Stephen Anderson D.Min.
Of itself, church smallness is neither an anomaly, a mistake, nor a virtue. In God’s providence and design, small is normal, and may in fact bring significant strengths. However, no prior research has investigated the distinctive dynamics and challenges faced by rectors of smaller parishes in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, and despite extensive training pathways there is very little leadership development that focuses specifically upon the small church. This mixed-methods research project integrates theological and sociological insights and discoveries in order to equip and encourage these servants of Christ to persevere in fruitful ministry over the long term.
This dissertation presents a complete biblical theology of fruitfulness. Coupling this to the “Robinson-Knox” ecclesiology imbibed by nearly all Sydney Anglican rectors, a “purpose-of-churching” scale is derived to help stimulate theologically consistent models of ministry. At the heart of this project, the Nominal Group Technique is used to generate a list of the Top 7 challenges encountered by a pool of experienced small-church rectors. In light of this robust list along with critical insights from the secondary literature, four follow-up interviews are conducted on location.
This pilot research project includes major findings in three key areas. The full, biblical definition of ministry fruitfulness protects and encourages the small-church pastor, especially when tied to the proper purposes of churching. A perceptive analysis of typical small-church culture arising from the secondary literature equips the rector to lead in ways indigenous to actual church size. At the heart, the Top 7 list of small-church challenges renders a “thick” diagnosis widely applicable by such rectors to their ministry settings. As this project concludes, a fresh, rigorous, semi-linear coaching framework for emerging and established rectors serving in small Anglican parishes is proposed for initial implementation.