Why Are There So Many Unhealthy Small Churches? (Don’t Worry, It’s Good News)

Old door 200c“I like the idea of Small Churches. But if they’re so great, why do I see so many more unhealthy Small Churches than unhealthy big churches?”

That’s the question I was asked last week during an extended conversation with a Small Church pastor. The question wasn’t from cynicism or unkindness. It was out of genuine concern for a reality he saw.

To be honest, it’s a reality we all see – the vast majority of unhealthy churches are small. That’s unarguably true. What’s not true is his unspoken concern that most Small Churches are unhealthy.

The truth is that while the vast majority of unhealthy churches are small, the vast majority of Small Churches are not unhealthy. How can that be? Here’s what I told him.


It’s About Math, Not Health

There’s a very clear explanation as to why there are so many more unhealthy Small Churches than unhealthy big churches.

90% of unhealthy churches are small because 90% of ALL churches are small. It’s that simple. Small Churches outnumber megachurches by massive amounts, which assures that there are more of every kind of Small Church than there are of any kind of megachurches.

Let’s turn that inside-out to see the other side of the same truth.

Less than 1% of unhealthy churches are megachurches because less than 1% of ALL churches are megachurches.

There are 90 unhealthy Small Churches to every 1 unhealthy megachurch because Small Churches outnumber megachurches, 90 to 1. (The other 9% are medium to big churches.)

There’s no evidence that Small Churches are more prone to ill-health than megachurches. The abundance of unhealthy Small Churches compared to unhealthy megachurches is not a crisis, it’s mathematically inevitable.


There’s Good News In the Numbers

You’re more likely to run into unhappy Small Church members than unhappy megachurch members – but you’ll also run into more happy Small Church members than happy megachurch members. Why?

Healthy Small Churches greatly outnumber healthy megachurches.

Not because Small Churches are inherently better, but because of the same 90-to-1 math.

So hang in there, Small Church pastors. Despite the abundance of unhealthy Small Churches, there’s no need to worry that your church is more susceptible to ill-health just because it’s small.

There are millions of healthy Small Churches throughout the world. Hopefully your church is one of them.


We Can Do Better

Despite those numbers, we all know that there’s another truth lurking behind my friend’s question. Small Churches are not doing as well as we should.

While there are lots of good Small Churches in the world, there aren’t nearly enough great ones. “Good enough” isn’t good enough any more.

That is the subject of my next post, It’s Time for Small Churches to Become Great Churches.

Yes, it can be done. And no, it’s not as hard as you think.


So what do you think? Have you ever wondered why there are so many unhealthy Small Churches? What do you think of this perspective on it?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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(Old Door photo from Defenestre • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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