I recently stumbled on a post one of the blogs I follow — Out of Ur. The post is entitled “Small Churches = Big Impact.” The article interviews Brandon O’Brien about his book, “The Strategically Small Church.” O’Brien’s research confirmed some things I have always felt.
First, small churches (for me, that’s under 150 people) can succeed if they capitalize on their inherent strengths and resist the temptation to imitate the mega-churches. Most of my ministry has been in small churches, and they have all been far more successful in my eyes than they were in the eyes of their members. I saw the impact of those churches; but their members mostly saw that we didn’t have 3 worship services or a single’s ministry with 100 new people every year.
Second, the small church offers something almost impossible for a large church to offer: intergenerational relationships. O’Brien’s research discovered that most young people want an intergenerational church, but the mega-churches segregate everything by ages. I did my Doctoral project on intergenerational activity in the church and discovered the same thing. Nothing quickens the pulse of a church as much as teenagers and retired folks working together on a service project — or worship service!
Finally, small church advocates suggest that we redefine “success” for a church. Rather than measuring success in terms of how many people come to the church, we should measure success in terms of how many the church sends out. With this measuring stick, small churches are much more efficient than large churches. I talked yesterday to a member of a church that has had 40-60 members for 100 years. And that church has sent out a continual stream of Christian workers into the mission field, pastorate, and compassion ministries. That, in my mind, is a successful church.