My name is Daniel Isgrigg, and I pastor an average church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I became a Christian after high school after being away from my Methodist upbringing for several years. After getting saved, I decided to attend the Assemblies of God church that my sister attended. Christian Chapel is an AG church in upper middle class area of Tulsa. After attending for a few years, I started working at Christian Chapel as the janitor before entering Oral Roberts University to earn a degree in Theological & Historical Studies. I graduated in May 2000. At that time Christain Chapel hired me as the full time Children’s Pastor. CC is a church that has historically been a church of 300+ and I had the privilege of serving as one of three full time staff pastors. I became an Assemblies of God minister in 2005. After 6 years as Children’s Pastor, I transitioned to a role as Associate Pastor as I pursued the completion of my masters from ORU. I served as Associate Pastor for the next 4 years. During that time I finished my masters degree and published two books (you can find them here).
During my 10 years at CC I had it made. A great ministry environment. A full time salary with benefits. A staff of full time ministers to work with on a daily basis who were my best friends. I loved going to work. I was given a generous budget by the church to be able to do ministry. In that time we started our own kids camp ministry which I directed. I built a children’s ministry with 60 volunteers and 70 kids. I was learning what ministry was like in a large church. CC was the only church I have ever experienced. As my ministry skills grew, I knew it was time for me to pursue my own pastorate.
In March of 2010, I was selected to be the Pastor of New Life Center in Broken Arrow, OK, a suburb of Tulsa. I was excited for the opportunity but I was not ready for the challenges of the small church. I left a church of 300 and began my ministry to 55 people on my first Sunday. I left the security of a big church for the loneliness of a small church.
Since 2010, I have been on a journey to understand who I am as a pastor. It was a big learning curve going from a big church to an average size church. I wasn’t ready to do ministry alone as the only ft staff member. I was used to the systems of a large church. I was used to having money when I needed it. I had preached to more kids in my children’s ministry than I had adults in my church. I found out quickly that pastoring an average church was a very different endeavor. I couldn’t use my knowledge from CC because a church of 50 operates so differently than a large church.
I did what all pastors do when they come into a new ministry. I was ready to fix this church and turn it from the small church into a big church like the one I left. I had read every growth book. I read all the leadership books. I listened to all the best podcasts. I started doing everything I knew to do to make it grow. But after two years, we were around 70 people and I was exhausted and frustrated. I knew something was wrong with how I was approaching ministry in a church of 75.
In 2012 we did a year long vision discovery process with the Assemblies of God Healthy Church Network program. We found our vision for our church. It was a shared vision process. We know who we are and what we are trying to do. We are doing many of the things that the church gurus tell us we should do grow. And we have very few of the barriers they these experts say small churches must overcome. We are friendly. We are professional. We have young families. We use technology and social media. We pray. We have transformed our church into a outward focused church. I have shared the ministry responsibility with capable people including other ordained ministers in my church. I have a remarkably large volunteer staff for our size! Yet, as of 2014, we are still just an average church. New Life Center has grown and is healthy. But we are still under 100 most Sundays. We have a wonderful 10,000 sf. facility in the suburbs. We have about a dozen kids. We have a multi-generational congregation. We are loving and friendly. We are involved in our community. Our people are givers and servers. We do things the right way. Its a great church. It is an average church. (Find out more about New Life Center )
Since I started in 2010, I have learned alot about pastoring an average church. I have learned that there are many more of us out there than large church pastors. I have connected with other pastors like me pastoring average churches. They are some of the best pastors I know. And their churches are average just like mine. I found guys like Karl Vaters of www.newsmallchurch.com and a great blog called 200churches.com. These small church pastors and bloggers have helped me embrace who I am. They helped me believe that my church is great even if it isn’t growing. We are a good church. We are a healthy church. Just because we aren’t growing rapidly, doesn’t mean we are not doing good things for his kingdom. They helped me realize that large church strategies will only frustrate me. They helped me realize that small is normal. And small is not small at all. It is average. I pastor an average size church.
I hope my experiences in this blog will help pastors like me realize they are not big church pastors stuck in small churches. I hope I can share some of my journey to help others out there who are working hard to make their average church successful.