In a recent study conducted by the survey pro’s at TheRecoveringLegalist.com, pastors from both large and small congregations shared why they thought a small church could be better than a big one.
The survey sample was made up of pastors from various denominations, from different parts of the country, and consisted of men from my personal contact list – and my wife. It was VERY scientific – sorta.
I had my own thoughts, but I wanted to know what others thought, so I asked a question. The question I posed to other pastors went something like this:
“I’m doing a quick, non-scientific survey for a blog post (no names will be mentioned). Can you give me 1 or 2 reasons why a small church could be better than a big church?”
Within moments I received multiple replies through text, email, and Messenger. It took them very little time to respond, like it was something they didn’t even have to think about, and the answers they gave were practically the same.
If the answers from the pastors in the survey I conducted mean anything, it would seem that smaller churches are the place to be if you want to be:
- Known by name;
- Have intimate relationships with others;
- Have a pastor who misses you when you’re not there; and/or
- Experience more accountability.
Other answers suggested that in larger churches it is harder to keep track of what is being taught in “small groups,” while in smaller churches everyone is more on the same page. But overall, the most common reason given for smaller churches being better than bigger churches was knowing and being known by others in the congregation.
As a matter of fact, what the pastors in my survey said echoed the hopeful and encouraging words of Karl Vaters’ article “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Speaking of Millennials, he said:
“[There’s] growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.
Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.” [emphasis added]
So you see, even though larger churches offer a lot – unlimited numbers of ministries in which to get involved; professional-quality childcare; servant pastors for every niche; and the best technology money can buy – many people are coming to understand there’s something special about the community of a small, loving congregation.
But There’s MORE!
Should you surmise that intimate, supportive relationships, accountability, and being able to talk with your pastor without an appointment are the only qualities that make small churches better than bigger ones, think again. There’s more! Much more!
The following are 8 more reasons why small churches could actually be better than large ones, at least for some people:
- Parking Spaces. Why should one have to search ten minutes to find a parking place within walking distance to the trolley you must ride to get to the front door? Small churches have plenty of parking, usually no further than a hymnbook’s throw away.
- No Auditions Necessary. Forget having to try out for the choir, the praise team, the annual play, the children’s musical, or the worship orchestra. If you can sing, play an instrument, or read a line – or even if you can’t – there’s always a place for you in a small church, at least in the choir.
- No Training Necessary. So, you want to run sound? You want to operate the lights? You think you have a desire to operate the recording equipment? Well, you’d better have a resume and a list of references if you want to do any of that in a big church. Seriously, they can’t let just anyone with a desire operate a $25,000 camera or push the buttons that link to the network satellite feed. But in a small church? HA! There’s always a need for someone to flip the cassette or press “record.”
- The Best Seating Anywhere. If you come in late to a service at a big church, no kidding, you might need binoculars to see the holes in the pastor’s jeans. But in a small church, well, the back row might as well be in the reserved section! Compared to a mega-church, the back row in a small church is practically within spitting distance of the preacher.
- Genuinely-Experienced Childcare. Do you have small children? Do you care about them? Why let Buffy or Bianca watch your crumb cruncher while you worship? Why not trust them to the experienced, floppy-armed grannies who’ve raised more kids than a champion goat farmer? Who better to make sure you young’ns act right and learn about Jesus than a few ladies who’ve washed out more than a few mouths with Ivory soap? [Disclaimer: Washing out mouths with soap is no longer approved]
- Free Interactive Technology Museum. Bigger churches are all about the newest, most advanced technology. Smaller churches, on the other hand, rarely have the funds for regular upgrades to sound equipment, etc. Therefore, where else can you go to find working 1980’s (if not older) sound equipment still being used? Small churches are like free interactive technology museums where everyone can listen to both the preacher AND the local radio station at the same time!
