I’ve Served At Two Different Church Sizes (This Is What’s Different)

Nick Ballard
May 30th, 2019

There are some things that churches will have in common no matter what the size:  The Word of God is preached, people need cared for and discipled, and you can always blame the youth pastor for damage to the building.  But there are also some major differences.  I have been in student ministry at 2 different churches.  The first church I served at was a church of about 700-800, and I was there for about 6 years.  The second church (and current one) is a church of about 2,500, and I have been here for over 8 years.

Here are the differences that I’ve noticed between serving at a mega-church compared to a medium-sized church.  Had I served at the mega-church first, I would begin to implement some things I’ve learned to the smaller church setting.  However, there are some great benefits of a smaller church that you simply cannot bring into a mega-church setting.  Please note that this is just my experience that I’m sharing.  I do not speak for all mega-churches or all smaller churches.

  1. There are added layers of leadership at the larger church.  One thing I’ve noticed is that there are necessary, added layers of leadership at the larger church; especially when it comes to student ministry.  At the smaller church, it was fairly simple.  There was me, my handful of volunteer leaders, and students.  I was able to know all the students by name, pour into them and also meet regularly with my leaders.  However, as I began ministry in a larger church setting, I quickly realized that I cannot know all the students, and it’s very difficult to know all the leaders really well.  Therefore, it was necessary to add layers of leadership to the structure.  While I strive to know the names of as many students as possible, I am to the point where I don’t even lead a small group anymore.  I’ve realized that I needed to take more time to develop leaders in order for them to develop students.  Recently, we added the layer of Small Group Coach.  These coaches now develop and lead the leaders, so that the leaders can pour into the students.  I pour into the coaches, who pour into the leaders, who pour into the students.  With added layers of leadership, the capacity to reach more students and do more ministry becomes greater.  This is necessary in the large church setting, but can be beneficial in the smaller church setting as well!
  2. There are less sacred cows to kill, meaning there is less bureaucracy at the larger church.  The Elders at my current church have trusted the staff to do the job.  They ask how things are going, pray for our families, and offer help if needed, but they do not breathe down my neck expecting things to be a certain way.  If they suspected I wasn’t doing a good job, they’d start breathing, but they also expect my Direct Report to have their finger on my pulse.  I love that I never have to attend an Elder’s Meeting, but I can ask to meet with an Elder at any time.  Likewise, there is trust with the staff to make decisions regarding ministry and church-wide plans.  Elders don’t sit around a meeting voting on carpet color.  If we want to change the carpet, we change the carpet.  If we want to kill Sunday morning student programming (and have a good reason), we kill it.  We did this, and we presented the “why” to them, and they enthusiastically supported it.
  3. Less people know who I am or what I do in the larger church.  This took some getting used to, but I’ve gotten used to it.  While I have been on staff for 8 years, there are many people have no idea I am on staff.  It’s always funny talking with someone at church, and they ask me what I do for a living.  At the smaller church, it was more obvious who the staff was at any given time.  I believe that this was a benefit to a lot of people.  My accessibility was more open, and it was easier to find who did what on staff.

These are just a few of the bigger differences that I’ve noticed moving from a smaller church to a larger church.  I know not all small churches are the same, and not all large churches are the same.  I also know that God has each one of us, where He wants us, for the time that He wants us there.  God is using church, small and large, to grow His Kingdom.  The methods may be different, but the goal remains the same!

Nick Ballard

Nick is the Next Gen Pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, MO, which is outside of St. Louis. Nick has been in full-time student ministry since 2005. He's been married since 2004, and been a father since 2011. Nick loves student ministry, the local church, and believe that God has big plans for this generation of teenagers. Follow Nick at Twitter @nicksville or check out www.studentministrylife.com

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