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What Megachurches Can Learn From Small Churches

Small Churches receive a lot from our megachurch friends. We read their books, sing their songs, use their curriculum and attend their seminars. And we’re grateful.

But the benefits don’t have to flow only one way. There are some very important, though less obvious, things that megachurches can learn from Small Churches. Not necessarily books and curriculum (although there is this one book I’ve heard about … ), but principles.

Healthy Small Churches have characteristics that make them work. It’s not a mistake that over half the believers in the world choose to attend a Small Church. These principles can be a blessing to big churches too. It’s not that they aren’t being done by bigger churches, but they do tend to be more obvious in smaller ones.

As you read them, you’ll notice they tend to have one theme in common. Relationships.

This is a companion piece to 5 Principles Small Churches Can Learn From Megachurches

1. Everyone Matters

The average person can have a greater impact in a Small Church. Your presence matters and your absence is noticed. People recognize your face and know your name—and not just your friends, but the pastor, too.

In a bigger church, a pastor can’t know everyone, or even most people. It’s the price of growth. But we need to be careful, as we grow, not to see people only as members of subsets.

This is where “we need to grow smaller as we’re growing bigger” comes from. Big churches need systems in place, not just to keep the mechanics of the church functioning smoothly, but to let every individual know they matter.

Giving people a sense of personal value isn’t automatic, even in a Small Church. It takes work. But it’s worth it.

2. Friends Are More Important Than Friendliness

Josh Hunt wrote a terrific post titled People Are Not Looking for a Friendly Church, in which he quotes Rick Warren, who says, “People are not looking for a friendly church; they are looking for friends.”

Josh and Rick are right. It’s nice when a greeter has a friendly smile and when an usher asks your name as they show you to your seat. But I don’t expect those people to think about me after I leave any more than the smiling barista at Starbucks does.

I don’t go to Starbucks for the barista’s friendliness any more than I go to church for the usher’s smile. I go to Starbucks for the coffee, and to church for the worship and teaching. But I hang out in each place because of the friends I meet there.

Friendly churches may be overrated—after all, I can get that at Starbucks. But hanging out is holy.

Hanging out? Really? That’s holy?

Yes it is. In the Bible they call it fellowship. But we’ve turned fellowship into something other than what the Bible intended, I think. Look it this way. What would most people rather do—go to a “fellowship time” at church, or hang out with their friends?

People don’t usually stay in Small Churches because of the high quality of the preaching, the music, the nursery or the facilities. Megachurches do all of that better. They stay because they can hang out with their friends in a Small Church. We all need to be intentional about fostering friendships, not just friendliness.

3. Conversations Are More Valuable Than Surveys

Megachurches love surveys. It’s the primary way they monitor the success or failure of their programs.

But Small Churches don’t need to conduct surveys. We can have conversations.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.