Small Churches and Seagulls

Written by Carl Greene

November 30, 2022

Seagull agility defies oceanside wind currents. Seagull agility reveals aeronautic mastery no matter the obstacle. But let’s be honest, seagulls are the bane of our existence when French Fries are on the menu.

Seagulls also offer small churches lessons about agility.

Let’s think about agility as nimbleness—the ability to move quickly and easily.[1] That is not always the strong suit for churches amidst cultural change and even changes within our communities. But agility can be an amazing strength—especially for small churches.

Adaptive Change Over the Plan

Ring-billed Gulls can fly by you at over 40 miles per hour and snatch a snack on their way through.[2] They can hover and swoop through the air, or hop by on the beach to reach their destination of your lunch. Gulls do not have an unchanging plan to reach their goal, they are ready to adapt to the weather and your reactions.

Think about this for small churches. Small churches do not need to have cumbersome organization structure (though we might have inherited one that needs dismantling). We do not need to go through a lengthy process of policy making. We can be nimble and ready to change our direction thanks to our size.

All too often, small churches mirror the design of large churches and lose our nimbleness. We should be “Ring-billed Gull on French Fries” fast when it comes to responding to the needs in our community. But, we need to be ready to change and not live by a set plan that dictates how we operate decade after decade. And, this leads to the next item.

People Over Processes[3]

We do not want to be completely like seagulls. They are annoying thieves that have a great process, but no concern for people. That does not sound like a good mantra for churches.

Agility needs to have purpose and not be all about the process of benefiting our organization. We do not want the best process at the expense of people. That would be the seagull system. We strive for Kingdom Family where we live as family because we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We want to live in authentic community with our Kingdom Family more than refining a process for brag-worthy church statistics.

Small churches do not need to spend endless hours developing the latest, greatest process to have a scalable plan. We can focus on people. We can focus on a person. That is a great gift that we have to offer in a culture awash with processes and policies and light on true community.

Let’s live out the agility of the small church to actively advance God’s Kingdom. Focus on people. But maybe not too much like a seagull.

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/agility

[2] https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ring-billed_Gull/lifehistory#

[3] Both of these subheadings are drawn from the “Agile Manifesto.” https://agilemanifesto.org/ The Agile Manifesto was developed by software development leaders in search of a better process than the existing “waterfall” approach which was largely top-down, plan driven. For a great application of this thinking to mission, see A Just Mission by Mekdes Haddis.

Photo courtesy of Sam Greene.

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