The Difference Between Pastoring In A Small And A Large Church

Rodlie Ortiz —  September 29, 2011 — 15 Comments

Up until about 3 months ago, I pastored in a relatively small church. If you pastor in a small church, you know well that the pastor does a little bit of everything. You’re the web guy. The preacher. At times you’re the janitor. If someone gets sick, you’re the one that is expected to go for the visit. If someone needs a Bible study, the church members look to you. In one way or another you oversee lots of little things.

I used to think that being part of a larger church would require about the same amount of energy and time, and certainly not more. Now that I’m part of a larger church, I’m seeing that I was wrong. Before I share more, let me first delineate some things that I’m no longer doing:

1. I don’t regularly preach from the pulpit. Our senior pastor, Dwight Nelson, takes care of that.

2. I don’t have to worry about visitations and hospital visits. There’s a pastor that cover that.

3. I don’t oversee small groups. You guessed it, there’s a pastor for that.

4. I don’t plan and implement the worship services. There’s a worship pastor that covers that.

5. I don’t chair our staff or board meetings. Our senior pastor does that.

Right now you’re probably thinking that if you didn’t have to do all those things you’d be set and have a lot of time on your hands, but the reality is quite different.

Let me share some of the things that I do cover to give some perspective:

1. I lead a weekly community Bible study group.

2. I chair an evangelism council.

3. I’m part of a governing board for our church plant, Harbor of Hope.

4. I’m on a preaching schedule for dorm worships and our mid-week service (House of Prayer)

5. I could go on an on…

I’m overseeing our downlink of Prophecies Decoded, a satellite based prophecy series. In a small church this would be no big deal. I would make sure we had a few leaders on hand, we’d flip the switch, and begin the broadcast. Here, there are dozens of volunteers involved and we need more. We have row hosts, parking lot volunteers, children’s programs for kids 0-7, visitation teams, greeting teams, setup and ushering teams, as well as a team that prepares the materials for each night. In my 5.5 years pastoring in small churches, I did several evangelistic series. And even though I’m not even the speaker for Prophecies Decoded, this has been the most time intensive project that I’ve ever done.

So whereas I might not be overseeing a hundred little things, I’m always overseeing several large projects at the same time. These are projects that all have lots of moving parts, that involve many meetings, and a lot of organization. When you’re on a campus church, there’s always lots of little details associated with big projects.

So why do I share all this? To give some perspective. I love what I’m doing now. I also loved what I was doing before. But I think sometimes it’s easy to think that because someone is in a larger church that they’ve “made it” and have it easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true, I don’t have to worry about someone calling me in the middle of the night because someone’s been in a car accident, but then again, I come in to the office around 8am and leave around 6:30pm.

Ministry is ministry and ministry keeps you busy no matter the size of the church or the number of staff.

I think that’s the bottom line.


[image by lost in pixels]

Rodlie Ortiz

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On the pastoral team at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University. Tech geek.

15 responses to The Difference Between Pastoring In A Small And A Large Church

  1. How well is the Satellite series attended at PMC? This year we pulled the plug on our down link due to all the problems Hope has been having.

  2. thanks for sharing this perspective rodlie,

    i think your final sentence summarizes everything quite well, “Ministry is ministry and ministry keeps you busy no matter the size of the church or the number of staff.”

  3. Rodlie,

    Thanks for sharing.

    I was reading someone’s testimony that they had pastored 17 years and rarely met a “Gentile”. And when he did, “I had no idea what to do or say.” So my follow-up question in this blog would be: how would you compare pastoring in different cities? One that may be more “wordly” than the other.

    • That’s a good question, Jenna. Tampa, of course, is a pretty large urban city that is quite secularized. The reason I originally had no interest in coming to Berrien Springs is because I thought it would just be this Christian bubble. But the reason I decided to come is because of the secularization that has happened on campus, to an extent. At the moment, around 50% of Andrews graduates are leaving the faith when they leave the campus. It’s a startling number which might actually be higher. So, Pioneer Memorial Church now sees it’s primary mission field as being the students.

  4. Sounds like it would be just as easy to do lots of busy work and run the danger of not being ultimately productive. I like how you say that PMC sees its mission as being the students. I’d love to read more from you about what you are doing and what your challenges are…

    It’s pretty easy to give a talk that no one remembers or that impacts nobody… What are you doing to make a difference?

    Keep writing Rodlie… Always a pleasure…
    Joe Duchesne recently posted..Repent!… Leave me alone!

    • One of the big projects I’m working on at the moment is helping to develop a discipleship process for the church. So I’m gathering different leaders to help brainstorm through a possible process. Also, convening listening groups with the students to learn about the context and to develop appropriate processes. So that’s one big project. A not so glamorous one is overseeing about 20 different ministries and their budgets. I have to oversee a rather large budget that I’m working on at the moment…lots of administrative work…..Also working on implementing a d.min project….there’s quite a few things going on at the same time…

  5. Wow! That really is startling! And this a group that has been, as they say, “inoculated” so evangelism methods would have to take a different approach wouldn’t it?

    • Yeah, you could say so…we’re just trying to be as relevant as we can to our local context…which, being on a university campus, is quite unique.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I have to admit I didn’t think you would be that busy but the truth I would prefer it. I like the structure of it all.

    • Yeah, in this sense, structure is kind of given to you….for some things anyway….but they’re also counting on me to initiate and develop brand-new things. It’s really not that different in some ways from pastoring in a smaller church…just different in scope. Whereas in a small church you’re responsible for the overall vision and direction of the church, in a large church you’re responsible for the overall vision and direction of your department…

  7. Don’t hate me for submitting your name:)! Love you brother, keep up the good work and make sure you love on your family and not just the projects! I say as a reminder to myself as well.
    Chad Stuart recently posted..Mark Driscoll Interviews John Piper

  8. Rodlie,
    We are so glad that you are here. It is a pleasure working for you!

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