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The Smaller Church Option

Matt Porter

The Smaller Church Option

Matt Porter is the youth, children’s and families minister at St. Margaret’s Church, Angmering.

SMALL CHURCH = NO CHANCE

I first looked at the 9:38 website seven years ago. I saw smaller churches, in smaller towns with MT openings and I moved on past them. I settled upon applying to Christ Church in Cambridge. Fast forward seven years, two spent in Cambridge, four working with UCCF in Manchester and I now find myself in a village context in West Sussex. I’ve joined a healthy church with lots of families, youth and seniors and as we advertise for an MT ourselves it’s forced me to think what I turned down all those years ago.

Smaller context is harder right?

Yep. Just moving somewhere different can be hard and moving to a non-city context probably means things won’t be as up-to-date. You’ll also have to say goodbye to some good friends and it might be that there are a lot less people your own age. But joining a bigger staff team has its own challenges too, you don’t get the same level of access, your training naturally has to be a little different and it can be harder to get to know a massive church family (even if you know some of them already).

Okay, pitch me the smaller church then?

With a smaller scheme you can do more frontline ministry, more of the time. ‘Match experience’ is vital for the future. I was fortunate because Christ Church only had three MT’s. During my two years as an MT I got increasing chances to lead and preach, I helped co-ordinate a 4-11’s holiday club and sat in on senior staff discussions about evangelism and pastoral care. I had a deeper experience to draw on later in life. Some programmes offer speaking and teaching opportunities but in reality it’s very infrequent.  Had I been the sole MT on a scheme these opportunities would have been even greater.

Smaller churches, in less familiar contexts, need energetic and dynamic MT’s just as much as larger churches – and possibly they need them more.

Alongside more opportunities you also get more investment in you. Countless times a senior staff member would give detailed feedback on areas of my ministry life, or would help me think through different ministry strategies and generally there was an ‘open door’ policy. A smaller church might also have funding available and be able to provide you free accommodation.

It’s about the gospel too...

There is a huge benefit, beyond your individual growth, which comes from going to a smaller church. If we all huddle together the gospel will advance much more slowly. Villages and towns need thriving churches too and I’ve learnt from this village and you could bring fresh input and ideas from the church contexts you’ve seen. 

So what now?

Think about the best place for your development and for the gospel advancement too. It’s a wisdom call and what works for you might not suit someone else. If you can find something that blends quality training, significant practical experience and is a place where you can make a difference, go for it!

Smaller churches, in less familiar contexts, need energetic and dynamic MT’s just as much as larger churches – and possibly they need them more.