The Karl Vaters / Carey Nieuwhof Podcast: Bridging the Big/Small Church Divide

Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a name that is rising fast in the Christian blogosphere.

Seven years ago, Carey founded the fast-growing, multi-site Connexus Church (about 1,800 people) in the small city of Barrie, Ontario, Canada (population 128,000).

His primary blogging topic? Church growth.

I, on the other hand, have spent 22 years pastoring Cornerstone Christian Fellowship (about 200 people), a 54-year-old church in Orange County, California (population 3.1 million).

My primary blogging topic? Small Churches.

We were bound to butt heads, right?

If all you knew about us were the mini-bios I just gave you, it would be obvious where that butting of heads would take place. He should see me as a sad underachiever who needed his condescending help, while I would be looking at him with jealousy and/or ridicule for putting numbers first.


A Civil Conversation on Church Size?

Instead, here’s what happened. Carey and I had a couple conversations online after I wrote some comments on his blog about 18 months ago. He responded kindly and thoughtfully.

Then he wrote a post in which he quoted me. After that, we chatted about how to take this important conversation even more public, so he invited me to be a guest on his podcast. It came out today.

Click here to hear the podcast. Then take a moment to use his comment section to thank him for being open to have this conversation.

In the debate over church size, it should never be which size is best (though that’s the title Carey teases us with), but how can we all work together. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.


So what do you think? How can big and small work better together?

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6 thoughts on “The Karl Vaters / Carey Nieuwhof Podcast: Bridging the Big/Small Church Divide”

  1. Just got done listening, with much interest, to the entire conversation between Carey and Karl . Understand about church members and all, but what I did NOT hear mentioned or discussed was church attenders “growth” in their relationship with their L-rd and S-vior, whether a small church member, mid sized church member or mega church member . Would seem to me, just me possibly, THAT is one of the “fruits” of a church service, no matter what size of the congregation . .

    1. That’s very true, Karl. There are many other topics that didn’t come up in the podcast either, because this podcast was about how big churches and small churches haven’t seen eye-to-eye on some things. The importance of church members growing in the Lord is something that healthy small churches and healthy big churches have always seen eye-to-eye on, so we didn’t feel the need to discuss that in a podcast that was aimed at ironing out some of our differences.

      Maybe in a future podcast on what we have in common, we’ll discuss that further.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Wow…that podcast was such a huge encouragement! Can’t tell you enough how much I appreciated your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story! As a campus pastor of a small congregation within the context of a larger church…could so identify with that tension of church growth & health.

    1. Thanks, Seth. Pastoring a small church in a rural community has challenges that I wouldn’t know how to deal with, but there’s a particular burden to pastoring small in a large setting, like you and I do, that can be very unsettling. Sometime it helps to know that someone else knows how it feels, doesn’t it?

  3. Robert Meredith

    I really enjoyed this discussion. I especially benefited from your insights on where we are headed in the next two decades in regards to what small churches need to do to adapt and thrive. As being part of the Vital Initiative I have encountered many small churches that will be struggling to pay the bills in the next ten years if they don’t begin making some necessary transitions now. I have recently transitioned from pastoring on the lower end of small (60) to the upper end of small (200). In your opinion how should i view my new small church?

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