Sometimes people ask me, “So Matt, what’s it like serving in a Church that is 5.85 times bigger than the town you grew up in?” OK, maybe no one else actually took the time to divide the membership of the church where I serve (7086) by the population of my hometown (1211 in the year 2000), but I like to be accurate. I guess that’s a leftover from my research days.
So, without further delay, I thought I’d give you the top ten differences between serving in a Megachurch vs. serving in a smaller two-point charge (total combined membership around 180). These are in no particular order.
- I no longer can tell the difference between visitors, members, and long-time regulars by looking at the crowd on Sunday morning. In fact, I see completely new people every single Sunday and most days of the week.
- I used to preach all the time and teach occasionally. Now, I teach all the time and preach occasionally.
- Believe it or not, I now work with a much smaller budget! Before, I was involved in the finance committee, administrative council, etc. for two congregations. That meant I was in some way directly responsible for every dollar of the congregation. Now, I’m responsible in a direct way only for my departmental budget (roughly 7 percent of what I oversaw before). Of course, I do think that I’m responsible for the larger budget as I teach the meaning of giving and discipleship, but let’s not get too technical here!
- Within that vein, I no longer handle any charge conference forms or end of the year reports. Before, I handled (either directly or indirectly) the reports and charge conference for two congregations.
- One of the great benefits of my new setting is working with a staff. In our case, that means working with an incredible staff, and I would write that even if I knew none of them would read this. 🙂
- In the rural/small town church you find yourself much more connected with pastors of other UM congregations. I do miss the fellowship that took place when I saw the other pastors of my former district at district events. I had heard about this before, and it seems to be true.
- I now own a home, even though this still hasn’t sunk into my mind. My wife and I have either rented or lived in a parsonage for the first nine years of our marriage, so we still sometimes say, “oh my goodness, we own this place!”
- In the rural/small town church, you’re never really off work unless you’re out of town. Here, when I’m at home, for the most part I’m at home and not working (at least not in the sense of being on the phone or running back and forth across the street to the church building). It is a little different doing all of the pastoral care for two congregations and then being on a staff with a full time department of pastoral care.
- Before, I saw someone from church nearly every single time I went to the store or post office. Now, believe it or not, our congregation is large enough this still happens quite frequently. However, sometimes they know me and I have no idea who they are! Again, this is different!
- Finally, I want to end with a similarity. In both places, I have been incredibly impressed with the genuine faith, love of God, and passionate conviction within the people who worship in the congregations I serve.
I wondered if I could get to ten when I started this post, and I realize now that I could have probably written at least 25! So, consider this the first ten things that popped in my mind.
Thanks to John Meunier, who suggested he’d be interested in reading something like this when we were chatting on Facebook the other day.