Most of my life I have attended or served at a small church. Even when I moved to the city, I never attended church with an average attendance of more than 300 — what I would personally consider a large church. That's why I picked up Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 by Karl Vaters.
Many books today talk about how to grow your church. The point of Small Church Essentials is not to try to make your small church bigger, but to make your small church healthy. The book’s first section establishes the fact that small does not equal broken. Sure, there are plenty of bad reasons why a church might stay small (and he does address those), but Vaters focuses on many reasonable, good, and strategic reasons churches stay small.
The second section helps readers see what makes small churches — every small church — unique. These factors can explain why church growth principles don’t necessarily apply to every church or result in numerical growth. Big fluctuations in attendance and giving are more common in small churches. Individuals can have a greater impact on church dynamics.
All that considered, small churches can still have problems, and Vaters dedicates the largest section of the book to tackling those issues and breathing new life into your small church. He doesn’t promise that these strategies will result in growth, though they may. Rather, addressing issues and operating within the reality of a small church’s context can lead to churches (and their leaders) identifying what they’re good at and embracing their unique giftedness and calling. Vaters concludes with some practical guidance on some small church practices that can make a small church a great church.
All in all, this is exactly the kind of book I was looking for as a small church pastor. I was encouraged and reminded that some aspects of small church life needn’t be a source of frustration. I’m discussing some of these principles with leaders in my church, and I can already tell people are getting more excited about leading.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I requested it myself and was not required to write a positive review.