Small church essentials

Title– Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregations of Under 250

Author– Karl Vaters

Publisher– Moody Publishers

Genre– Church & Ministry/ Church Life

Pages– 256

Rating– 3.75/5

Set to release March 6, 2018, Small Church Essentials will be a good resource for leaders of a small church to draw upon for wisdom. Karl Vaters has been a small church pastor for 30 years and in this book, he outlines helpful truths, tips, and trials that small churches regularly face.

Karl Vaters states in Small Church Essentials that “[t]his book is not about how to get your small church to become a big church. It’s also not about how small churches are better than big churches… it’s about wanting small churches to be great.” This is probably the most appealing factor, to me, of this book. There are so many resources on how to grow your small church to become a mega-church, or how to get more “butts in your pews”, or drawing in the “unchurched”. But, Vaters newest book is not about growing a small church into a bigger church. His book is about making a small church a healthy church. 

Vaters lays out a solid argument to support his purpose for this book. One of the weaknesses of this book, however, is that the author spent about a fifth of his book trying to lay the foundation that his book wasn’t about getting a small church to grow bigger or that the small church is better than the big church. So, the reader might feel like he or she is reading the same thing for the first portion of the book. With that said, it is not a bad thing for Vaters to lay out his argument in this way, but it could have been done in fewer pages.

Small Church Essentials is a timely resource for many small churches. It seems like the American-Christian culture has shifted in the past few decades from desiring bigger churches to attend and is now finally swinging back toward the desire for smaller churches. Vaters recognized that there are some weaknesses in the structure of the big church and he highlights some items in the structure of the smaller church that Christians in local churches gravitate towards. Again, the author emphasized that small churches are not better than big churches or big churches are better than small churches. Christians in today’s culture are looking for a close-knit community of believers where they can serve and love one another. The small church is a great place for this to thrive.

There are so many helpful pieces of advice in Small Church Essentials so it is hard to pinpoint just one that stuck out to me. If I had to choose one helpful piece of advice in this book it would be The Closet Rule. Basically, this rule is similar to decluttering your house. Before adding anything new to your closet it is a good practice to throw away things that go unused, don’t fit well, or are too old. The same can be applied to the church pertaining to various ministries. Unless your “ministry closet” can hold a ton of ministries and they can thrive it is a good practice to assess the effectiveness of existing ministries before adding a new ministry. For example, the church may have a ministry that has been around for a decade, but there seems to only be a small handful of people who attend and it fails to fit into the vision/mission of the church. So, before adding that new “Out Reach” ministry it would best serve the small church to assess if older ministries are still effective and can be kept or if one needs to be dropped in order for there to be room for the newer ministry!

Overall, I enjoyed this book and found it helpful in my current situation! I would recommend this book to the leaders of a small church, but congregations can benefit from Vaters’ book too. The leaders of a small church are informed all the time of what things need to change to promote a healthy environment in the church more often than the congregation is. Therefore, if you are not a leader in a local small church, I would suggest you pick up Small Church Essentials when it finally hits the shelves and consider what areas your small church needs to improve in and become more healthy!

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