We know how difficult it can be to stay encouraged and find affordable resources when you are a small church. At the same time, we believe that small churches are essential to the mission God has for his Church in our local communities and around the world! Below, we have listed and linked some resources that we have found useful, and we hope you will benefit from them too!
Apps and Online Services
Rather than going back and forth to set up an appointment, what if you could direct someone to a website that knows when you are available and when you are not for them to select a date and time to meet? Calendly gives you the ability to do that. Put a “schedule an appointment” link in your email signature, or send it directly to others. The free version of this online platform is great, and they offer non-profit discounts for their premium version. Check it out!
If you usually forward the church phone to your cell and you have a smartphone with a data plan, this is perfect for you. Move your church number to OpenPhone’s service and only pay $13 for your phone bill. Set business hours in which your church line will ring and outside which calls will be sent to voicemail. Set an in office and out of office voicemail, and see very clearly if it is a business call or personal call. Well worth it for the solo pastor!
If you are familiar with Planning Center, you may be about to disagree with me about this being useful for a small church, but hear me out on this one.
I have been able to save hours each month in simplified volunteer management and scheduling, my music team is remembering that they are scheduled and are in the know of what we are doing, our service orders come together quickly and can be viewed by everyone who needs it right from the web, my children's ministry has a secure check-in protocol and attendance is tracked, plus I have a solid piece of church management software for keeping track of who comes to our church, how to get ahold of them, and where in the next steps pipeline they are at.
Yes, this comes at a cost, but I think that it is offset by all the things I just mentioned. If your church is extremely small, you may be able to manage on their free account...but chances are you will need to pay.
$14USD/month will get you Planning Center Services use for up to 25 Team Members, 15 Daily children's checkins (they will allow you to go over on this once in a while without paying extra), and their People church management software.
online giving platforms
Online giving is a necessity in the 21st century as cheques and cash become less prevalent and people are away from church more and more. We've found that most online payment platforms are not perfectly suited to church use: PayPal has no monthly fees, but it is slow and clunky; Wave and Square are not designed for the needs of regular church giving; and solutions like Emanent, even with things like PAOC discounts, still have expensive and unnecessary monthly fees.
We have found that Tithe.ly addresses all of these issues. No monthly fees (you pay a per-transaction fee, which you would pay with all the other options anyway). No contracts. Recurring giving. Online statements. The ability to add areas of giving. Can be added to your website. Options for text-to-give (this adds an additional fee). Note: Currently Tithe.ly only accepts credit cards or Visa/Mastercard-debit cards in Canada. However, they have told me that they should have direct-bank-withdrawal in Canada in Q2 of 2018.
This group for lead pastors only is run by pastors' coach Dave Jacobs. It's a great place to support and be supported by other pastors. Share resources, stories, and give and receive prayer.
The Rural Church Pastors Network is a group of pastors from rural churches who are looking for ways to encourage each other and help each other succeed. They offer online resources, regional gatherings, occasional training events, and mentoring relationships: all geared toward the realities of rural ministry.
Whether you need new Sunday School curriculum that utilizes video, games, and more or just need a sermon video and bulletin handout for while you're away on some much needed holidays, check out open.life.church. Life Church, pastored by Craig Groeschel and the organization behind the YouVersion Bible App, has made it their mission to give as much content away for free as they can.
Podcasts, Blogs, & Articles
Most of the encouragement and information on pastoring and leading a church is put out by large churches sharing large church principles. Sometimes they can even feel like they look down on anyone who has not been "blessed" enough to have a church that is quickly growing into a larger church. Not these guys. Their blog and podcast are essential tools for the small church pastor's tool belt.
While not geared toward small churches, this Canadian company has a lot of free educational content regarding church communications and media.
Check out their blog, their youtube channel, and their audio podcast.
Web Platforms (Build a church Website)
If you don't have a website, you're missing out on an important outreach and advertising tool. Experts are calling the church website "the front door to your church." That means you need one, and it needs to look good. It also needs to be up to date and easy to keep up to date!
Stay away from the options from companies that make websites for churches (like sharefaith). They are clunky and usually don't look great. Instead, give Squarespace a try. We have found that they are always up-to-date, are super easy to use, are reliable, and have beautiful and customizable templates. Yes, they cost money. But 10% off codes can be found all over the place, and no matter what, a good website is going to cost you.
If you stay under 20 pages on your site, you can even subscribe to their personal instead of business package. This includes your hosting, all their features and templates, and a free year of owning a custom web domain (e.g., mychurch.com) for $144 USD a year. If you're new to having a good website, that may sound expensive, but it's worth it and we truly believe every small church should spend that money each year.
Worship, Media, & Music
This is a great piece of software that allows you to have a full band on stage...even when you only have a vocalist with an acoustic guitar. You can mute any instruments that you do have on stage that day, repeat sections of songs, change volume, etc. The free version is great, but you at the very least should spring for one of their $65 USB pedals (allows you to start/stop, repeat sections, etc. without using your hands)...or even better the $160 uber pedal (made of metal!) which lets you go back to chorus, verse, bridge, or ending as well. Chords are displayed on screen above the lyrics, so everything your band needs is right there.
If you spend money on the standard version, Fly Worship will also take care of projecting your lyrics for you!
Songs are $10US a piece, but once you have a good catalogue of them, you'll only need to buy one or two every now and then. You can also change song keys and tempo. Seriously, this is worth buying and figuring out!
Books to Read
A greatly encouraging book for the small-church pastor, the Grasshopper Myth asks the question, what if being a small church isn't a bad thing? In a society that tends to look up to massive, fast-growing churches and look down on those in smaller ministry settings, it is a breath of fresh air to be reminded that just because you're small doesn't mean you can't do big, impactful ministry!
A simple, practical read on taking care of one's own soul. In the process of caring for others' souls, it's easy to forget about your own.
Despite its provocative title (which is explained at the very beginning of the book), Naked Man Running contains short and highly applicable chapters on a host of important topics for the small church pastor. Drawing from years as a small-church pastor's coach, Dave Jacobs has created this great reference guide that will help with the various needs of a small-church pastor.
Big churches get all the love. Articles, books, conferencesthey mostly feature leaders of large congregations. Yet big churches are a small part of the ecclesial landscape. In fact, more than 90 percent of churches have fewer than 200 people. That means small churches play a big part in what God is doing in North America.
Small Church Essentials is for leaders of these smaller congregations. It encourages them to steward their role well, debunking myths about small churches while offering principles for leading a dynamic, healthy small church