The Essential Small Church (7 Reasons We’re Needed)

We can and must appreciate what each church does well, without creating any sense that one size of congregation is better than another size of congregation.

The body of Christ is made up of many parts.

Various denominations, liturgies, styles, and sizes.

And nowhere is that variety more evident, more delightful or (let’s be honest) more frustrating than in the amazing variety of small churches.

Churches of all sizes have an important role to play. But small churches often get fewer resources and less attention than our large church counterparts, so it’s important to be reminded why small churches are just as vital to the body of Christ as big churches are.

Here are 7 reasons:

1. Small churches are the most NORMATIVE way Christians gather

Up to 90 percent of all churches are under 200, 80 percent under 100. And fully half the Christians in the world attend small churches.

That’s a lot of small.

Plus, when Christians are increasing as a percentage of the population, it’s more likely from the multiplication of small churches than from an increase in the size of large churches.

2. Small churches are the most FREQUENT way Christians gather

There are a lot of places in the world where big churches just don’t work. Like in places of extreme poverty and persecution, or regions where the gospel message is new. Plus, there are cultures where small and subtle sends a better message than big and noticeable.

Small churches fit everywhere and work everywhere, so they exist everywhere.

3. Small churches are the most SUSTAINABLE way Christians gather

Starting or growing a big church is extremely hard.

Starting and sustaining a healthy small church is much, much easier. Not easy. But not as hard as it is for big churches.

4. Small churches are the most LEADABLE way Christians gather

Imagine the differences between one church of 1,000 and 20 churches of 50.

There are 1,000 believers in each situation, but the church of 1,000 only has the capacity for one lead pastor and a few staff pastors. And those leaders need advanced levels of training and/or experience.

The 20 churches of 50 will have as many as 20 lead pastors, many of whom don’t have much (or any) formal training, but who are called, gifted and capable to serve as the lead pastor of 50 or so people.

5. Small churches are the most COST-EFFECTIVE way Christians gather

Big churches cost big money. Sometimes the per capita cost of a healthy big church is less than the per capita cost of a small church – but only when the small church is unhealthy.

Healthy small churches can and do function on surprisingly little money.

6. Small churches are the most MOVABLE way Christians gather

Big churches take up a lot of space. And moving them is a massive undertaking.

But healthy small churches can fit anywhere. And they can move quite easily.

7. Small churches are the most DURABLE way Christians gather

When there’s a failure of leadership in a big church, the fallout is huge and the recovery time is long – if it happens at all. But small churches have an amazing capacity to bounce back over and over again.

And even when they do fail, a new one often pops up in its place in a short period of time.

What Small Churches Are Not

Did you notice anything missing in that list?

Certainly there are good ideas that I forgot. No list like this will ever be exhaustive. But there are a handful of characteristics that I specifically chose not to include, even though small churches are often stereotyped in these ways.

Small churches are not necessarily:

  • Friendlier
  • More faithful
  • Better at pastoral care
  • More prayerful
  • More doctrinally sound
  • or more missional than big churches

There are churches of all sizes, styles and theological backgrounds that are equally good at all those qualities.

We can and must appreciate what each church does well, without creating any sense that one size of congregation is better than another size of congregation.

Any group of people who love Jesus, love each other and share their faith is a healthy church.

Different types and sizes of congregations do that in different ways.

And every one of them matters.

(Photo by Allison Baltzersen | Flickr)


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