Change the senior pastor’s role This is a key and highly visible part of the church’s large-size culture. The ‘normal’ functions of the pastor must be delegated to others so that the senior pastor can concentrate on the tasks of vision-casting and preaching. This is a difficult transition for many to navigate – both senior pastor and church can see this as an error in redirection but the reality is that the senior pastor must overcome any guilt feelings over this issue and relinquish teaching, pastoral care and administration to others with the time and energy for it (and greater experience and qualification?) or the result will be personal burnout. Senior pastor, ministry leaders and wider church must accept this change is inevitable and allow it to take place.
Build trustThe very large church is more accessible and capable of reaching young people, singles, the unchurched and seekers (Schaller). This being the case – why are there so few? It requires:
- Allowing the senior pastor to be less accessible
- Allowing the staff to have more power than the board
- Allowing a small group of executive staff to have more decision-making power than the wider staff or congregation
- Allowing directors more power to hire competent specialists and release generalists
The key is trust. In smaller churches, people with a tendency to be suspicious feel happier, consensus is required for decisions and any minority that is unhappy can block a decision. The larger the church, the more trust is required from the congregation in the staff - and especially in the senior pastor. Though the staff and senior pastor must be open to criticism and be relationally available, communicating in a way that helps people to feel included and informed, ultimately a very large church runs on trust.
Steve: Wherever our church appears on the size range, as leaders we need to take time to consider these insights from Dr Keller. If we are to see a greater number of larger churches in the UK I believe that grappling with the issues that he so clearly puts before us will be essential. Leaders and their teams need to come together in honest appraisal of their situation and be prepared to make what are sometimes hard decisions – and then see them through. And it goes without saying that those same leaders and teams need to be together in prayer to the Lord God who gives the growth that they earnestly seek. Meanwhile, as Bill Hybels puts it so well, ‘the Kingdom of God advances - one life at a time’.