How to Break Through When Your Church Seems So Small

too small

It’s the classic chicken and egg problem that plagues so many leaders.

There’s an 85% chance you’re facing it right now because 85% of churches in North America have congregations of less than 200 attenders.

Here’s the challenge: You think that if you had more people and money you think you could reach more people, but you don’t have the people or team you want, so you feel stuck.

Earlier this year, I surveyed over 1400 pastors of small to mid-sized churches to find out what they struggled with.

I learned so much from that survey.

I incorporated the learnings into my new course on breaking growth barriers, called Breaking 200 Without Breaking You.  (You can check out the course here.)

One of the common refrains leaders voiced was uncertainty about how to lead when they didn’t have much money or the right team.

After all, most of us visit mega-churches and think if I only had a tenth of their money and their people, it would instantly solve my problems.  And then we go back to our own context and get almost instantly depressed.

So when you have almost no money for ministry and you clearly haven’t got the right kind of people in the room, where do you start?

Believe it or not, neither condition is fatal to your cause. In fact, almost every great movement, church or organization you admire started with no money and no people.

So how can you lead when resources are scarce to non-existent?

There are at least five things you can do to help you find traction.

 1. Cast A Big Vision

Of course, you know that one of the principal roles of the leader is to cast vision.

But what do you do when you have almost nothing other than vision?

Well, you cast a big vision.

Vision creates something out of nothing. It turns impossibility into reality.

It startles people out of their complacency, stops them from settling for less and moves them to action they wouldn’t otherwise take except for the vision of what could be.

Too many leaders forget that vision precedes money and people. Why? Because vision always precedes resources. Sometimes all you have is a vision…and that’s enough to get started.

And remember, resources follow vision. They never precede it.

If you want to attract a team and resources, cast a big, clear and compelling vision.

2. Raise Your Passion Level

Does passion really matter? You bet it does. More than you think.

Passion is different than hype. Hype attempts to manufacture something that doesn’t quite ring true.

Passion runs deep. It’s authentic. It resonates. And it’s contagious.

No amount of money can ever substitute for a lack of passion.

Leaders, your team will never be more passionate about the mission than you are.

If you’re disturbed by the lack of passion in your team, look in the mirror. If you’re not fogging mirrors, they never will.

3. Start With Who You Have

Sure, you don’t have your dream team. Dream teams don’t randomly assemble. They’re built.

But leaders who wait forever for a dream team to appear eventually have nightmares.

So what do you do instead? You start with who you have.

Yes, I know you don’t have the team you want. And yes, everyone else seems to have a better team.

You need to realize, however, that’s where most leaders begin. When I started ministry at three tiny, stagnant churches over 20 years ago, the buildings weren’t exactly teeming with high capacity leaders.

So, start with the best leaders you can find. If you begin by working with the best people you have in the room, eventually higher capacity leaders will fill the room.

Want more on building a high performing team from scratch? Listen to Episode 39 of my leadership podcast with Chris Lema. You can subscribe to my podcast for free here.

4. Focus On What You CAN Do

It’s so easy to be negative. In fact, it takes zero work. It’s the default of the human condition.

As a result, it’s easy to complain about everything you lack and what seems impossible.

Leaders who focus on what they can’t do, always miss what they can do.

Plus, you end up setting a negative tone for the organization when you always talk about what’s not possible.

What CAN you do? Answer that and go do it.

Keep doing it, and eventually you’ll be accomplishing far more than you ever thought.

5. Believe This Is Only The Beginning

Often as a leader you can grow so discouraged that you think of your current lack of whatever as the end.

Your attitude leaks.

When a leader loses confidence, so does the team.

When a leader is bored, the team grows bored.

And when a leader is passionless, well it doesn’t take long for a group to lose any sense of enthusiasm.

We leaders are dealers in hope. And hope in the mission of the local church is never misplaced. After all, the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

So don’t look at your current lack of resources as the end, look at it as the beginning.

Want More?

If you want practical help for you and your board, staff or volunteer team to break through the growth barriers you’re facing, Breaking 200 Without Breaking You has already helped hundreds of churches solve issues they’d been facing for years.

If you join the course now, you can get access to an exclusive Breaking 200 private Facebook group where you’ll get some extremely helpful peer support from other church leaders and from me.  We were going to close the group, but it’s been so helpful we’re extending it to new course participants.

In the meantime, what helps you make progress when you feel like you don’t have the money or the people you’d love to have?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

How to Break Through When Your Church Seems So Small


  1. Lady Intercession on December 2, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    I Am the wife of a God fearing Apostolic pastor so was called to begin a work two and a half years ago. I spend a large part of my days speaking with the Lord regarding the watchful expectation our church growing from the faithful ten to fifty. This journey is truly trying to everything we believe in. Personally, I read everything and anything that seeks to address how nurture our church to grow. We no financial resources or anchored human resources all we have is pray and the hope that one day the Lord will lead into our wealthy place as a ministry. Thank you for the in sights. We will implement them coupled with prayer, faith and a lot of love.

  2. Eric Kyte on November 12, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Of course it is The Illusion of The Modern World, from The Father of Lies, that God is utterly irrelevant and superfluous . . .

  3. Eric Kyte on November 12, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Jesus had no money

    As for the right team . . .

    Don’t know what this post is about, but doesn’t seem to be rooted in the faith of the Church built in the foundation of Christ and the Apostles

    • Patty Hawkins ...a lady with a dream. on November 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      Eric Kyte, IJesus had money because Jesus had a profession as a carpenter. And as for the right team? Jesus had that too, for He handpicked all twelve apostles. Yes, even Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ was the right man for the job! It’s in the Word!

      I’ve found this article to be quite impressive! And I believe that the right person, at the right time, will stumble across this article with a vision or dream on mind, and gain hope after reading it. And thus mount up on wings as an eagle; and take flight as he/she takes the step of faith and believes that his/ her vision won’t tarry, but shall surely come.

      I have a dream. And I have a vision. I’m going to put these suggestions to work and witness the outcome!

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