I Don’t Like the Same Small Churches You Don’t Like

We hate the same stuff poster“I don’t like Small Churches.”

Yes, people have said that – and things like it – to me.

I get that Small Churches aren’t for everyone. But saying “I prefer big churches” is the way most people state it. That’s fine. I prefer small ones. But I have no problem with big ones.

To flat-out state that you don’t like Small Churches isn’t just a statement of preference. It’s rude. Especially when you’re saying it to a Small Church pastor.

It also betrays a massive misunderstanding of the realities and challenges of pastoring – not to mention the value of Small Churches. So when I hear statements like that, my knee-jerk feeling is to want to strike back.

But I’ve learned that the root cause behind such arrogance and prejudice is usually a combination of pain and ignorance – so I sympathize a bit. And I’ve come to a very different conclusion about about the dangers of valuing churches according to their size.


Smallness Isn’t the Problem

Like most prejudices, people’s problems with Small Churches aren’t about what they think it’s about. So I’ve come up with a reasonable response for such unreasonable statements.

I’ll start with the question, “What don’t you like about Small Churches?”

Based on complaints I’ve heard before, I’m guessing that their response will be along these lines:

Small Churches are

To which my response will be: “I don’t like those Small Churches either.” 


It’s About Sickness, Not Size

Seriously, who would like a church with any of those characteristics? If you do, both you and the church have bigger problems than being small.

The problems most people have with Small Churches aren’t about size, they’re about sickness. And sickness can happen in churches of any size.

But what if you found a Small Church that was

  • Innovative
  • Friendly
  • Outward-looking
  • Missional
  • Generous
  • Worshipful?

The good news is, there’s no “what if?” about it. You can find Small Churches like that. They’re everywhere!

I know, because I’ve been in a lot of them. Many of you pastor or attend one. So do I.


The Right Way To Judge

Let’s stop making assumptions about all Small Churches based on bad experiences with some Small Churches. Each one deserves to stand or fall on its own.

As Jesus put it, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

There are healthy and unhealthy churches of every size. That should be our only basis for judgment – and our only measure of success.


So what do you think? Have you ever pre-judged a church because of its size? Or has your church ever been pre-judged that way?

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(We Hate the Same Stuff photo from Lord Jim • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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2 thoughts on “I Don’t Like the Same Small Churches You Don’t Like”

  1. The question I often am asked by family members or people who have known me over the years is, “So, when will you start pastoring a REAL church?’ ie a large, growing church with all the bells and whistles.

    newsflash, there are as many small REAL churches as there are real large churches.
    My wife and I had an interesting expereince a couple years ago.
    While on vacation we attended two churches. The first church was the one I grew up in. It is probably one of the largest in Canada, and in our denomination. we arrived about 20 minutes before the second of two morning services. While standing next to the WELCOME desk, the attendant never said one word of elcome, but spent her whole time greeting the people she knew. When we entered the auditorium, we went to the section my wife and I sat in when we were in college and careers twenty five years previous. A senior lady literally stood over us, waiting for us to move from HER seat.

    The music was top notch. The timing of the songs and program went off without a hitch. The preaching was the best I had heard in a long time.

    But I thought , why would I want to come back to this church?

    The next sunday we visited a small church in a small town. There were about twenty people in attendance. They had a new building, The pastor was a solo pastor and had to do everything himself including worship.. But what caught my attention was, from the second we got out of our car, till we arrived for the service, and when we left someone greeted us by name and even invited us to the church BBQ that evening. We had a prior engagement, and so would have gone.

    Which of the two churches would I return too? which one would you want to revisit?

    The point is big is not better than small and visa versa. It is the people who have caught the vision of what church is all about and go out of thier way to be the church.

  2. A “real” church? Wow, Ralph. That’s just — wow!

    But I disagree with your small and big church experience – even though you’re the one who actually experienced it.The big church can’t have been unfriendly and the Small Church can’t have been friendly. Don’t you know that ALL friendly churches grow to become big ones? I’m sure you have those mixed up, right? …Right? ;=)

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