There are more small churches than you may think. According to Barna, “the largest group of American churchgoers attends services in a more intimate context. Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members. More than one-third (37%) attend a midsize church of over 100, but not larger than 499.”
Karl Vaters’ new book Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 has just released and it’s a great read for pastors and leaders of smaller churches. Karl has been a small church pastor for 30 years, is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us(2013), and travels extensively to churches and conferences to speak about leading a small church well. Below is what I found especially helpful.
1.Church leaders often wring their hands over the “problem” of small churches, and how to turn them into big churches. Like most prejudices, however, our problems with small churches aren’t what they seem. Just because a church is small, doesn’t mean it’s broken (pg. 10).
2.Just because we don’t have a kickin’ worship band does not mean we’ll settle for passionless worship (pg. 43).
3.On average, about one-third of the big church principles can be applied in a church of 200 and about one-fourth in a church of 100 or fewer. To know which third to keep, I have to understand how big churches and small churches are different (pg. 50).
4.In bigger churches, the individual people and their personalities have a smaller impact on the whole. The challenges are more about crowd dynamics than personality quirks. That outspoken, sometimes embarrassing church member who might shift the entire mood of the room in a small church causes no more concern in a big church than how to answer that awkward email the pastor gets every week. The impact is much smaller (pg. 59).
5.Small churches need to prioritize relationships, culture, and history (pg. 62).
6.In bigger or newer churches, the culture is more likely to be determined by the pastoral staff, with the congregation more willing to follow. In smaller and older churches, the culture is more the property of the congregation and its history than the pastor. The smaller or older the church, the greater impact the culture will have on any new ideas, projects, or changes a pastor wants to implement, especially if the congregation has had a high pastoral turnover (pg. 65).
7.In the church, the people are not a means to an end; they are not the tools we use to create a needed product or service. In a church, the people are not resources, they’re the result. They’re not on the bus to help you get you to your destination; they are the destination. People worshipping Jesus and sharing His love with others are what the church exists for (pg. 70).
8.There are more small churches than you may think. According to Barna, “the largest group of American churchgoers attends services in a more intimate context. Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members. More than one-third (37%) attend a midsize church of over 100, but not larger than 499” (pg 83).
9.If you’re doing the Great Commandment and Great Commission, you have a great church, no matter the size, the denomination, or the liturgy (pg. 86).