Even the Smallest Church Can Make a Big Difference

If you work in and around churches, you know one of the most pressing and seemingly important questions is: How can we get our church to grow? We put a lot of emphasis here, and therefore every church wants to grow. Somewhere along the line, we’ve decided that:

Big church = important church
Small church = unimportant church

I think this simplistic view is misguided.

Don’t get me wrong. Church growth is important. I believe that. But I also think small churches can have an incredible impact on their communities, no matter the size of their Sunday attendance. In fact, in my experience, when churches focus on making a difference in the community, and inviting people to Jesus, growth is a question that takes care of itself.

Here are two things to think about instead of obsessing about how you can get your church to grow in size.

1. Know who you are and what you’re about.

One of the things I’ve noticed with small churches who want to grow bigger is that they often look to bigger churches for answers about how to organize their Sunday services, how to lead worship and how to do outreach. They mimic they way the bigger church does things.

And what you get—in the simplest form—is a small church acting like a big church.

This phenomenon is a bit like a younger boy who mimics his big brother. He wants to be “cool” so he dresses like him, follows him around and works hard to impress his friends. The problem is, even if he gains acceptance by his brother and his friends, they (and he) miss the real value this young man has to bring—his own distinct, unique, valuable self.

Small churches don’t grow by acting like big churches any more than young boys grow by acting like their big brothers. There is something to be learned from big brothers. But small churches grow (like young men and women) when they discover themselves.

Have you discovered yourself as a church?

Do you know what you’re about?

Do you have a mission statement?

Does everything you do fit into, and unfold around, this statement?

If you want to have an impact on your community (and ultimately grow as a congregation) this is a great place to start.

2. Serve your community. 

I bet you would be hard-pressed to find a church that doesn’t desire to serve their community, or who doesn’t know this is a primary part of their God-given mission and calling. The problem is, many churches have a deadly misunderstanding about what this looks like.

In order to serve your community, you must first know them. I learned this from my friend and pastor, Scott Wilson, who learned the hard way that, despite all of his hard work, he wasn’t actually serving the community.

Have you talked to your community leaders?

Do you know what they’re trying to do in your area?

Have you prayed about how you could contribute?

Most churches haven’t. But it isn’t for a lack of caring; it’s just for a lack of understanding what it really means to serve. Serving doesn’t mean you outdo them (with festivals and events that overshadow theirs). Serving means you find out what they need, what they want and what matters to them—and then you innovate ways to lend them a hand.

You’d be hard-pressed, in my opinion, to find a church who is doing these things and not growing. The smallest church can make the biggest difference.  

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Justin Lathrop
With over a dozen years of local church ministry Justin has spent the last several years starting business' and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv all while staying involved in the local church. Justin is obsessed with connecting people to people and lives his life daily to make the world a smaller place. He now serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominately working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people. He blogs regularly about what he has learned from making connection at www.justinlathrop.com.