Summary: This message continued my reflections on the small church from part one.
Chico Alliance Church
Pastor David Welch
“The Advantages of the Small Church” Pt 2
Many pastors of small congregations feel inferior or failures or intimidated by larger churches. I have wrestled most of my ministry career with the subject of church growth and health; what constitutes success. The criteria for a pastor’s success is people in the pews and bucks in the bank. I am not here to argue that small is bad or big is bad or small or large is healthy. Today’s message is a continuation of last week where I shared some of the thoughts gathered from my study and reading and conversations with God over the past several months.
93% of American churches (under 350) are small, while 80% (under 200) are very small. There are approximately 4,000 mega churches serving 100 million people worldwide. The innumerable small churches around the world serve over 1 billion people. So many places in the world have large impact through small congregations.
Last week I mentioned that there are 1.2 million CM&A members gathering in mostly small congregations throughout Vietnam despite communist rule and persecution. Not marketing but martyrdom lies at the foundation of this phenomenal growth.
Jesus expended much more time and attention of his three short years of ministry to the small group than the crowds. The early church grew through small gatherings spreading to towns and cities. From a Biblical standpoint is seems that the norm was small local congregations functioning as a family. The leaders were invested in the family. The members were invested in each other.
Some Reasons why I think smaller churches have an advantage.
There is Greater potential for intimacy
I am not saying all small churches do this but the potential is there. I am not saying the large churches don’t care about intimacy but it takes intentionality. Getting to know people is easier in a small group. Serving each other on a more intimate or specific level is easier.
You can more easily develop an intergenerational family atmosphere.
You can facilitate more spontaneous activity.
Family sharing, group encouragement, affirming baptisms, dedications
You can provide more opportunities to learn leadership (less formal).
You could feasibly pray for everyone in the family by name.
You can specialize in what you offer.
You can better leverage resources.
Some larger churches have extreme amounts of resources tide up in overhead.
You can better model real life.
All churches struggle, because all people struggle. Struggle and “issues” seem more visible in the small church.
These issues are generally behind the scenes in a big church.
On the outside…
Everything is exciting.
We all get along.
Lots of activity.
Get a break from the kids.
I don’t have to work at this.
I am not responsible for what goes on.
I don’t have to prepare my own food or feed myself.
There is a greater possibility for authenticity in a small group.
This is who we are.
If fits great! If not, OK.
We can be ourselves – unashamedly, unapologetically ourselves.
We can find value in our size with its possibilities.
The limitations of a small church force you to be more dependent on the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
You can better do what you do out of genuine love for people rather than design programs simply to get more bodies in the seats.
Sometime the focus on increasing attendance causes compromise and attempts to make people happy and content rather than grow in their walk with God.
There is Greater potential for Participation and personal investment
According to a recent study, “Those who attend megachurches are likelier to volunteer less, contribute less financially…” than their Small Church counterparts. The study cites evidence that 45% of megachurch attendees never volunteer their time at the church, 32% give nothing or very little in the offering, 40% don’t belong to a small group, and 42% admitted they have very few close friends at the church. Vaters, Karl.
Since we don’t focus on performance, smaller churches can encourage on the job training.
You can more easily begin and end specific ministry opportunities.
One congregation started outreach in their community no one else was doing.
When other churches picked up on it, they pulled out and looked for other opportunities.
You can personally know and interact with the leaders.
The pastor is “one of you”, not unapproachable.
That is not disparaging of the large church pastor, it is impossible to connect with 100 members.
Several times over the years I have heard that pastors need to shift their emphasis from shepherd to rancher.
The shepherd cares for the sheep. The rancher oversees the sheep handlers. Many large churches recognize the need for the smaller group connection.
Whether big or small, God’s clear design for the church is meaningful connection and encouragement as the lifeblood for the health of the body.