NAMB luncheon encourages ‘normative-sized’ churches in their mission

By Tobin Perry

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) —Though the title of the luncheon was the NAMB Small Church Pastors’ Luncheon, Mark Clifton called it a misnomer.

“It’s really a lunch for 93 percent of all Southern Baptist churches, because 93 percent of all of us have way under 200 in worship every Sunday morning,” said Clifton, the executive director of church replanting and rural ministry at the North American Mission Board. “We are a convention of normal-sized churches.”

“Ninety-three percent of all of us have way under 200 in worship every Sunday morning,” said Mark Clifton, executive director of church replanting and rural ministry at the North American Mission Board at a luncheon for small-church pastors. “We are a convention of normal-sized churches.” (Photo by Lindsey Stumpf)

During the lunch for normative-sized churches held on Tuesday, June 11, Clifton and his replant and rural ministry team at NAMB encouraged pastors and their wives to see the eternal significance of their ministry.

“We wanted them to know that their work is really important and matters. They have a scale they don’t even understand when you have 36,000 churches that have less than 100,” Clifton said. “That’s churches in all kinds of communities, crossroads, and neighborhoods. That’s an amazing resource that I don’t think we fully tap into.”

Developing a rhythm of leader health

Drawing from his book “Finding a Biblical Rhythm: Moving From Surviving to Thriving in Ministry,” Andy Addis shared some of the principles he learned about healthy ministry after nearly dying one day while running.

“Most of us push ourselves too hard. We go beyond our abilities and limits,” said Addis, lead teaching and vision pastor at CrossPoint Church in Kansas and a member of the rural ministry team at NAMB. “I would hesitate to say that we even go beyond what God wants us to do. In doing so, we damage ourselves, our families, our lives, and our ministries.”

Addis took aim at popular sayings among Christian leaders that often counter a healthy ministry. He specifically mentioned “hard work pays off” and “it’s just a season.”

“I want to challenge you that one of the areas you need to lead out in in order to be there for the long term is that you’ve got to establish and draw some lines and get some healthy boundaries,” Addis said.

Serving ministry wives

Darlene Dryer, a Florida pastor’s wife and replant and revitalization spousal support coordinator at NAMB, shared several ways the entity is helping ministry wives. Dryer is a third-generation pastor’s wife.

“What these women in my life have done is they have passed down that [the role of pastor’s wife] is something to rejoice in,” Dryer said. “It is something to count as all joy. It is something to hunger for. It is a challenge that you’ve been called to. And I want to pass that DNA on to the pastors’ wives.”

Dryer described the key values that drive the replant and revitalization team’s ministry to spouses. For example, she says, the resources they provide are drawn directly through needs communicated from the field.

Dryer shared with luncheon attendees several resources to support the work of ministry wives, including books to support their prayer lives.

Dryer described the volunteer coaching system NAMB has developed to help ministry wives. More information about this system and its resources are available at

Jimbo Stewart, the associate director of NAMB’s replant and revitalization team, told attendees about resources available through the entity for normative-sized churches. He highlighted that all the team’s resources are tailored for churches with less than 150 members. Those resources are available at

Mark Clifton: ‘You are not alone’

Clifton ended the luncheon by reminding attendees of their ministry impact.

“If you took every Southern Baptist pastor who preached to over 1,000 last weekend, they could all fit on that one jet,” Clifton said. “Now, you know who sat in first class because they have a pecking order and they would figure it out. But if you took the rest of us under 100, we would fill every seat in Royals [Kauffman] Stadium in Kansas City. You are not alone out there.”

God does amazing work in small places, he added. He urged pastors of normative-sized churches to be faithful to God’s Word and not be concerned about the numbers. He described his own ministry at Linwood Baptist Church in Linwood, Kansas, where attendance has gone back and forth over the past month between 44 and 98.

Attendees heard the musical talents of Chosen Road, a Christian bluegrass group.

Published June 14, 2024

Tobin Perry

Tobin Perry writes for Baptist Press.