It is not unusual to hear of someone who has moved from a large church to a small congregation.  The reasons vary.  Sometimes a young person on staff at a large church is offered the senior pastor position with the smaller group.  Some large church leaders as they get older are ready to “step down” a notch or two and so move to a small church.  Others just think it would be easier to minister at a small church and so leave to get away from problems.

Whatever the reason, moving to a small church setting will usually bring culture shock to the minister and his family.  From things as simple as the fact that nothing is open 24 hours and the nearest Walmart is an hour away to far more complex matters such as small church dynamics, the transition can be extremely difficult.

So how can you prepare?  Let me offer a few suggestions:

1.  Get acquanted with your surroundings before you move.  Are you used to eating out after a long day of work?  Then what are the options?  How about doctors, hospitals, drug stores and the like…does your intended location have many options?  Things you take for granted in a large city are not considered all that important in rural America so know what you’re getting into before you move.

2.  Recognize that the small church is its’ own entity.  It is not a mini version of the large church.  If you go there expecting to have the congregation take on all of you favorite programs, you will be sorely disappointed.  They probably will not change their songs, their order of service, or anything else.  Just because you think something is better doesn’t mean they feel the same way.

3.  Be prepared for a change in polity.  In the large church, staff often makes many decisions without consulting anyone.  In the small church almost every decision gets a hearing by the entire church.  And there are always a few key people that will decide if it passes or fails and they are not always the easiest folks to deal with.  Many a leader has tried to bypass this system only to find himself out looking for a new place to minister.

4.  Treat the change as if going to a mission field.  Ask anyone who has gone to another country to share the gospel and they will tell you that it took a long time for them to learn the culture.  They did not assimilate things overnight.  Things seemed strange and foreign for a long while.  It is no different moving from a large church setting to a smaller one.  Understand that you are going to a completely different place and you must be willing to invest the years (yes I said years) learning how to adapt YOURSELF (not change them) to their way of life.  If you can’t do this then you really need to pray about whether God is really leading you down this path.

There are many more things that could be mentioned but perhaps this will give you a start.  Small church ministry is a blessing and the lives you affect will make a difference for Jesus in this world.  Just do some things to be ready because you almost certainly will experience at least some culture shock.