- Food, Food, and More Food. Go to a large church and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat. They have Wednesday night meals, socials, finger foods, and all kinds of stuff before Sunday School (morning Bible study). Some large churches even have coffee bars and sit-down restaurants on campus! But seriously, how does any of that compare to what a bunch of ladies can whip up for a homecoming dinner on the ground? Believe me, when you’re sick at home and can’t fend for yourself, those small-church ladies can keep you well-maintained with cornbread, beans, fried chicken, and homemade stew.
- It’s Your Community. If nothing else, your typical small church is made up of people from your own community. Large churches – the ones with huge TV ministries and social programs – are made up of people from all over the place; small churches are filled with your neighbors. It’s in the small, hometown churches where people learn to shoulder up with each other through a community’s hard times. It’s in the small church where a pastor attends your daughter’s graduation, the funerals and weddings are no charge, and someone always notices when you’re not there.
Seriously, I have nothing against large churches – every pastor would love his church to be one. However, most churches average no more than 80 members, and they are where the majority of solid, faithful, salt-of-the-earth Christians still attend.
So, are small churches really better than big ones? Well, that all depends on where God wants you. But if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd – or in the parking lot – a small church just might be what you need.
13 responses to “8+ Reasons Why Smaller Churches Are Better”
Awesome stuff, and right on the money. Love it! One thing I would suggest, small house churching is where we’ll be seeing Millennials strive in faith. They’d prefer a small church to a big church, for sure. But they’d prefer a house church even more. Many of their (our) objections to churching at all is how much money gets wasted on buildings and asset acquisition and empire building and salaries. For many Millennials, small churches are better, and house churches are best!
Well… hey, our building was paid for back in the 1940’s, we don’t have a church phone, and my jet is a ‘95 Ford, so we’re practically a “house church” 😉
Love it! Yeah, there are some churches out there I can really admire for being zero debt, volunteer driven, cost efficient and extremely plugged into their community in service. A building, just like any resource, can be used for God’s glory – but more churches need to take stewarding those resources wisely to heart!
Good job, Anthony! I’ve pastored a small congregation and attended medium-sized to large mega churches in my lifetime and found both to have their advantages and disadvantages. My motto (stolen from Robert Schuller I think) is bloom where you are planted.
Our church membership is currently running at about 170 and I would still consider that small. We pretty much know each other but living in a rural county means that although the church is in the centre of the only city in the county (pop 70,000) many of our members travel in from up to fifteen miles away. That means small groups are more difficult to manage being geographically located and meeting on different days and at different intervals. Is there a point at which the church should divide/plant?
We used to attend a church in a small county in Kentucky. The church had around 1,000 members – which was not small – but in a county of only 35,000, there was no way to avoid seeing church members out in public on a daily basis. In that way this larger church had some of the same feel as a smaller church – everybody knew everybody, to one degree or another.
I don’t think there are any churches in Herefordshire with more than 200 members. The population of the entire county is about 190,000 with one city and several market towns, and many villages. I think we are the most rural county in England. Many of the village churches have closed or have restricted services and no work with children and youth, which is why people travel. Across the border in Wales it is no better outside of the cities. Have a look at this article: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/remote-welsh-chapel-theres-only-14506732#ICID=FB-Wales-main
I have been part of mega church in large city, super small church in really rual community, and small church large city, and a church plant in a medium size city.
