Why should we care about the needs of (and quality of ministry in) small churches?
Well, as noted earlier, half of the Christians in the USA attend churches with AWA (average weekly attendance) of less than 100.
But that’s just the USA. Around the world, including in Croatia (where I serve), virtually all evangelical churches are very small. In Croatia, there are about 200 evangelical congregations and 4,000 – 6,000 active evangelical Christians. Do the math; optimistically, the average Croatian evangelical church has an AWA of 25-30.
These numbers make the issue is especially pressing for me. My organization, Biblijski institut, has for nearly 20 years trained leaders for Croatian evangelical churches. Here’s what I see:
American churches and church-planting organizations frequently don’t understand Croatian culture & its effect on evangelism, discipleship, & church growth. AND their workers (Americans) are often not trained in the needs of small churches, thus neither are the Croatians whom they develop for leadership.
One of my biggest concerns right now is that the approach to church leadership that I sketched yesterday differs drastically both from the training emerging ministry leaders receive here and in the USA, AND it differs drastically from the type of leadership learned in Balkan culture.
For example: churches here are frequently led by a single strong leader. My perception is that Croats think that sharing leadership responsibility is weak, and that full-time is more desirable than bivocational.
Croatian church leaders have been shown that full-time ministry is what they should aspire to; the foreigners who minister here CAN’T legally work non-ministry jobs. They’re full-time church workers, supported by missions organizations & churches from the USA & elsewhere. So they arrange financial support from outside Croatia for the emerging Croatian leaders so that they too can go full-time.
This support makes them dependent on, and beholden to, American and other foreign churches & groups that don’t understand Croatian culture. They’d be better off, and their churches would be better off, if they stayed in the marketplace, ministering & supporting their families through their vocations, working as partners with a small group of similar bivocational professionals to lead the church.
See how bivocational & group leadership require one another?