A few years ago, my neighbors, Dan and Jill Johnson and their two kids, became enthralled with a megachurch. About every other month, they’d travel 200 miles to attend and soak up the excitement of the super church—the lively, professional worship, the elaborate stage sets, the extensive children’s ministry. It seemed like the super church had the answer to all their spiritual yearnings.
Soon, a job transfer brought them to the Northeastern city they’d been visiting—finally, they could attend their dream church every weekend. A few weeks later, they packed up their home and that Saturday night, camped out in their new house. But the next morning, instead of going to “super church,” due to a dead car battery, they found themselves at the small Baptist church across the street from their home.
Within 10 minutes of walking through the door, the Johnsons were fielding requests. The greeters asked Jill if she had ever taught children. Another greeter asked Dan if he would assist in ushering. During the week, members from the small church visited Dan and Jill and convinced them to help out through August until all their vacationing members had returned. The Johnsons agreed that they’d put off attending the megachurch until school began.
Turns out the family never joined their dream church—the magnetism of the small neighborhood Baptist church overcame the alluring experiences of the super church.
What can you learn from the Johnsons’ story and their church? My 35-plus years of research and experience with small church ministry has uncovered six specific and transferable principles churches of all sizes can adapt in their own unique context.
1) That’s “my” church. In small churches, people think in terms of “my church.” Small church members are much more likely to be involved with the total life of the congregation. And because they are and feel involved, both adults and children are usually more willing to be used in ministry, to give more sacrificially, and to pray more consistently than megachurch attendees. When you connect members to ministry, in essence you connect them to the very life of your church.