Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sunday morning in the smaller church

Larger and mid-size churches often have activities at the church building nearly every day.  There are various Bible studies, worship services, small groups, committee meetings, choir practices, and a host of other activities that bring members of the congregation together.

This is not the case in most smaller and bivocational churches.  Many of these churches had services on Sunday mornings and evenings and a Bible study/prayer meeting on Wednesday evening, but the mid-week service has disappeared in many of these churches and the number of churches having Sunday evening services has been declining over recent years.  This leaves the Sunday morning worship service as the primary contact the pastor of these churches will have with the majority of the congregation.  That means that these services are crucial to the growth and well-being of the congregation.

Since the Sunday morning service is so vital to the smaller church, the pastor and worship team must be well prepared.  This is a time for the pastor to cast vision, challenge and encourage the congregation, and deliver a message that is both sound theologically and applicable to people's lives.  I will quickly admit that this is a huge challenge, and you might not do all these things every week, but it does demonstrate the importance of being prepared for Sunday morning.  The impact a pastor can have in a small church on Sunday morning must not be underestimated.

Occasionally, a pastor will admit that he or she was not well-prepared for Sunday due to the various other things that came up during the week.  Usually, they don't admit it, but it's evident in the poor message they deliver and in their general lack of preparedness.  This is unacceptable.

It should come as no surprise that Sundays come every seven days regardless of what has occurred in the other six days.  As a bivocational pastor for 20 years I learned very quickly that life happens, and if I allowed it, those events could damage my sermon preparation.  I will also be the first to admit that there were weeks when I did allow that to happen, especially in my earlier years of ministry.  It did not take long to learn the value of working ahead, planning out my sermons weeks in advance, and tying those messages to our vision and to the needs of our congregation.  I learned to refuse to allow a hectic schedule to affect what I would do on Sunday morning.

As I've posted here before, you get done what you spend time doing.  You will invest time and effort in those things that you believe are a priority.  If you want to lead a healthy, growing congregation then you must make that Sunday morning service a priority and refuse to allow other responsibilities to cause you to be unprepared when Sunday comes.  Some weeks that may mean waking up an hour earlier a couple of days to study or going to bed later at night.  It might require you to miss an evening of watching television or reading another chapter in your favorite novel.  You may have to cancel a golf outing you had lined up with your buddies.  Whatever it takes, you must be prepared when your service begins on Sunday morning.  It is the one time when you have the greatest opportunity to impact the most people in your congregation, and you don't want to miss that opportunity.

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