also means we must keep as many of them around as possible so we can grow them up into His stature. So how we dress, how we speak, what we do matters. And it matters even more in the small town environment where nothing is anonymous. It’s a privilege. Embrace it and learn to cast a wider net.
Join us October 3-4 at the SmallTown.Church Conference and let’s talk about this and other things that will help us have huge Kingdom impact in our small towns.