Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Interview: Mobilizing a small church

by Paul Nielsen

This is an interview with my father-in-law, who has pastored numerous small churches for the past twenty years or so. At some point last year it occurred to me that he probably has some interesting things to say when it comes to mobilizing smaller congregations. 16% of Americans attend a church of less than 100 people (57% are in a church of less than 500).

Propel: What have you done in order to mobilize your churches for missions?

Roy: The first thing I have done to mobilize the church I pastor for missions is to attempt to lead by example. I’ve also had various missionaries come in the church and speak about their work.

White Church by John Starne

Propel: What has been the most significant hurdle in getting a small congregation to understand the importance of the Great Commission?

Roy: The most significant hurdle is getting the people in the pews to realize that there are people needing to know Christ in other parts of the world. Many of the folks have been in the same home since marriage and they remain within 50 miles of the school where they graduated high school. 

Propel: Describe some of the successes you’ve had energizing your churches for missions.

Roy: One of the greatest successes I’ve had was to get the church to send $25 a month to missions. This amount goes along with the money that I send to missions.

Propel: What level of mobilization do small churches generally need? i.e., Where do they start out?

Roy: Small churches that I am familiar with are very difficult to get to move at all. If they are supporting missions, the possibility of getting them to add another missionary is almost nil. They are stuck right where they are and don’t want to change. Every church wants to grow but no one wants to change and growth will result in change. Hence, no growth. The churches that I am familiar with have an “outreach” item in their budget and at the end of the year, those dollars go to support the local volunteer fire department or the local senior center. 

Propel: What are your goals for mobilizing within your small churches?

Roy: I’d like to see our church giving at least 10% of its budget to missions. Missions meaning supporting those who are full-time in telling the Good News both in the U.S. and abroad.

Propel: What would a small church look like if it was fully, so-to-speak, mobilized?

Roy: The church would be giving 20% at a minimum to missions and the missionaries would be hosted by the church families so that they know the missionaries personally. Missions would have an emphasis during at least one service a month to update the congregation as to what was happening to “their” missionaries. Ownership would occur and missions giving would increase. 

Propel: Do you know of any good resources you could recommend to other leaders in small churches to help get their congregation on fire for missions?

Roy: I think the best thing is to continue to pray and tell the stories of the missionaries that are personal to you. I also think that messages from the pulpit on missions will ultimately do the work through the Holy Spirit working on the hearts of the believers. He has to move the hearts. He is the only One that can change them. 

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