The megachurches get all the headlines, and the world outside Christianity generally equates evangelicalism with megachurches. To them, evangelical Christianity IS Joel Osteen or James MacDonald, Robert Jeffries, etc.
This is not only the world outside Christianity. I have spent my life, and my career as a pastor, in the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, two closely related groups. In these groups–we don’t call ourselves “denominations”–the agenda is set by the megachurches. The medium-sized (200 – 399) and large (400+) churches have a strong tendency to adapt and reproduce the programming of the largest churches, for good or ill. Sometimes that’s great; I am not reflexively critical of the megachurches. But little attention to the specific needs of churches with AWA under 400 and their pastors and leaders.
Another point: ministry education does NOT give enough focus to the small church pastorate. Since 1999, I have been educating people for ministry. The bias in such education is always toward large church settings, structures, methodologies, expectations. We (educators) are not equipping men and women to face the needs of small churches.
So why should we care about small churches, congregations with an AWA of 199 or less?
Because that’s where most people go to church. It’s not even close.
In their 2016 State of the Church report, the Barna Group looked at church size. They found that 46 percent of Americans attend churches with 100 or fewer members. Another 37 percent attend churches with more than 100 members, but fewer than 500. That means that 83 percent of the people who attend church go to churches with fewer than 499 members—with the lion’s share worshipping in churches of 100 or fewer. (Source)
So almost HALF of the Christians in America attend churches with fewer than 100 members.
The vast majority of those aren’t multiple-staff churches with professional, polished worship bands and espresso bars.
They’re not slick. Their services will never be televised.
They probably have ONE full-time paid pastor, one support staff (secretary, administrative assistant), and a paid part-time youth worker or children’s or music minister.