Christian Books

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Surviving Small Church Ministry

Surviving Small Church Ministry Book List
I have served in small churches my entire pastoral career. I spent 5+ years as a full-time, solo pastor of a small church and have served as an interim as well as a bi-vocational pastor of small churches. It takes great patience and trust in God’s working to thrive in small church ministry.

Admittedly, I have not always had the appreciation for small churches that I should have had. In college and seminary, everyone wants to be the next mega-church pastor. Yet, there are so many solid, faithful pastors in small churches that should be honored. Their impact may be on fewer numbers, but it is nonetheless real and personal.

Here are some book recommendations for those in small church ministry:

1. Help for the Small Church Pastor by Steve Bierly
In my first full-time pastorate, Steve Bierly’s books provided me with a model for understanding and functioning within the small church environment. He is an evangelical that takes a systems approach to understanding the small church culture. Small churches are generally family churches and highly relational. A pastor must be able to work within that context. He gives a model and living examples for understanding it.

2. Leading the Small Church by Doran McCarty
McCarty’s book is another very informed and practical book about small church ministry. It is another book that I read early in my first pastorate. It ranks at the top with Steve Bierly’s book. He helps us to understand the nature of the small church and provides useful, solid advice on almost every area of small church ministry. It is a very good book on small church ministry.

3. How to Thrive as a Small Church Pastor by Steve Bierly
This Steve Bierly’s follow-up to Help. It also provided me with encouragement in my pastoral ministry. He identifies the contextual and personal challenges of small church ministry, and then, suggests ways to survive and thrive in that environment. This is another helpful book from a self-proclaimed “small-churchaholic.”

4. Shepherding the Small Church by Glenn Daman
I read Glenn Daman’s articles for several years and finally felt relieved when his book was published. His work needed to be published for small church pastors. He takes an evangelical and biblical approach to leading the small church and begins by discussing effectiveness and providing a model to achieve an effective ministry. He spends the rest of the book biblically and practically fleshing out that model. It is a very useful book on small church ministry.

5. Making the Small Church Effective in the 21st Century by Carl Dudley
Last, but certainly not least, Dudley's original book is something of a “classic” in terms of small church ministry. Whenever I researched anything concerning “small church” ministry, this book was always mentioned. The original was published in 1978 and is obviously dated, but Dudley revised this work in 2003. It is a standard in small church ministry and should be read along with the other books mentioned.


  1. Have you reviewed Pastor Bob Kopp's "I Just Wanna Ride" ??

    1. I haven't heard of that book, but I will check on it. Thank you for asking!


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