Melinda and I are privileged to pastor in a small town in Central Georgia of about 1,600 people. Don’t feel sorry for us though, we are next to a booming metropolis of 5,000 and the county we live in has a little over 21,000. As you may imagine, literally everyone knows everyone. So attending a new church for the first time can make waves in the community. Many families have a church connection, though it may not be as strong as it once was in the South. Often the younger generation has stopped attending the family church, and many churches in our area have been in decline for years.
As a growing church that has more than tripled in size over the past few years, this can be awkward at times. We see the younger generation seeking a different worship experience and many have found VC2 to be a good fit for them. We are more contemporary, though we do not compromise the gospel in any way. As we began to grow and attract a younger crowd I decided it was best to acknowledge what was happening since I am friends with many of the pastors in town.
I meet with a group of pastors once a month. We fellowship together, study the word together, break bread together, and sponsor several yearly community gatherings to allow all churches to worship together. We all contribute to a fund to help with transits or needs that arise in our community. I love this group of men and women and feel honored to pastor this area with them. We respect each other and work together to pastor this city. I believe the members of this group have a kingdom mindset and see that we are together in the cause that counts.
I would like to share with you some things that we have found that help us pastor this small town together. These are things we learned to do so that we could be a help to one another and never see each other as competition.
We Pray For Each Other
We don’t just say we will pray, we do it. We take time to text, call or reach out in someway from time to time to let each other know that we care. It is so encouraging to me to have one of my brothers or sisters, from the same town I am in, let me they are lifting me up. We labor in the same vineyard! We should be there for each other.
We Are There For Each Other
I attended the funeral of a father of one of our members recently. As I sat there, I noticed five other pastors from our group were in attendance also. I begin to wonder just how all of them were connected. It dawned on me. We are all connected, period. This family is connected to many churches in our town. That is simply the way it is in a small town. So many of us are literally pastoring this family in some way. We support each other through these difficult times.
I have had members tell me that a pastor from another church came to visit them. This does not in any way threaten me! It blesses me big time. We are there for each other and help each other. I am very grateful for this.
The support and love from these pastors toward one another during difficult times is nothing short of amazing. I am blown away at how much love and concern is shared. It is so apparent to me how genuine the love is for each other.
We Talk To Each Other
I had a couple attend our church who had been involved at another church. They had left in a difficult situation and I didn’t need to know details but I could tell that a lot had transpired. When they begin to talk to me about the situation I had to immediately let them know that the pastor of the church they had been attending was a friend and that I would be talking to him about the situation. I assured them there would be no exchange of gossip, but I would let him know that I would be helping them work through the hurt and find healing and would like to have any information that he felt I should know. They were both shocked, and I think a bit relieved. This scenario has happened several times.
It is such a joy to know I can go and talk to my fellow pastors and try to work though things to help maintain peace in the body of Christ. It does not always work well. However, more times than not, it has been a huge blessing and often has helped us avoid inviting disfunction into our body.
We Help Build Each Others Churches
We are not afraid to help people who are searching for a home church, find the one that is right for them, even if it is not ours. We are more concerned with people than we are with the size of our congregations. Just today, we received a call from a pastor to let us know that he had invited someone to our church because he knew they would be a better fit with us. That is simply awesome!
When we do outreaches together, we often ask people what they are looking for in a church and then point them in the direction of where we think they would have their needs met. Quite honestly, we all have something to offer and we specialize in different areas of ministry. Not any one church can meet every need in this city. We need each other. We have become a network of pastors or a net that works to bring in the harvest.
I just returned from our monthly meeting and it was amazing as one dear pastor shared a testimony of something God had done in his family that was truly a miracle. Another shared how God was moving in his sons life. We all shared that moment together as if it was something we were going through because it truly is something we share as we are family!
We Celebrate Each Other’s Victories
The Bible clearly instructs us to rejoice when others rejoice. It certainly cannot mean just the people in our individual churches, but must mean the church at large. When we see good things happening in the churches of the city that we are connected to, we rejoice with them. We know that it will take us all to get the job done.
When VC2 first launched in 2010, we almost doubled in size every year from our initial 35 member launch team. It was so exciting. I remember our first Easter with 65 people, and then 145 the next year, and then 285, and then in 2014 we hit 475. As we were preparing for Easter in 2015, there was discussion among the staff and teams about how many people would be in attendance. Some, looking at the past record of growth, said we would have close to 800. This made my heart skip a beat knowing that our building, nor our teams, could not handle that may people yet. If I am honest though, the thought was really exciting. Where we would put everyone was unclear, but it sure would be fun figuring it out.
Well, Easter came, and we had almost the same number from the year before, maybe a few more, but no where nearly the 800 mark that some were hoping for. I kept my heart pure that day, well mostly, and did not let it get to me. However, it was later in the week that what was going on became more clear to me.
As I began to hear from other brothers and sisters in our area about how their Easter services had gone, I realized something awesome was happening in our city. It was no longer just us, or a few churches, that were experiencing growth, but many others were as well. It was an amazing thing to understand that true revival in a city is not just your church growing but THE CHURCH growing! I was able to rejoice as I realized we were seeing something very special happen.
It is an honor to be chosen by God and considered worthy to pastor in a small town. What we do in small towns takes great courage and much grace. We were chosen for this! God has anointed and purposed us to have an impact on small places. Don’t grow weary in doing good and remember to encourage your brothers and sisters who labor with you in your small town. That is the power of being a member of a church in a small town. We are in this together–the cause that counts!