Quit Blaming Small Churches For Struggling – Help Them Succeed

Too many small churches are not getting the help they need to stay strong, vibrant and healthy. The fault for that is not on them (not entirely, anyway) it’s on us.
KarlVaters.com Rock Climbing

This is a challenging time for everyone. And churches are no exception.

More churches are struggling now than ever before, and more churches are likely to close in the next few years than we’ve prepared ourselves to handle.

Most of those failing churches are small and struggling to begin with. Because of that, I’ve actually heard some church leaders essentially say “good riddance” to them. If they can’t cut it in the real world, the feeling seems to be, it’s their fault and they need to close.


(This is the second in a three-part series that started with, Why Are We So Bad At Helping Struggling Small Churches? It will conclude on Friday with, How To Make More High-Quality, Low-Cost Resources Available To Small Churches, in which we’ll talk about some important, practical starter steps to help us get better at this.)


This Is On Us

Of course, there are some unhealthy small churches led by toxic leaders who have ignored all the caution signs, turned a deaf ear to wise advice and were finally forced to succumb to their inevitable closure.

But that’s not universal. It’s not even typical.

More churches are struggling now than ever before, and more churches are likely to close in the next few years than we’ve prepared ourselves to handle. Click To Tweet

What is typical is that too many small churches are not getting the help they need to stay strong, vibrant and healthy. The fault for that is not on them (not entirely, anyway), it’s on us.

Us.

Church leadership writers, bloggers, podcasters and curriculum designers who barely acknowledge small churches unless it’s to tell them to get their numbers up.

Us.

Denominational officials who spend more time with large and fast-growing churches than the small, struggling ones.

Us.

Church members who leave a small church where they could serve, to go to a big church that serves them.

Us.

Why Aren’t We Doing More For Them?

Yes, this sounds harsh. And I acknowledge that the problem is not as universal as I’ve framed it. There are good, godly people in all those positions who are working hard to help struggling small churches. And there are wonderful, healthy large churches that offer an amazing array of opportunities for service and discipleship.

But we’re not doing enough.

Why?

Sometimes it’s a lack of attention. After leaders move into larger ministries and churches it’s easy to forget that big ministries – and the big budgets that go with them – are not the norm.

After leaders move into larger ministries and churches it’s easy to forget that big ministries – and the big budgets that go with them – are not the norm. Click To Tweet

Sometimes it’s about money. Creating resources for large and growing churches pays more than creating resources for ones that are small and struggling. And I get it – you need to cover the costs of creating high-quality resources.

But most of the time it’s what I stated in my previous article, Why Are We So Bad At Helping Struggling Small Churches? We don’t value the role, the struggles or the blessings of the small church as much as we should.

Because smaller things are less obvious, our attention tends to stray. So we must be intentional about bringing our focus back.


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2 thoughts on “Quit Blaming Small Churches For Struggling – Help Them Succeed”

  1. I disagree in that stubborn, intractable leadership is much more common in small churches than I think you’re acknowledging, having worked in and with a pretty good number of small churches. Also, resources from places like life.church are available to churches of all sizes for free. I pointed out to leadership in more than one church that resources are available, but they held the attitude that “society should change back to our methods, we shouldn’t have to change our methods to keep up.”

    1. Hi Terrell. Sorry for such a late response. I had a glitch on my site that caused me not to see comments for a while.

      I appreciate your take, but the post did acknowledge that small churches sometimes have what you call “intractable leadership”. As I put it, “there are some unhealthy small churches led by toxic leaders who have ignored all the caution signs, turned a deaf ear to wise advice and were finally forced to succumb to their inevitable closure.”

      I also acknowledged that resources are available from a lot of big-church ministries when I wrote “the problem is not as universal as I’ve framed it. There are good, godly people in all those positions who are working hard to help struggling small churches. And there are wonderful, healthy large churches that offer an amazing array of opportunities for service and discipleship.”

      The issue isn’t that small churches are perfect or that big churches aren’t helping, it’s that we’re not doing enough.

      Obviously, the kinds of churches you mention at the end of your comment exist. I’ve faced exactly that attitude many times. But the issue isn’t their size, it’s their stubbornness. Note that the title of the post doesn’t say we can’t blame stubborn churches for struggling – there is definitely blame there. But in my work with small churches I’ve discovered that, while there are more stubborn small churches than stubborn big churches, stubbornness is neither exclusive to small churches or pandemic in them. But many times I’ve seen people assume they’re stubborn because they’re small. And that is not fair, accurate or helpful.

      I hope this helps clarify where I’m coming from. Thanks for engaging – and for your patience with my delayed response.

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