Big Church Small Church

One of the elders at the first congregation I worked with was very concerned about church growth. Our church was doing very well. By that I mean, the members were happy and growing spiritually. Our youth group was excited, and numerically – the standard most people use to measure growing churches – we were growing as well.

John thought we could do better. He heard about a congregation in Texas that had surpassed 1,000 in Sunday morning attendance. John had to know their secret, so he traveled to Texas to see for himself. He was especially impressed by their foyer. They had an information booth where visitors could learn about the congregation, pick up a bulletin, and be directed to Bible classes. When John returned, he immediately built a visitor’s booth in our foyer. His reasoning was, “If we do what big churches do, we’ll be big too.”

However, there were some unintended consequences of John’s new visitor’s booth. We already had a group of members who felt their ministry was welcoming visitors to our services. They faithfully arrived early and greeted everyone with bright, smiling faces. Now they had been replaced! However, they were mature enough not to see it that way, and instead of meeting people in the foyer where the information booth was, they moved out onto the church steps and welcomed people before they even left the parking lot! The greeters were happy. The visitors were welcomed, and last I knew, the visitor’s booth was being used to store mops and buckets.

We need to recognize every congregation is unique. Why do we grade churches by their physical size? Jim Belcher wrote in the introduction to Brandon O’Brien’s book, Small Church, Big Impact:

According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, 94 percent of all existing churches have less than five hundred attendees, and two-thirds of these have less than one hundred. Churches of more than two thousand attendees represent less than one-half of one percent of all churches in America. As I sat at the conference, I wondered why we hold these mega-churches up as the model of ministry for every church. Is it because, I asked myself, they are large and “successful”?[1]

  [1] O’Brien, Brandon J. (2011-07-31T23:58:59). Small Church, Big Impact (Ebook Shorts). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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