By Joe McKeever, Crosswalk.com
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/RomoloTavani
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. – Romans 15:1
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. – a paraphrase from The Message
I wrote on Facebook something like this:
Sometimes one of our churches is bigger than all the others in their town or county combined. When that happens, the church leadership has to make a decision. One, they can say, “We don’t need you small churches. We’re number one.” Or, two, they can turn around and help the smaller churches. One of these choices is Christlike and the other carnal.
The comments came in, in a predictable manner, opting for the obvious second choice. Someone said, ” Yes, but sometimes the small churches do not want your help and resist any attempt to encourage them.” True enough.
So, the question is what can a large church do they are willing to assist and encourage the smaller churches, but are rebuffed in the attempt? Are there ways for them to show Christlike care and compassion—even when the smaller churches are not receptive? I think so.
Here are five ways that come to mind.
1. Larger Churches Can Pray for Small Churches
I was in a church recently that did this in the Sunday morning service. The pastor called the name of the church and its pastor and asked for Heaven’s blessings on their labors. Your church can choose one or many small churches to lift up, and pray to bless them with God’s will.
You can be as specific as assigning groups to pray for certain churches, or as broadminded as asking God to show you smaller churches who need your help and may not even recognize that help is available and willing.
2. Larger Churches Can Be Loving and Faithful Role Models
Pastors should learn the names of the other ministers at small churches and greet them by name. We should do nothing in our ministries that leave the impression we are competing with other churches or working to undermine them.
Small churches do not have the resources of the great congregations, so the big guys have to stay constantly aware of how their outreach and ministries are affecting their neighbors. As often as possible, it’s good to cooperate with small churches. Remember to not only focus inward, but outward to others you can uplift.
3. Big Churches Can Make Sure to Do No Harm to Small Churches
One of the most damaging things the mega-church can do toward the smaller congregations is to relocate next to them.
When a church plants a new campus of several hundred acres and establishes its schools, daycare ministries, sprawling parking lots in every direction, and a worship center larger than most coliseums within sight of another church of that denomination, you can bet it will be seen as a hostile act. Hostile or not, it was definitely inconsiderate.
Let’s respect the other churches. They, too, are members of Christ’s body, His bride, His family.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez
4. Big Churches Can Support the Work of Small Church Associations
The staff and leadership of Mammoth Church should attend and participate in pastors conferences, VBS clinics, and the annual meetings, and support the work of associations that help smaller churches financially.
In many cases, the ministerial staff of the big church is usually better trained and more experienced than anyone the association brings in to lead conferences. But no matter. Go anyway.
When a pastor hires a new staff member, he should make it plain that attending these association gatherings will be expected. If a prospective staffer indicates he/she has no intention of supporting associational events, this should be a deal-breaker.
Our obligation to smaller churches should always be a huge thing to the leadership.
5. Big Churches Can Help Smaller Churches Anonymously
When I pastored the big church in a county seat town and met a pastor who was doing a good work but struggling financially—there are ways to tell—on several occasions I did things to help.
One church had a fund supported by a generous family which enabled the pastor to help anyone he chose without having to go through committees. By the way, this can definitely be done, but should be set up carefully by capable financial leaders, with full accountability on the pastor’s part. Let us not lead the pastor into temptation here or leave room for the enemy to attack.
Several times, we arranged for a men’s store to call that struggling pastor with the news that someone had bought him a new suit and he should come down and pick one out. Interestingly, I began doing that after someone did it for me! So, as a pastor, or church staffer, think of those things others blessed you with in the early days of planting or growing your church—and go and do likewise.
In another church, when I came across a helpful book on deacons written by a staff member at Lifeway, I called our Director of Missions. I asked him, “If you will get that guy to come and teach the book, my church will serve a steak dinner to all the preachers and deacons of our association.”
That night we served some 150 men and heard a great presentation on the work of deacons.
These are just suggestions to get you started. Pray about where God would have you invest in His kingdom works within small churches. You’ll find ways to help them if you ask the Lord and pay attention.
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.