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Summary: This message shares some of my thinking from a brief exploration of the character and place of the small church. I credit a large measure of my thinking to the author of the "Grasshopper Myth" by Karl Vater. I include and credit a number of quotes to him

Chico Alliance Church

Pastor David Welch

“The Advantages of the Small Church”


I have wrestled most of my ministry career with the subject of church growth and health; what constitutes success.

Numerous movements and strategies have come and gone.

Nearly all the conferences for pastors featured pastors and leaders from large churches across the country causing guilt or shame for not grwoing.

The one exception was a conference held at Cannon Beach Conference center call the “Rural Pastors Congress” limited to pastors serving congregations of less than 100.

The impression one gets from all the other conferences has been that the number one goal is to grow as big as you can.

Your worth links to the number of people in the flock.

Other pastors ask, “How big is your church?”

I have felt tempted to answer by giving the number of square feet in the church building.

Many of the strategies did not come from the bible but how some pastor grew his congregation.

Many of the strategies came from the latest marketing insights.

Pastors laid aside their Bible and theology courses and took up business and growth strategies.

The assumption is that if you are not growing numerically, you are dying.

If your church isn’t a certain size it has plateaued or is dying.

The criteria for a pastor’s success is people in the pews and bucks in the bank.

Disclaimer: In dealing with this subject my intent is not to bash big churches or say a big church is wrong.

Issues of health or Right or wrong in a church have more to do with other things than size.

There is wrong perceptions on both sides.

The small churches envy and bash the big churches some time out of jealousy.

The big churches look down and minimalize the small churches out of superiority.

Chico has experienced a varied numerical history from minimal early days to glory days to growth days to what some have considered dying days.

I am not here to argue that small is bad or big is bad or small or large is healthy.

You can have an unhealthy big church as well as an unhealthy small church.

I also believe you can have a healthy big church as well as a healthy small church.

I have been taking a new look at God’s design and what the focus of a local congregation should be.

Today’s message comes from some of the thoughts gathered from my study and reading and conversations with God over the past several months.

I am sure that I am not done, but I have come away recognizing what one author called the “grasshopper myth.”

That comes from the passage describing the feeling of the Israelites on the brink of entering the promised land.

"There also we saw the giants; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." Numbers 13:33

We sometime see ourselves as insignificant because we use the wrong criteria.

The key has to do with having God’s perspective.

Let’s consider some national statistics drawn from Karl Vater's book.

93% of American churches (under 350) are small, while 80% (under 200) are very small. If size equals success, then 93% of pastors are unsuccessful, bad at their jobs and inadequate at fulfilling their calling, while 80% are very bad at their jobs – a number I escape being a part of, but barely. So 80% to 93% of pastors are failures? Can that be right? No. Half of all Christians in America, and far more than half of Christians worldwide attend a Small Church, not because they lack options, but – shockingly – they go to a Small Church because they want to! Vaters, Karl.

Try this. There are approximately 4,000 mega churches serving 100 million people worldwide. Small churches around the world serve over 1 billion people.

Consider a comparison of focus between IKEA and STARBUCKS suggested by Karl.

One has a “the bigger the better” model

The other has a “the smaller the better” model.

Consider a Starbucks executive trying to apply an IKEA strategy.

Currently, the average Starbucks store is less than 800 square feet. We have sent out our spies with measuring tapes and they have discovered that the average IKEA store is well over 100,000 square feet. Some are as large as 200,000 square feet! And our current trend of placing Starbucks locations inside other businesses like grocery stores, entertainment venues and banks is lowering the average store size even more. In the opinion of this Task Force, this is simply unacceptable. If we hope to compete with IKEA, we need to increase the size of the average Starbucks location, and we need to get started NOW! In the brochures we’ve handed out, you will find a multi-year strategy that, in the opinion of this Task Force, we must implement immediately:

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