What if small churches aren’t a problem to be fixed, but are part of a strategy God wants to use?
How many of us have even considered that possibility?
And if it is possible, shouldn’t we know that and try to get on board with it?
In a recent post, Is Your Church Stuck or Just Small? I proposed the idea that just because a church is small doesn’t mean it is stuck.
But the truth is, many small churches are stuck.
So let’s take it one step further today.
If small churches are a part of God’s strategy, how can we tell the difference between a strategic small church and one that’s just stuck?
I’ve been mulling a few ideas about this. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
This isn’t even close to a definitive list, so feel free to add some of your own in the comment section.
A church might be strategically small if it is …
1) Small for a Reason
In a lot of communities and for a lot of pastors and church members, small works.
Even the big guys are finding this to be so. According to an article by Ed Stetzer, while megachurches keep growing, “fewer churches are building large spaces specifically meant to accommodate thousands of people, causing many megachurches to switch from building bigger buildings to multiplication of smaller venues.”
Some people worship, fellowship and minister better in a smaller setting. The old stereotype of the stuck-in-the-mud church member who wants their church small to keep things the way they’ve always been is dying out. No, they’re not gone yet, as many of you can attest to, but their days are numbered.
The new “small church person” is more likely to be young, engaged, tech-savvy and looking for causes and relationships they can engage in within a more intimate setting. We need a lot of churches to be intentional about meeting those needs and equipping disciples.
If your church is small because you’re equipping people who worship and minister best within a smaller setting, you’re not stuck, you’re strategic.
2) Small for a While
This is the spot most small church pastors think they’re in. I know I did. For over two decades in three different churches. As it turned out, my church was small for a lot longer than a while, so we started being intentional about it (see above).
But some small churches really are only small for a while. The problem is, no one knows how long that will last. So here’s my suggestion:
While you’re a small church, be a great small church. Don’t put all your energy into growth. Work on health. It’s better to become a healthy church that grows than an unhealthy one that grows, right?
If your church is small right now, but is being healthy during the time you’re small, you’re not stuck, you’re strategic.
3) Small to Simplify and Streamline
A few months ago, I attended a conference of house church leaders. These churches are obviously small on purpose. But they have as much passion for making disciples and advancing the kingdom of God as any church leaders I’ve met.
Every one of them used to be involved in more corporate churches but left because they found that they could be truer to their faith and intentional about everything from worship to discipleship to community outreach in a church that has limited overhead and minimal structures to maintain.
They weren’t against the more traditional churches (they invited me to speak, after all), but this works best for them and their mission.
If your church is small because you’re reducing overhead and simplifying your life and message, you’re not stuck, you’re strategic.