Here's some of what I brought home from the conference for first-time pastors of large churches in Houston last weekend. I went in with some preconceived notions, and I came home much more realistic ...
Preconceived notion = in big churches it's all about the money.
Reality = big churches are engaged in some of the most transformative ministry I've seen.
Preconceived notion = all big churches are comprised of conservative evangelicals.
Reality = big churches are wonderfully diverse.
Preconceived notion = there is one right way to organize a big church.
Reality = big churches are just as contextual as small churches.
Preconceived notion = big churches are all contemporary in worship style.
Reality = from high church to rock and roll and everything in between and all around.
Preconceived notion = the bigger the church, the less personal contact between people.
Reality = no matter what size of congregation, human psychology indicates that you will have close associations with about the same number of people. Small groups are the key for any size congregation, once you get past the idea that you have to know everybody.
Preconceived notion = pastors of big churches flash large, impressive numbers to convey "success" in a boastful tone.
Reality = some do, but most are more interested in boasting about the ministries happening, and the people participating in them, using numbers simply to describe them.
Preconceived notion = big churches are more businesslike.
Reality = churches can/should be more churchlike, no matter what size they are.
Preconceived notion = serving a bigger church would be hard for me.
Reality = it is!
Nonetheless, this past weekend liberated me to understand the task in a new way, assuring me that I can do this with my own personality and approach, that I do not have to fit into someone else's mold of "big church pastor" in order to flourish in this role, and encouraging me to claim my identity and my place in the church. I do not have to compromise who I am in order to do this. In fact, I'll undoubtably have more success in this appointment if I don't.
I'm a pastor in a big church, and that's okay with me!