I was asked to leave the mega church because I asked questions about the lyrics to a few of the songs and other things. My very 1st Sunday at this church the worship pastor was caught in the sin of adultry and was being let go. Now, the thing I thought odd was that the leaders never ever prayed over him or his family (and the wife was pregnant with their 2nd child. God has humor though. The now ex wife and I became friends becasue she now goes to my home church and my mentor was counseling ex worship leader which I never made the connection to til someone told me 6 years later. But God does). The power point slides looked like spider webs and snakes and really wild lyrics to songs such as “pick me up Jesus and spin me around” as loud and unclear as some of those heavy metal groups okay that’s fine because Jesus picks us up out of the mire and puts me on solid ground but if you can’t tell me the meaning behind the song and I ask will you be singing that in the throne room and you ask me to leave because “I don’t know what the song means but you are over 40 and on the downside to life and we don’t think you are a good fit here.” well let me tell you… glad to go… (church ended up loosing this very cocaine addicted multi affair senior pastor and multiple worship leaders who also had affairs but as a church no one prayed for these people. In the early months of my stay at this church EVERY Sunday I would fill out the “can we pray for you” card and I asked to be prayed for by the deacons and elders according to scripture and for 3 months weekly got email saying we prayed for you this week. All great but I wanted to be anointed with oil as scripture commands. Lost in translation I guess of trying to bring in younger generation which I applaud but not by deception. Or when challenged with wanting answers to questions when statements like “everyday 3,000 kids worldwide die with lack of water but on June 16 we will do something about it”. Question asked “if 3,000 kids are dying daily than why are we waiting 6 months to do something, why are we not doing something seriously now? Oh yeah it’s all about promoting new 10,000 seat auditorium. But daily stretching the truth is actually lying about the 3,000 kids who are desperate for a bottle of water that will be 6 months away (that’s roughly 360,000 kids then) but let’s make sure it’s on the church facebook page multiple times a day for the next 6 months. God have mercy… very very sad) I wept like a baby for the really deep pain and sorrow that this church was causing to so many people. And yes I was wounded because of this church. However, my God will use what the enemy intends for evil for His glory. And His promises are true.
****** please know that on a side note thie ousted senior pastor happened to attend my home church a few years later (when he got ousted after I had been gone) . The very 1st Sunday this pastor arrived was the Sunday that I was asked to give my testimony. No one knew he was going to be there but God The odd thing was God blinded my eyes from seeing this man and I know that it was God because he sat in between the 2 people I had asked to sit there so that I could make eye contact with people (I had 3 sections and 2 people in all 3 sections). My mentor called me later that day and told me and I was like no way. The former pastor stayed with my church for 6 months and then moved to Texas to undergo both treatment but also pastoral care and family help as well. But by the end of his stay with us God had made my heart so tender that I was able to forgive this man and was able to tell him. He and I both experienced healing.
Small church rual church was okay just no young people and if you don’t have young people you don’t have a hope. There were very few families and very few young people.
Church plant was mismanagement financially and so did not last longer than 3 years. However, a few years later and another pastor and some of the same support from former church plant members now have successful medium size church in medium size community..
My home church is a small church in large city. We have roughly 300 people on the books but we have snowbirds and college kids and a mix. I know how to run sound, PowerPoint, and usher, teach, mentor, lead, pray, communion team, and women’s ministry leader and a few other things. I am part of a community of believers who encourage, believe in, and have open door and can ask questions of anyone including pastors without fear of being shamed or ask to leave. I also have leaders who truly see my callings and gifts and they encourage and actually help me in any way they can.
So, I find it safe to say that whether small town or large city small church is where it is safest and best for me.
So, I did not go to church today because I had a migraine and within 30 min of church ending I have had 6 texts from people going missed you this morning are you okay? Can I come by with something for you. Like I said small church is best for me.
I text, too. However, Facebook Messenger seems to get through quicker 🙂
Yes, it does 🙂 In my 55 years on this planet I can be assured of this. There are a lot of imperfect people who can sometimes do some pretty good things for people. because of the love they have for God. God must look at us and sometimes laugh at His creations. But I would rather serve Him and be imperfect in doing so than to be overly self righteous and think I am perfect. I know I am a sinner saved by the grace of God.
I was just talking with a friend in church this morning about this very thing. We helped plant our church just one year ago, and our congregation is still fairly small (although we have broken the 100 mark). We were discussing what has drawn people to the church, and yes, it is that feeling of genuine community. Excellent post!
Thanks. BTW, if we had 100 on any given Sunday I’d throw up from excitement. Seriously.