Apples to Apples: Comparing 10,000 In One Megachurch to 10,000 In 100 Small Churches

Apple Ouchy 200“How can you possibly say that a church of 100 is as valuable as a church of 10,000?”

Yes, I was actually asked that question.

My answer was this. I’m not saying that a church of 100 is as valuable as a church of 10,000. Or vice versa. I would never say that. For two reasons.

Reason #1: As I wrote in The Grasshopper Myth, comparing Small Churches to megachurches is like comparing peas to pumpkins, or roses to redwoods. Each has value, but they’re too different to compare.

A contractor building a barn may not see any value in a rose. But a husband looking for a way to tell his wife “I’m sorry for missing our anniversary – again” is unlikely to get much help from a redwood tree. There is no comparison.


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Reason #2: Churches aren’t in competition with each other. At least we aren’t supposed to be. So the foundation of the question is flawed.

So, instead of comparing roses to redwoods, I’d like to propose a way to compare apples to apples without participating in the “who’s better?” game.

How about these two questions, side-by-side.

What are the benefits of 10,000 people worshiping in a megachurch led by one pastor?

What are the benefits of 10,000 people worshiping in 100 Small Churches led by 100 pastors?

Now that’s apples to apples

 

It’s Not Really 10K

Actually, that’s not even a fair comparison, because in any city where there is a church of 10,000, there aren’t just 100 Small Churches with 10,000 people attending – there are probably 1,000 Small Churches with 100,000 people attending. That’s reality. Small Churches outnumber megachurches by 1,000 to 1. And Small Church members outnumber megachurch members by 10 to 1.

Nevertheless, we’ll stick with the 10K baseline for now. Apples to apples.

 

Some Benefits of 10,000 Believers In One Megachurch

  • Greater unity of vision
  • More options for family ministries
  • Evangelism through big outreach events
  • The fun and excitement of worshiping in a big crowd
  • Multiple pastors with varying leadership skills & gifts
  • Greater consistency
  • More quality control
  • Buildings that can host larger ministries (conferences, concerts, etc.)
  • Higher community visibility
  • More small group options
  • Several venues and worship styles

 

Some Benefits of 10,000 Believers In 100 Small Churches

  • My pastor knows my name
  • Greater diversity
  • Evangelism through multiple, concurrent, personalized events
  • Intimacy of worship for people intimidated by big crowds
  • High level of hands-on, pastoral care
  • More opportunities for pastors of varying skill levels and gift mixes
  • Closer personal relationships
  • Greater accountability
  • More chances to experiment
  • More chances to fail
  • More chances to grow
  • More chances to succeed
  • 100 venues and worship styles

 

Let’s Stop Talking About “Better” and Start Working Together

We need each other. “Who’s better?” has no place in the body of Christ.

Just as the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”, the megachurch can’t say to the Small Church, “I don’t need you” – or vice versa.

We all have something to bring. So let’s all bring what we have.

 

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(Apple Ouchy photo from Nina Matthews Photography • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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18 thoughts on “Apples to Apples: Comparing 10,000 In One Megachurch to 10,000 In 100 Small Churches”

  1. That’s an excellent article Karl. Rick Warren said, “Comparison is the root of evil” and I agree. There are strengths and weaknesses to every size church. We need to maximize the strengths of the church we are in and go from there. That’s my goal for here in Florence. Good job Karl!!!

  2. That’s an excellent article Karl. Rick Warren said, “Comparison is the root of evil” and I agree. There are strengths and weaknesses to every size church. We need to maximize the strengths of the church we are in and go from there. That’s my goal for here in Florence. Good job Karl!!!

  3. Large churches can offer scalability, they have resources. People attract people, money attracts money and so on. They can typically have dedicated ministries that focus on very specific groups like families with special needs. I’ve been jealous of those aspects many times. Our church will get 1 or 2 families with special needs come through at a time and we just don’t have the resources to love on them like I wish we could.

