Successful Small Churches

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.

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4 Responses to Successful Small Churches

  1. Hernan Diaz says:

    Mark, I agree. I have been member of large churches and smaller churches and I think that the best experience has been in the smaller ones. In a large church we only know a small reduced number of people but in the small church we know everybody and can notice easily when somebody is new or is not attending. I think also that the churches in the new testament were small churches, well maybe Jerusalem (more than 3000 if we think that all those that heard Peter sermon stayed in the city although I think that many were visitors as the same passage says) and Antioch (?) were large churches, but maybe not as the idea of Mega churches we have today. I feel frustrated because I bought the idea of that in order to have a successful ministry we need a lot of people, but now I realized that if God call me to a specific ministry and I have few people I only have to be faithful to God’s calling and be obedient with what he wants me to do. If some churches are big or mega-churches I think that that is also God’s Will and He has a purpose with it but I shouldn’t be sad because I have another situation of ministry. Thanks Mark.

    • admin says:

      Hernan
      #1 mega-churches that really work are in reality a coalition of smaller churches. I attended a mega-church’s Sunday School class of 120 people. It was a church with leaders, worship, pastoral care and discipline.
      #2 I honestly believe your work is enlarging God’s kingdom — which is what counts the most. You are changing people’s lives and exposing them to God’s call for them. Keep it up!

  2. Dan Cammack says:

    I read another chapter in O’Brien’s book today and continue to resonate very much with what he is saying. I hope you get to read it soon!

    Today’s chapter was about equipping God’s people for ministry, and not just ministry within the church. The equipping needs to take very seriously the people’s gifts, interests and current arenas of involvement both inside and outside the church. This means that the pastors need to know their people well so that they can have meaningful conversations with them about where and how God wants to use them. I couldn’t agree more.

    • admin says:

      Dan,
      I’m trying to digest Stanley’s book on preaching now. I hope to start O”Brien’s book in about a week.

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