February 27, 2017

Small Churches Matter

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In a super-sized society, we can default to assuming that bigger is always better.  To the contrary, 12 ounces of a carbonated, sugar-saturated beverage may be better for us than 32 ounces.  Likewise, expecting a Chihuahua to grow to the size of a St. Bernard is unrealistic.  Besides, their ears would be as big as satellite dishes.

In some cases, smaller may be better.  That goes for churches as well.  One size does not fit all.  Healthy, small churches are nimble, intimate, responsive, multi-generational and neighborhood focused.  They are more hospitable to people who are intimidated by larger congregations, especially in urban, rural and ethnic communities.  They are places where everyone knows you name, your struggles and your quirky specialness.  Small churches are the surrogate family that many have never had, where they are loved for who they are and where they finally belong.

In order for small churches to be viable, we have to address 3 issues.  First, they have to become affordable.  Full-time professional clergy and big old buildings are tapping out their resources.  Couple that with the reality that next generations are not motivated to give to salaries and buildings.  We have to look at bi-vocational leaders, income generating businesses and smaller, less-expensive venues.

Second, small churches must multiply.  They have to get beyond survival to reproduction.  In an increasingly, spiritually disconnected world, the mission field that small churches can uniquely reach is ever expanding.  The creation story in Genesis talks about each species reproducing “after their own kind.”  Small churches must too.  After all, Chihuahuas have puppies.

Finally, small churches must be respected.  They are often working in hard soil with severe brokenness, under-resourced people and transient cultures.  If the measure of their success is limited to their membership rolls and balance sheets, they will be disheartened.  Instead, their stories of personal renewal must be told, their contributions celebrated and their efforts encouraged.  Like the more hidden parts of the body, small churches play crucial roles in Christ’s kingdom.

The first 300 years following Pentecost, Christianity exploded through small churches.  More recently, we saw this repeated in China.  While all sizes of church are needed, our post-Christian culture also calls for thriving small churches.  Let’s figure out a way to make them viable, multiplying like rabbits and affirmed for their critical contribution.

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