Entering the World of the Small Church

by Anthony G. Pappas. Standard Publishing Co., 2000.

Tony Pappas makes it clear that expecting the small church to behave like (or desire to become like) a middle-sized or larger congregation is a serious mistake. To successfully lead the small congregation, one must understand that established small churches tend to operate out of a distinct and concrete worldview. Effective ministry means entering that worldview completely before trying to make any changes or innovations.

In our culture, anything small is too often considered less valuable, less successful, less esteemed. Pappas asserts that small congregations have several important advantages. Primary among them is that personal relationship is the foundation of the small congregation, with family-like connections among parishioners who know each other intimately. Every member is important and can be involved in the meaningful work of the Church. This intimacy enables spiritual nurture and growth in a deeply personal way between and among pastor and members. These all help the small church to live truly as the body of Christ.

Pappas also explores the challenges small congregations face: tendencies toward traditionalism, a superficial niceness, and club mentality—as well as the difficulties in dealing with conflict, feelings of inadequacy, and the financial pressures of building maintenance.

The book is organized into three sections: "Understanding the Small Church"; "An Inside Look at the Small Church World"; and "Leadership in the Small Church." Descriptions of some unique ways of measuring congregational health in the small church are included. Having been one himself, the author ends with enthusiastic encouragement to small church leaders.