“The reason your church stays small is because you’re making Small Church choices.”
That quote has been repeated many times as an undisputed Church Growth Movement truism.
But it’s inside-out.
My church isn’t small because I make Small Church choices.
I make Small Church choices because my church is small.
And I plan to keep on doing that.
Stay Close and Personal
I prepare every Sunday message with all the prayer, study and passion I have. I deliver that message with all the skill I’m capable of. I use illustrations, photos, video clips, humor and personal anecdotes when appropriate.
Because of that preparation, I could take virtually any message I’ve given to my church of 200 and deliver it as-is to a church of 2,000 or 20,000 and not one person would walk away thinking “that was a Small Church message.”
But I also know enough about speaking to people that I wouldn’t deliver it in exactly the same way to a crowd of 20 as I would to 200 or 2,000.
To my typical room of 50 – 100 adults in two Sunday morning services at my church, I’m either sitting or standing on a platform raised about 8” up from the floor. The front row is about 3 feet away from me – usually filled with high school and college students. Occasionally I’ll joke back-and-forth with the audience.
When I re-use that same message to teach a Bible Study to ten men in a converted garage at our local Teen Challenge recovery center, I’m not on a raised stage at all. We usually sit in a circle. I make references to their current struggles and I throw it open for Q&A.
If I took that same message to a crowd of 5,000, I would expect to sit or stand on a four-to-five foot raised stage, with the front row ten to twenty feet away from me. My eye contact would consist more of scanning the crowd than face-to-face. There would be no back-and-forth banter, and any Q&A would be monitored by an associate, filtering responses that came in through Twitter.
Same message. Same quality. Different methods for different sizes.
I pastor my Small Church in a more up-close-and-personal style than a large crowd. That’s a Small Church choice. And it’s the right one to make.
But it doesn’t keep my Small Church small. It makes my Small Church better.
Train, Then Trust
This past weekend, our church had our first Men’s Retreat in several years. As is the case in a lot of Small Churches, our Men’s Ministries has had a spotty record. So we’re giving it another shot.
For the past 18 moths, I’ve been working with a handful of willing volunteers to put men’s events together. Some events were great, some weren’t, but we’ve learned from each one.
Along the way, the leadership team has discovered more about the gifts and talents of each leader, and we’re figuring out how the team functions best.
Recently, I let go of the reins. This Men’s Retreat was the first event they did without me leading it. And it was awesome!
About 30 guys, from teens to their sixties, spent the weekend in and around our church building. We threw knives at targets, had trivia contests and building contests. We putted golf balls, threw footballs, had a how-fast-can-you-eat-a-pizza contest and laughed like crazy. We were challenged by great speakers – one, a college professor from our own congregation, and another a church planter from a nearby town. We ate food cooked in our kitchen by our men. And we were led in worship by a group of our own guys in their teens and 20s.
That’s not how they’d have done it in a big church.
In a big church they’d had hired a full-time men’s director who would have found a high-end retreat center. The speaker would have been a nationally recognized figure. The band would have been semi-professional. The golf game would have been on a PGA-certified course. And the food would have been catered.
It would have been great. But it wouldn’t have been any better than what we had at our Small Church last weekend.
And it wouldn’t have had the added benefit of a group of dedicated guys who aren’t “ministry professionals” learning how to lead men, and experiencing the thrill of a job well done and the applause of their friends for having done it.
Small Churches don’t hire outside help. We can’t afford it. And we need to be OK with that.
Fellow Small Church leaders, let’s stop whining that our churches aren’t big enough to hire pros to do the job. When we do that, we miss out on the greatness that’s right in front of us.
Let’s do the hard work of training the people we’ve got. Coach them. Walk alongside them. Then let them go. Let them do the job (here’s the key) before we think they’re ready.
Celebrate their successes. Let them make mistakes they can learn from.
Then trust them – and trust God – by letting them try again.
Make Quality Choices – Not Just Big Ones
The assumption in the initial statement about big church choices vs Small Church choices, is that big church choices are of a higher quality than Small Church ones.
Then why not just say that?
If you’re making low-quality decisions, start making high-quality decisions.
Big churches don’t deserve A-grade choices just because they’re big, and Small Churches don’t deserve B-grade choices just because they’re small.
Make better choices.
In some circumstances, better choices may bring numerical growth. In most circumstances, they won’t. Either way, we should always be giving God, ourselves and our church everything we’ve got.
Quality choices build great Small Churches.
So what do you think? Are you making high-quality Small Church choices? How can you make better ones?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.
(Flower Bud photo from Abhinav Mishra • Flickr • Creative Commons license)