Dan Reiland, on his excellent blog, writes about “The Great Value of Churches Under 100” in AWA.
“God intended ALL churches to grow,” he says, but God is the one who gives numerical growth. Generally, we can influence numerical growth, but we don’t determine it. “It is God’s power, not human ability, that determines the size of a church. We do our part; God does his.”
Reiland lists “5 points of high value from smaller churches”. These are quotes from Reiland, following his outline, with my own observations (not necessarily summarizing Reiland’s content.)
- “Large churches don’t appeal to everyone.” In my experience, large churches are easier to get swallowed up in; by nature, they can be more impersonal. You can disappear. “Smaller churches can reach people that larger churches simply can’t,” and vice versa.
- “Some towns and cities can’t support a big church.” Can’t or could but DON’T for whatever reason. This is true in the USA, as (generally) small towns are losing population to cities. But this is ESPECIALLY true outside the USA, even in metropolitan areas. Remember, the average evangelical church in Europe has around 20 members; that’s not a small church, that’s a micro-church.
- “Small churches can move and respond quickly.” Reiland doesn’t say, but it may be easier for small churches to involve more of their people in the work of ministry than larger churches. That means that when a need in the community arises, a natural disaster (a flood) or personal disaster (someone’s house burns down), small churches can sometimes get nearly 100% of their people involved in responding to that need. I don’t see large churches doing that, even if the amount of resources they can bring to bear is larger.
- “Small churches can have a big impact from specialized ministries.” Small churches can sink into their neighborhoods in ways that large churches generally do not. This means that small churches can focus their ministry efforts on the specific needs of their neighborhood, and “reach people who will never attend a big church.” In my experience, with notable exceptions, megachurches are as concerned (or more concerned) about their brand as/than they are to ministering in their neighborhood and community.
- “Small churches can offer a personalized touch.” “The impact of ‘close and personal’ shepherding, discipleship, and spiritual guidance is huge. … Your ability to come alongside people who are far from God, new Christians, and maturing believers is a powerful force for Kingdom impact.”
Re. 4 and 5: I think big churches tend to be big because people come from all over to attend them, and because they are generic in a way that appeals to a large population in their region. They tend to be region-focused rather than neighborhood-focused.
I’m not saying that they don’t do excellent ministry. Some do.
But there’s a homogeneity to them that appeals to the common denominator of a significant regional population group. (I didn’t say that very well.)