Show Notes

Times change, but the same can’t always be said of churches. Why is it that some take risks and try new things, while others can’t seem to get unstuck?

In this overwhelmingly encouraging conversation, Ron Johnston, Executive Director of Small Church Connections in Canada, shares practical steps pastors can take to build trust and cast vision with their congregations. You’ll also hear a refreshing and very personal approach to life-on-life discipleship. Listen in and gain new hope for your rural church.

Dr. Ron Johnston is the Executive Director of Small Church Connections, an organization committed to serving small churches across Canada. Previously he served as Director of International Programs at International Teams Canada and was a pastor for more than thirty years. He is the author of Reality Check For The Church.

Fresh Expressions is a worldwide movement of everyday missionaries who want to see churches thrive in the places we live, eat, work and play by leveraging the creativity and endurance of the inherited church. To learn a simple five-phase process for starting a new expression of church go to freshexpressions.com/howtostart.

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Interview Summary

In this episode, we delve into an enlightening conversation with Ron Johnston, the Executive Director of Small Church Connections in Canada. Through his experience and wisdom, Ron shares invaluable insights on the significance of trust, the unique value of small churches, and the power of enduring through challenges to foster community bonds.

The Power of Trust

Building Trust through Adversity: Ron discusses the critical role of shared experiences, particularly traumatic ones, in accelerating trust-building within a community. He points out, “Trust takes time in a smaller community, but going through traumatic experiences together can speed that up.” This insight underscores the paradoxical strength that can emerge from adversity, fostering a deeper sense of unity and mutual support.

Trust as a Currency: Ron introduces the metaphor of a “trust account,” illustrating how consistent, positive interactions and support contribute to building a reservoir of trust. This account then becomes a crucial resource for implementing change and fostering comfort with new ideas within the church.

“a trust account… it gives you an ability to just make the progress with people that you all need to make together.”

The Role of Small Churches

Rejecting the ‘Just a Small Church’ Mindset: Ron passionately argues against the notion that small churches are lesser or insignificant. He insists on the intrinsic value of every church, regardless of size, emphasizing that, “Size doesn’t matter, but relationship to Jesus matters.”

“No church is allowed to call themselves ‘just a small church’ in my presence.”

Unique Impact of Small Churches: Highlighting the special role small churches play, Ron speaks to their ability to impact individuals and communities in ways that larger churches might not be able to. He stresses the importance of recognizing and leveraging the unique strengths and opportunities inherent in smaller congregations.

“We’re not just small churches. We’re part of the body of Christ, and that’s what really matters.”

Navigating Change and Leadership

Embracing Change with Patience: Ron advises on the importance of patience and gradual, steady efforts in implementing change within the church. He describes change as a process that should not be rushed, suggesting that lasting transformation comes from nurturing seeds of change over time.

“It’s amazing what you can change over time if you don’t rush it.”

Leadership in Small Churches: Distinguishing between pastoral care and leadership, Ron emphasizes that effective leadership can come from various members within the church, not just the pastor. He suggests identifying and nurturing leadership talents within the congregation to foster a more dynamic and engaged church community.

Ron Johnston’s conversation is a testament to the strength, resilience, and unique value of small church communities. He eloquently speaks to the heart of these congregations, encouraging them to recognize their worth, embrace their unique attributes, and contribute meaningfully to their members’ lives and broader community. His words serve as a powerful reminder that every church, regardless of size, has a special role in God’s plan.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can we build trust within our church community effectively?
  2. In what ways can we redefine success in the context of a small church?
  3. How can we better support and utilize the diverse leadership skills within our church?
  4. How can we foster intergenerational relationships and discipleship within our church?
  5. What steps can we take to ensure that our church remains relevant and impactful in our unique community setting?
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