    Small chuches can embody the “Cheers” theme song: you want to go where everybody knows your name. We have the ability (not always in practice) to be nimble and make decisions quickly. Intimacy allows a deep sense of genuiness. In church plants, there is usually an naivete that new things can be done and with effectiveness. They don’t have the barriers about what can and can’t be done. They typically have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

  4. Large churches can offer scalability, they have resources. People attract people, money attracts money and so on. They can typically have dedicated ministries that focus on very specific groups like families with special needs. I’ve been jealous of those aspects many times. Our church will get 1 or 2 families with special needs come through at a time and we just don’t have the resources to love on them like I wish we could.

    Small chuches can embody the “Cheers” theme song: you want to go where everybody knows your name. We have the ability (not always in practice) to be nimble and make decisions quickly. Intimacy allows a deep sense of genuiness. In church plants, there is usually an naivete that new things can be done and with effectiveness. They don’t have the barriers about what can and can’t be done. They typically have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

  5. Hey Karl, One think that smaller Churches have over larger Churches is the ability to be more mobile in terms of the events and ministries they plan.

    Case in Point:

    Last night, in Northwest Indiana where we are located, it rained like hamsters and herring. Most communities cancelled their Halloween activities. In our little town we have a Church that has about 1400 people who attend on Sundays. Not Mega…but for this area big nonetheless. They had a trunk or treat event scheduled. They spent thousands of dollars on direct mailers, and all kinds of other advertising, but because of the rain they had to cancel. They cancelled in the middle of the afternoon and said they would reschedule at a later date. The big problem that they face is that if they do that, then they have to get the word out somehow which means they may have to spend more money and resources to get the word out. If they are only thinking dollars and cents they might even opt to to never reschedule for fear of looking like they “wasted” money. Because of their infrastructure and because of the way they are led, an easy to overcome obstacle (rain) just may have completely done away with a program that could have a huge impact and provide a great service to the community…

    Our little Church, which meets in the Elementary school, had partnered with the School to do a Trunk or Treat for the community as well. And we face the same obstacle…rain…BUT!!!

    All we had to do was say, “ok let’s take this puppy inside.” We only had about 30 people who were planning to bring their cars decorated and dressed up ready to hand out candy, so three of us made 10 phone calls a piece telling people that we were going inside and they would each get a table in the hallway to set up…problem solved.

    Then I called the bouncy house people and asked the measurements of the monstrosity the kids were gonna scramble their brains in…and guess what? It would fit perfectly in the cafateria!!! Boo Ya…problem solved…

    Knowing that if we kept our trunk or treat open we would most likely see more kids than we expected, a trip to the grocery store was in order for more hot dogs, buns, water, and candy…problem (nearly) solved.

    We, as a smaller Church were more mobile because we had a less cumbersome structure to work with and were able to, with some effort, keep our event going. In the end we expected about 150 kids and their families to come visit us, at the end of the day it was more like 300-400 because as expected, all the kids who had planned to go to the big church with their families, drove over there only to find that it was cancelled and came to us because they figured…hey why not?

    Because of our mobility we were able to serve our neighbors, hand out some really unhealthy candy for the kids, and just have some good old fashion “Great Pumpkin” day fun. You should check out our photos on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheTableCC

    Huge win for us and for our Neighbors!!!

    1. Oh, BTW I say nearly solved because our event went from 5-7 and we ran out of hot dogs, water, and popcorn around 6:15 🙁 BUT….bouncehouses are like crack cocaine so we had kids and adults stay around and sit and fellowship and have fun with their neighbors!!! So…WIN!

      1. Awesome story! Mobility and adaptability are two great assets of Small Churches – as long as the church is healthy enough to have a culture that allows for it, that is. As yours obviously is. Nice work. And I love that your biggest “problem” was running out of stuff because the crowd was bigger than expected.

  6. Hey Karl, One think that smaller Churches have over larger Churches is the ability to be more mobile in terms of the events and ministries they plan.

