What Makes Small Churches Great Churches:

February 8, 2012

Dr. Thomas Douglas
Parkway Baptist Church
Kansas City, KS

Pastor Bill has made it to another December business meeting. As his church wades through the regular items on the agenda: approval of the minutes, treasurer’s report, written reports, oral reports, old business, and finally new business, he begins to feel his normally dry palms get sweaty. Pastor Bill knows in just a few moments he will be asked to leave so the church can discuss his salary for the next year. He will be ushered out and sent to the education space to await the decision on his compensation package. With this being his 6th year at the church of just under 100 in attendance the process of the church discussing his position without an avenue to speak for himself still rattles him. He has taken the time to examine why the church has been unable to break the 100 barrier. Oh, they passed it a few times but for all too common reasons slid back below the 100 thresh hold. One year they lost their beloved music director. Another, a couple families got upset over something he said from the pulpit. Another talk spread of him being unavailable to certain families because he didn’t make it to the hospital on one occasion. Then, he would never forget the class that refused to multiply into two because the teachers liked alternating every other month. Now the class has dwindled to fit in the room it once was outgrowing.

As Pastor Bill headed to the education wing, he knew someone would raise the question of the lack of numerical growth and tie it to the effectiveness of his ministry. He could answer what happened to each family that was not there but knew that wouldn’t satisfy the grumblers. Sometimes, Pastor Bill wondered if he should apply for any church with over 100 in attendance just so he could feel what it was like to pastor a bigger church. Other times he figured God knew best and/or maybe there was a deficiency in him that kept God from blessing the church with growth.

Perhaps you attend or pastor one of the 59% of American Protestant churches that have under 100 in attendance on any given Sunday morning.[1] If so, then you are personally acquainted with some of the feelings Pastor Bill experienced. So much of the emphasis in the media and in areas of denomination leadership focuses on the larger churches with more people and more resources. It can appear that if you do not meet certain growth quotas, then God has removed His “candlestick” from you and unless you make major changes God will shut your doors and sell your building to the up and coming funeral home.

While it is true that more people are picking large churches to attend, small churches have a vital place in the American landscape and offer distinct benefits that larger churches struggle to meet. This series will offer seven reasons why small churches are great churches to join and belong. Not all of the reasons apply solely to small churches. Some are true of effective churches no matter their size but have a special role in defining small churches. These articles are meant to encourage small churches to see themselves as more than the total number of attendees and offerings. God has a way of using the unlikely-in-the-eyes-of-the-world to transform the world. Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Deborah, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, the apostles, and of course, Jesus are people in the Scriptures God used despite their humble beginnings. Out of the small churches in America, God raises pastors, missionaries, Sunday School teachers, and witnesses of all shapes and sizes to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. While we strive to reach as many as we can, let us relish in those areas that the world might see as weaknesses but that God sees as strengths and use them to impact the world around us for Christ.

[1] Hartford Institute for Religion Research, “Fast Facts about American Religion” [Online]; available from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html#sizecong; accessed on 19 January 2012.

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