5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church

Keep OutPeople are really picky about the kind of church they like.

But you knew that, didn’t you?

Most people choose their church home based on a combination of several factors, including theology (hopefully that’s first on the list), worship style, location, where their friends go, etc.

For many, one of those factors is size.

I’ve met plenty of people who say they could never feel at home worshipping in a big church. I’ve met just as many people who feel the same discomfort about worshipping in a Small Church.

And that’s fine. To each their own.

But, along with the valid reasons I’ve heard for wanting or not wanting to worship in a certain size of church, I’ve heard some really bad reasons, too.

This is the first in a series of four posts on both bad and good reasons to want to go to a small or big church. (Scroll down to see the upcoming post titles.)

Why am I doing these lists? Because we should all be free to worship in any type of church we want without anyone telling us it’s wrong based on its size. But we should also take a moment to assess the reasons for our preferences, too.

If you’re a pastor, these lists aren’t as likely to apply to you. But they might help you in one of two ways.

First, they can be a starting point for conversations with people in your church about why they’re there. Knowing their motivations for attending your church or not attending another church might even help you spot potential problems before they rear their ugly heads.

Second, you might want to give one of these lists to someone you know who is considering attending or not attending a church based on size. They might help someone make a better choice.

I’m a huge fan of promoting and encouraging healthy Small Churches. But people don’t always go to Small Churches for good reasons. Here are five bad reasons to go to a Small Church.


1. Because I Don’t Want Anything To Change

Life is change. Show me a church that isn’t changing and I’ll show you a church that isn’t alive. Not in it’s theology, but in its methods and strategies.

No, it’s not wrong to celebrate our common traditions. They can be a stabilizing factor in our otherwise unstable lives. But those traditions should never come before Jesus’ commands to reach people for him. Whenever our traditions become a fortress that keep people away from the Gospel, they must be abandoned.

While many Small Churches are fresh and innovative, many stay small because they are frozen in time. For more on this, check out my recent post, Are You a Slave to What’s Popular? Or to What Used to Be Popular?

Going to a Small Church for this reason is bad for both the church attender and the church.


2. Because I Think Big Churches Are Bad

There are bad big churches and bad Small Churches.

I understand that if you were hurt in a big church, it may be hard to go back to one.

So go to a Small Church if that helps. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that every big church is bad because of the bad experience you had in one. Remember, just as many people have been hurt in Small Churches as in big ones.

It’s also just as wrong to think that big churches are bad because they all have shallow preaching or that they’re watering down the Gospel. Bad theology has nothing to do with church size. Click here for one of many studies that show that big churches are at least as theologically strong as small ones.


3. Because I Want To Be a Big Fish In a Small Pond

Control. Too many people go to Small Churches because they can control things in a Small Church more than they can in a big church.

There’s only one person who should control any church of any size. And no, it’s not the pastor.

Jesus said “I will build my church.” It’s his church, not ours. No matter what size it may be.


4. Because They Sing the Songs I Like

I understand that certain songs and song styles resonate deeply with people. But if you’re a mature believer who’s insisting that the songs in your church have to be the songs you like, that’s just another form of control. (In case you think I’m attacking seniors, relax. I’ll deal with those who are stubborn about the new songs in 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Big Church.)

By the way, I know not every Small Church sings old songs. My Small Church sings new songs almost exclusively.

I’m also not saying that singing only older songs is wrong. It all depends on what works for your ministry context.

What I am saying is that ministry context should be the deciding factor for the songs we sing when we worship Jesus. Not personal preference.


5. Because My Old Church Is Growing and I Don’t Know Everyone Any More

This drives me crazy. The church is supposed to be all about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When we’re doing that, people get saved. And when people get saved, churches either grow or multiply.

If your church is growing because wounded people are finding healing, and unsaved people are coming to Jesus, we should celebrate that, work to help that happen and step up to assist in discipleship.

If the church is growing for the wrong reasons (transfer from other churches, entertaining instead of discipling people, etc.) those might be reasons to leave. But please note, the reason to leave isn’t the growth, it’s the bad strategies.

Yes, I have some sympathy for people who leave a church when the pastor can’t minister to you as personally as he/she used to. But leaving a church because it’s grown so big that you don’t have constant access to the pastor any more isn’t a good reason.

Go to a Small Church if that’s where your soul is fed and your gifts flourish. Worship there. Minister there. Get to know the pastor and the people. Not just so they can bless you, but so you can bless them, too.

But if God blesses all of you and brings growth, don’t leave a church that God is blessing numerically (no, that’s not the only way he blesses healthy churches).

Stay. Pray. Work. And be grateful that the church you love is being used by the God you love to reach new people who will love Jesus and your church, too.

Check out the other posts in this series:

So what do you think? What are some other bad reasons to go to a Small Church?

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(Keep Out photo from Bradley Gordon • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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2 thoughts on “5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church”

  1. Gary W. Davis

    Just a question, not one to start an argument, but it just might, so please know that I only ask it in the most humble light:

    How do you walk the tightrope of leading a Church that reaches the “lost” verses leading a Church that focuses on the “found”? The reason I ask this question is two fold-
    1: As you know from past conversations with me (and this may just be my baggage coming to the surface again), I’ve always felt like an “outsider” in Church. I’ve always felt uncomfortable because, and this may sound harsh, but I have yet to find a church that really, honestly and truly operates as a welcoming and hospitable place for those who feel marginalized or don’t fit. Consequently I’ve always found it really hard to connect…from the simple space of who I am…with those on the “inside” without having to first become something that I simply am not. In other words, I really feel like Church should be a place where I can “belong” before I should, or can, “become” something more.
    2: So much of what Church is all about seems to be centered firmly on the “insiders”. I mean, by and large this article is tilted towards bad reasons that those in the “inside” might use in choosing a Church, over what those on the “outside” really need to be as the Church towards them. Now, I am not saying all those bad or good reasons are in and of themselves selfish, or intentioned to be so…but they are. They are based on…
    what we like…
    perceive we need…
    or as you put it “Most people choose their church home based on a combination of several factors, including theology (hopefully that’s first on the list), worship style, location, where their friends go, etc” all of those things are “inside” language.

    So what about us outsiders?

    1. Great questions, Gary. That dilemma is actually at the heart of this ministry. Being a voice for those who feel voiceless and disenfranchised. Not just in regards to church size, but in regards to the insider, “churchy” ways we do things.

      I don’t have any answers, but I think that reaching out to those who feel marginalized is such a core tenet of what it means to be a genuine church body that we need to keep talking about it – loudly. By having conversations like this, I’m hoping we can find some answers – or at least some starter ideas.

      In case you missed them, these articles touch on the issues you’ve raised:
      In Celebration of Quirky Churches
      Wanted – New Church Methods for New Church People
      There Are No “Right” People for Your Church, Just People
      …and I’ll be writing more like them.

      All I know to do is bring the issues up and move the conversation forward.

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