Did you know that according to the National Congregation Study that the top 7% of the largest churches in America have 50% of church attenders, resources, and money in the American Church? If you take the top 1%, then they have over 20% of attenders, resources, and money in the US church. Now, what does that mean? That means that the majority of those that attend Church in the US go to churches with more than five hundred in morning worship. Also, a growing number of regular churchgoers are attending mega-churches of more than two thousand each Sunday. Now I am not here to bash mega churches or to tell you that they are getting big numbers because they are doing something wrong. The truth is there are a lot of great large churches that are doing great works. I am here to share that in the Church overall, there is a problem as church attendance is falling. Several studies show that the number of people that attend Church is around 40%, but the problem with those studies is they take people at their word. Many people say they attend Church regularly, but the truth of the matter is they do not. The NCS did something different. They called people on Monday and ask them what they did the day before, not letting them know that they were studying the attendance pattern of the country. Their data shows that only about 20% of America goes to Church regularly. With this in mind, we have to conclude that something is wrong as we have more people going to mega-churches and yet fewer people are attending Church.
So, the question becomes, where are these people that are attending mega or large churches coming from? The answer is that they are leaving mid-size and small churches all across America. Now again, I am not blaming large churches; this is just the way that it is in our society today. Our society is one where bigger is better, and many like to go to places that have all the bells and whistles. They love attending churches with professional musicians, multiple timed services, state of the art technology, and world-class kid’s areas. People have come to believe that the larger a church is, the more they must be doing something right, and they could be. The problem with that thinking is that many would say if a church is not large that they are not doing it right or that they have little to offer. This mindset is where I disagree. I mean as a pastor, I want my Church to grow as I want all gospel-preaching churches to grow. With that said, there are many benefits to attending a small to mid-size Church. Let me share some of the benefits of attending a smaller size church that you may never have considered.
1. There can be a great Family feel to Church each week.
A smaller congregation can become more intimate and feel more like a family reunion each week. You know who exciting going to a family reunion can be. In a small church, this is a feeling that can occur every week in that there are fewer people, which make it easier to get to know most if not all of the people. The larger the congregation, the harder it is to get to know a majority of the people. For example, my parents went to a large church for about a year. After they had been going faithfully for about six months, they were greeted at the door by one of the head greeters that told them it was great to have them as a guest, and my father informed him that they had been attending for six months. Now it was not the greeter’s fault, I mean there is no way he could have known everyone in the Church. Though most large churches do a great job at small groups and trying to get everyone connected, for a small church, connections can flow more naturally, because there are not so many people. The truth is that the large churches want to duplicate that family connection through small groups, but in a smaller congregation, this happens in every area of ministry. In a smaller congregation, it is easier to make a connection with multi-generations rather than just those like yourself in your small group. By doing this, it allows the Church to have a more family feel to it each Sunday.
2. More personal attention
In a smaller church, there is more time for personal attention when you are going through an issue. Many larger churches have multiple services which means that they have to get one group out so another can come in. Multiple services put them at a disadvantage of being able to pray and deal with people in the altar. There may not be time to talk to people being another congregation is coming in for the next worship service. Most large churches have places where you can go after Church, but it is not the same as God moving on you in an altar service and having other members gather around you and pray. Due to time constraints, many larger churches have done away with the alter service. I heard a pastor of a large church make the statement at the end of his sermon, “I would love to have you all come to the front, and us lay hands on you and pray, but we have another group waiting to get in for the next service.” In a smaller congregation, this is not an issue, and so you get a chance to have your needs prayed over, and people take time with you. In a smaller church, there is more access to the pastor and staff wherein a larger church it is impossible for the lead pastor to give a personal ministry to the majority of the church congregation other than preaching and teaching.
3. You can make an immediate impact
In the study, it showed that 50% of all resources and money came into the larger churches. Many of the large churches have huge budgets and large paid staff that takes care of the many things they have going on throughout the week. In a small church, this is not the case. Most of them have smaller budgets, and the staff is small and most volunteer. When a new person comes into a smaller church and is faithful, it makes an immediate impact. The impact can be finical, emotional, and ministry. What you give to a small church is noticed immediately and allows the Church to begin to do more ministry. Also, being a volunteer at a smaller church can be the difference in that Church moving forward or falling away. Smaller churches are appreciative of every volunteer because it is the only way that the Church can be effective. In larger churches, there are more ministries to get involved in, but many have paid staff that oversees the ministries of the Church, whereas a smaller church relies on volunteer leadership to oversee the ministry of the Church. Remember that 50% of all resources that are in the top 7% of churches, well the problem is that the average sized congregation in America is 70 people. Meaning that the majority of the churches in America have very limited resources to work with and so when new people come and give their time, talent, and tithe to the Church it makes a huge impact on the culture of that Church.
4. You can be a part of building something great
In our society, it seems that we have a generation, not age but a mindset, that sees everything as plug and play. In Church, it can be this way as well where people just want to go to a church where everything has been prepared, and all the hard work has been done. Remember that no mega-church started that way. There was a starting point where a vision was birth into someone or into a small group, and they did all the hard work. After time more people got involved and worked hard in unity and saw growth. No large church just grew overnight, nor did they grow without some struggles along the way. Many times, today, people want to do great things, but they are unwilling to do the hard things that it takes to get greatness.
By being a part of a small church, you can be one of the ones that help grow the Church. You can be a part of building something great for the kingdom of God from the ground up or at least from a small thing to something larger. The Bible says, “do not despise the small things,” and we should never despise the challenge that comes from doing something great for God. Now again I am not saying that you cannot do great things in a large church, but there is something about being there from the beginning or coming in when things are just starting to move forward and working and seeing the fruit of your labor. Everyone loves the fruit of the harvest, but it is even sweeter to the one that did the plowing, and the planting. When you go to a small church, and you work hard and see growth in the Church, then it does something inside you, because you know you play a part in the expansion of the kingdom of God. Dwelling in what you help build in partnership with God is one of the greatest feelings.
So, these are just a few advantages of going to a small church has for us. I thank God for all the churches in our world that are preaching the gospel and doing great things for God, big and small. I think that all of them have a place in the kingdom of God, but do not disregard a church on the size of the congregation. Do not judge a pastor on how many people he/she has in the pews. If you do that, then you may miss out on the very thing that God had for you. If you are having trouble connecting or feeling that you have no purpose, then maybe a small church is the answer. Just a thought.