    Case in Point:

    Last night, in Northwest Indiana where we are located, it rained like hamsters and herring. Most communities cancelled their Halloween activities. In our little town we have a Church that has about 1400 people who attend on Sundays. Not Mega…but for this area big nonetheless. They had a trunk or treat event scheduled. They spent thousands of dollars on direct mailers, and all kinds of other advertising, but because of the rain they had to cancel. They cancelled in the middle of the afternoon and said they would reschedule at a later date. The big problem that they face is that if they do that, then they have to get the word out somehow which means they may have to spend more money and resources to get the word out. If they are only thinking dollars and cents they might even opt to to never reschedule for fear of looking like they “wasted” money. Because of their infrastructure and because of the way they are led, an easy to overcome obstacle (rain) just may have completely done away with a program that could have a huge impact and provide a great service to the community…

    Our little Church, which meets in the Elementary school, had partnered with the School to do a Trunk or Treat for the community as well. And we face the same obstacle…rain…BUT!!!

    All we had to do was say, “ok let’s take this puppy inside.” We only had about 30 people who were planning to bring their cars decorated and dressed up ready to hand out candy, so three of us made 10 phone calls a piece telling people that we were going inside and they would each get a table in the hallway to set up…problem solved.

    Then I called the bouncy house people and asked the measurements of the monstrosity the kids were gonna scramble their brains in…and guess what? It would fit perfectly in the cafateria!!! Boo Ya…problem solved…

    Knowing that if we kept our trunk or treat open we would most likely see more kids than we expected, a trip to the grocery store was in order for more hot dogs, buns, water, and candy…problem (nearly) solved.

    We, as a smaller Church were more mobile because we had a less cumbersome structure to work with and were able to, with some effort, keep our event going. In the end we expected about 150 kids and their families to come visit us, at the end of the day it was more like 300-400 because as expected, all the kids who had planned to go to the big church with their families, drove over there only to find that it was cancelled and came to us because they figured…hey why not?

    Because of our mobility we were able to serve our neighbors, hand out some really unhealthy candy for the kids, and just have some good old fashion “Great Pumpkin” day fun. You should check out our photos on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheTableCC

    Huge win for us and for our Neighbors!!!

  7. Another case in point. I am pastor of a very small (about 30.40 people) church plant in the former East Germany. I recently signed up for a web seminar in the US on “how to get more volunteer workers”, hoping to motivate the 3 or 4 people with us who aren’t really serving yet. Then I got the advertisement for this great seminar, being taught by a pastor who has 7,000 in attendance, and a whopping 30% of his people are involved in ministry, one third of whom are guest greeters… – since our worker percentage is closer to 90%, I thought I could make better use of my time :-)…

    1. Good call, Hugh. It’s interesting that two of the biggest challenges faced by big churches – small group fellowship and member involvement – are something most Small Churches have locked and loaded.

    1. Absolutely true, Tim. Here’s how addressed that issue in The Grasshopper Myth:

      “Availability needs a training ground if it is going to become ability. Small Churches have been that training ground for millennia, and will continue to be so for as long as Christ continues building his church.

      The next time you’re in a big church, pause for a moment and consider this. As you’re led by an inspiring worship leader, sit under excellent teaching or pick your child up from a top-notch Children’s Ministries Department, be grateful that the church you’re in is making that ministry available to you on a donation-only basis. Big churches are one of the few places in our culture still doing that without charge.

      Then take a moment to thank a Small Church. That’s likely where the people providing those ministries got their start.”

      The Grasshopper Myth, Chapter 7. Only In a Small Church

  8. Great, as far as it goes, but in our area, having 100 in attendance makes you a mid-sized, if not large, church. When you average less than 50, some of the pluses break down because you struggle to keep the bills paid and the programs staffed. So, there you have different apples as well.

    1. No question about that, Edward. But congregations of your size are not left out of the mix. If there are 10,000 people in 100 Small Churches, 100 would be the average church size – meaning half of them would be under 100 in attendance, including many at your size. Despite your very real struggles, congregations of 50 are still very much a part of the value I mention in my post.

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