What’s Better? 5,000 In a Megachurch? Or 5,000 In 50 Small Churches?

 

 

 

 

 

They’re the same.

 

 

 

 

 

So what do you think? Are God’s power and blessing more concentrated when more people are in the same building? Is it better to be spread out? Or do we need both?

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16 thoughts on “What’s Better? 5,000 In a Megachurch? Or 5,000 In 50 Small Churches?”

  1. If one is better is one worse? So the obvious answer is the numbers do not make either better or worse.

    However, the small church pastor is tempted to think the 5000 is better.

    1. I know megachurch pastors who are tempted to think the same, Mike. And denominational officials, And authors. And bloggers. And church members. And bible college professors. And publishers. And church board members. And conference speakers. And Monday morning quarterbacks. And…

      I’ve also met people who glorify the small over the mega. Just as wrongheaded.

      My hope is that framing the issue this way will snap some of us back to reality about this. We need to realize that everyone has a part to fulfill. The power of God is not more potent because more people are in the same room, or more diluted when people are spread out in different churches.

      Big churches can do things small ones can’t because they have so many people together. Small Churches can do what megas can’t because we’re spread out in more places. Both matter.

  2. It is my observation that a church of 100 solid members is much more effective with personal ministry and discipleship. A megachurch has many more resources that is effective in missions, and many times, outreach in the community.

  3. Been thinking about this, how do 5,000 churches dilute the talent pool? Would the Church better served to have 20 churches of 250? Or another number? It takes people with certain skills, and ability to lead at any level.

    1. Rusty, I think the church is best served by all of the above. We need big churches with massive resources for some things. We need medium-size churches with a great blend of multiple programs, while keeping a personal touch. And we need tons of Small Churches that can go places big ones can’t. As long as the church is healthy, nothing is diluted.

      As to your leadership issue, megachurches require a mix of leadership skills that very few people have. It’s not a better mix, just a very rare mix. But smaller churches can be led by people like me. And there are lots of us. We have leadership skills more suited to needs like personal mentoring, etc.

  4. You know whats funny, in the Church I am planting I just preached on this yesterday because, well for many reasons.

    I fall on what you say in Grasshooper Karl, the issue is health. So size is an irrelevant factor, a Church of 5000, 500, or even 50 can be healthy or it can be dysfunctional. One thing that we said yesterday around that was this:

    If we are pursuing growth in the sense of health, and not growth in the sense of numbers, we stop the tendency to reduce people to targets, or seat warmers, and instead we see them in a more loving sense. I think the benefit of that is that when people see that kind of behavior coming from a top down mentality, that it attracts those who are on the “outside” to become “insiders”. The thing we have to guard against is falling into the mindset that scope of that “insider” growth is something within our power or grasp. Like you say in Grasshopper Karl “Only Jesus Builds The Church”…

    Personally I think thats great news and man does it take the weight of my shoulders.

    1. It sounds like your folks heard a great message from the heart of a caring pastor yesterday, Gary. Your distinction between health-based growth and numbers-based growth is right on the money.

  5. 5,000 in 50 small churches will yield more Kingdom results. Christian Scharz verified this in his book, Natural Church Development. He said that 10 churches of 300 actually yielded more fruit than one church of 3,000. When I get to my office I will give you the quote…

    1. I remember that from Christian Schwarz, Jeff. It’s one of those facts we don’t hear as often as we should. Small Churches actually send out more people and plant more churches per capita than megas do. That’s an issue I’ll address in a later post. But there are some things that megas do better than small ones, too. Bottom line is, it’s both/and, not either/or.

  6. “Better” is vacuous here as this is a question about people in church, not about churches per se.

    And there’s a huge difference between 5,000 in a megachurch vs. 5,000 in 50 small churches. I’ve been on both sides of this as a pastor so I don’t, admittedly, have an unbiased view. I prefer the smaller church, BTW, because it’s much easier to insure that we’re not just running people through programs but are in fact creating environments in which believers can – if they self-select – mature toward discipleship.

    For example, one significant difference is “surface area exposure” to participation in lay ministry. Small churches far excel the megachurches in their ability to deploy a much higher percentage of the people in meaningful weekend service.

    The percentage of people needed to keep a church running decreases as the church’s population increases. We ran services for 4,500 with 150 to 200 people (everything from worship team to ushers to chidren’s ministry to parking let to hospitality); approximately 3%

    At the moment I’m in a church of 150 (a size I much prefer). We have on any given Sunday 20 lay ministers serving; approximately 13%

    So, 5,000 believers in a church = approximately 200 in ministry each Sunday
    But 5,000 believers in a church of 50 = approximately 1,000 in ministry each Sunday

    Which looks better to you?

    1. Well Bud, that one’s sure to stir things up a bit. I’ll give your question a shot.

      It is true, as you say, that “The percentage of people needed to keep a church running decreases as the church’s population increases.” However, unlike you, I don’t see that as a negative for megachurches, but a positive.

      “Keeping a church running” is not the goal of the church, so the fewer people it takes to keep it running, the more people can be available to do outreach, community ministry, feed the poor, reach the lost, etc.

      Obviously that’s not always the way it works out, but if a large church is run well, that can be the end result – fewer doing church maintenance, allowing more to do outward-looking ministry. And it does happen that way in a lot of megachurches.

      So which looks better to me? I have to stay with “both”. Bigger is better at some things. Smaller is better at others. I still think Jesus’ plan for the church was and is both/and, not either/or.

      1. Point well taken in re: “keeping a church running” is not the goal of the church.

        I guess the core of the issue comes down to metrics; what do we mean when we say “better?” I see your point that the anti-megachurch and the pro-megachurch crowd are both answering the question on the basis of unexamined values as to what constitutes “better.” In an inelegant way I was trying to point out that the small church guys who may inadvertently respond that the megachurch is better may have some values (about churches and themselves) that could use a bit of scrutiny.

        Thanks for a thought provoking piece.

        1. Got it. Yeah, “better” is ambiguous. Purposely so, for me. I just want to be very careful, when we praise the value of Small Churches, and even when taking a critical look at the sometimes-skewed emphases of the church growth movement, that we don’t even hint at putting one side down in order to lift the other up.

          I appreciate your input on this along with your previous participation on this blog. And thanks for your kind words about my post.

          I hope to hear a lot more from you.

  7. If they are only there then both are equally bad! If they are realy Children of God (Body of Christ), whom try to forfull Eph 4:1 then they are equally good, and both will have their own impact. It is like a batallion versus a pletoon. The one aint better than the other, but each have their better ways of impact. Some mega churches inderstand the impact of the small(er) group and therefore do have the smallgroup ministries.

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