4 Common Problems All Small Church Pastors Face

Every church has problems. They come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why episode 3 of the Hello Church! podcast is all about addressing the problems pastors of smaller churches face and how to overcome them. 

Whether you’re a new pastor or a seasoned leader, this episode is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to navigate the challenges of leading a small church. 

Here are the four biggest challenges pastors of small churches often face, along with tips for each.

1. Comparison

Every pastor has likely dealt with comparison at some point. When you look at the church down the road and see that they have more resources, more people, or a better building, it can make you want to quit. 

Yet, we know that comparison is a trap the enemy uses to distract us. It’s the thief of joy. Comparison keeps us focused on what we lack rather than everything God has already provided for us. There’s a reason “Do not covet” is listed as one of the ten commandments. 

Social media makes it incredibly easy to measure our calling, our preaching style, and our “success” against everyone else’s. For the first time in history, we can easily see the success of pastors, not just in our own neighborhood, but all around the world, with the click of a button.

We don’t mean to compare, but it’s hard not to. And as a result, we sow division rather than unity, and we focus more on others than on God and His mission for us and our churches. 

It’s intimidating, distracting, and disempowering. 

How to Deal with Comparison

Struggling with comparison? Remember that God called you to pastor your church, not someone else.

Yes, others may have talents, resources, or abilities that you don’t have. But God hasn’t called them to pastor your church; He called you! 

As a pastor, you’ve probably preached on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, which teaches that the whole body is made up of many parts, each of which is important and necessary to function. The same is true for pastors as well.

God doesn’t expect you to be a carbon copy or have the same gifts as the pastor down the road. He wants you to be you. This is why God gave you the exact gifts, talents, abilities, and personality you would need to do the job He has called you to do. 

2. Inadequacy

Similar to comparison, feelings of inadequacy (which often come from comparison) can easily distract or prevent us from fulfilling God’s calling for our lives. 

Sometimes we feel inadequate in our professional lives. We don’t feel like gifted leaders, communicators, or teachers. Other times, we may feel inadequate in our personal lives when we fall short or drop the ball in our marriages, parenting, or personal faith journeys.

When our church members put us up on a pedestal, it’s easy to feel as though we aren’t allowed to be imperfect humans who are still learning, growing, and making mistakes.

Yet, while our feelings of inadequacy can stem from areas where we do genuinely have room for improvement, these feelings of inadequacy can also stem from the lies Satan uses to cripple us and keep us ineffective in ministry. 

If Satan can convince us that we’re not good enough (even when we’re doing fine), he can distract us, disarm us, and discourage us until we drop out of the race God has placed before us. We stop leading, stop making decisions, stop discipling, and stop preaching the message God has given us to share with the power He has given us to share it. 

How to Deal with Inadequacy

Thankfully, we don’t have to fall for Satan’s lies. 

When you feel inadequate, separate God’s truth from Satan’s lies, make improvements where needed, and keep moving forward anyway. 

Spend some time in prayer and seek wise counsel from trusted friends. Where do you truly need to improve, and where are you simply putting too much pressure on yourself? Leave all of Satan’s lies at the foot of the cross, and seek mentoring for the areas where you do need to improve. 

Then, keep moving forward. God has not called you to be perfect or have it all together. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit, but you do.

Finally, if there is an area that is truly a weakness for you, you may want to strategically bring on additional people to help you out. This could be in the form of a new staff member, assistant, or volunteer you hire specifically to make up for the skills you aren’t naturally as gifted at. 

3. Discouragement

When we allow ourselves to play the comparison game and allow those feelings of inadequacy to take root in our lives, it isn’t long until discouragement inevitably follows. 

This is a real mental battle that happens to all pastors at some point. 

We might get discouraged because our churches aren’t growing fast enough, because our attendance numbers aren’t high enough, or because our budget isn’t large enough. 

We might get discouraged when there’s conflict in our churches, when our congregation isn’t growing spiritually, or when we don’t feel they’ve caught the vision we’ve been trying to share. 

This discouragement can even turn into depression as you question yourself, your leadership, and even God’s call on your life as a pastor. 

How to Deal with Discouragement

Oftentimes, we get most discouraged when we aren’t taking the time to regularly invest in our own relationship with the Lord and to hear from Him through prayer and His Word. 

Thankfully, this is an easy fix. We simply need to prioritize time with God, asking Him to show us what is true about our situations, ourselves, and the call He has placed on our lives. 

Additionally, if you are in the bad habit of dismissing others’ compliments, get in the good habit of receiving others’ encouragement. It’s okay to accept others’ kind words, and sometimes, we all need to hear an audible voice telling us we did a good job.

God gave some the spiritual gift of encouragement. We should allow them to use it. It’s a gift!

4. Isolation

As a pastor, there are times when it may not be appropriate for you to share your personal struggles and concerns with your entire congregation. As the head of the church, you can’t vent about your co-workers, volunteers, or church members to anyone who will listen. 

However, this doesn’t mean you should keep all of your fears, concerns, and problems to yourself. You need people you can speak openly and honestly with–whether friends and family outside the church or a group of trusted pastors from other churches or church-related ministries. 

You need people to listen to your ideas and frustrations, offer their wise counsel, pray for you, and hold you accountable to growing in your personal walk with the Lord. You need people to encourage you and help you discern God’s truth from Satan’s lies when you start to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and discouraged. 

Chances are you’re already encouraging your church members to get plugged into a community. You need to make sure you have a supportive and understanding community around you as well. 

How to Deal with Isolation

If you don’t have a trustworthy, Godly community of believers around you, pray that God would provide one. This could be close friends and family members you can share openly with, or you might want to be intentional about developing friendships with other pastors who understand your struggles. 

One great place to find this community is by joining the free Pastor’s Circle Facebook group hosted by Ministry Pass and Sermonary. This welcoming and supportive group is a great place for pastors to ask questions, receive advice, and learn from people who understand the unique challenges of pastoring a small church. 

Being a small church pastor isn’t easy. We all face a number of challenges each day, whether we talk about them or not. Please don’t face them alone. Surround yourself with godly community so you’re better prepared to tackle any challenges that will inevitably come your way.

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