I love to challenge myself to think about things from a different perspective, especially things I’ve taken at face value. For years, when people referenced our church, LifeChurch.tv, as a megachurch, I never gave the term a second thought: I simply thought it meant a big church. Upon more reflection, I realized it describes a big church in comparison to the average sized church in our country.
But what if we consider it in relation to the population of people we could potentially reach? Many people regard a megachurch as one that’s over 2,000 people in attendance. Most churches which have 2,000 people attending are in communities with populations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. And with the advent of technology, the potential reach for these churches could extend even millions more beyond their nearby population. Yet churches of this size are only reaching a tiny fraction of the people they could reach.
Mega or Micro?
Certainly attendance isn’t a perfect measurement, but it’s generally how we describe the size of a church. And when I look at the attendance of our churches in comparison to the opportunity that’s there, I’m left thinking that the term megachurch is significantly overstated. In fact, when we look at the magnitude of the opportunity that exists right now to share the gospel with this world, I don’t know how we can sincerely use the prefix “mega” to refer to our church or any ministry that exists today. Instead, we would better describe ourselves as a microchurch.
Whether you’re a church which has thought of itself as mega or a church that’s always wanted to be mega, we have much more in common than you might have thought. None of us has arrived. We’re all in the same boat: microchurches with a mega vision.
This isn’t just semantics—it’s a reframing of our perspective. When our comparison is to each other, it can lead us to feel successful simply by being larger than another church. When we start comparing ourselves to the opportunity of reaching the world, it propels us toward a huge vision of what could be.
These perspectives shape the culture and behavior of our churches in big ways:
Megachurches tend to take fewer risks.
Microchurches have little to lose and everything to gain.
Megachurches tend to focus on what they have (facilities built, attendance milestones).
Microchurches tend to focus on the opportunity (How many people can I share Christ with today? How many people can we reach this weekend?)
Microchurches are quick and nimble. They operate with the kind of speed mega mindsets think is impossible.
Our goal here isn’t to make ourselves feel insignificant or ignore the incredible things God has been doing in each of our churches. Rather, it’s our chance to reinvigorate our thinking with the kind of passion that propelled us to launch our churches in the first place. When we see the scope of what the Great Commission looks like today, it’s a giant opportunity for every church of every size to work together in sharing the hope and love of Jesus.
How to Measure Your Micro Church
Sometimes we can be hesitant about measurement in the church—a little squeamish perhaps. Even if we do it, we don’t necessarily want to talk about it. We worry we’ll be seen as caring about numbers more than people. We’re concerned others will think we discount the important things that take place beyond measurement.
I have to remind myself that the modern church didn’t make up measurement. Throughout the New Testament, attention was paid to how many people showed up at various gatherings. They noted the size of the crowd when Jesus spoke. It mattered to the early Church, and it’s mattered ever since. We’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Every number has a name, and every name is important to God.
At LifeChurch.tv, we measure a lot. Like many of you, we measure attendance, giving, salvations and baptisms. We also measure the percentage of our church that is serving and involved in small groups, because we feel like those are important ways to be engaged as a follower of Christ.
Sometimes it’s the relationship between the numbers that tells us more than the numbers themselves. When we see change, it tells us when things are going well or could use some extra attention.
For example, we measure the percentage of people who show up when they are scheduled to serve. As that number increases or decreases, it can tell us how well we’re doing at leading our volunteers. Are we reminding them appropriately and appreciating them sufficiently, or are we missing it somewhere?
We believe that where performance is measured, performance is improved. We measure things that help us understand how effective our team is, like internal customer service surveys that let us know how well our teams are serving each other. We also do annual performance reviews that measure the performance of our staff individually and collectively. These aren’t just broad numbers, but qualitative and quantitative evaluations that help each of us grow and become better at fulfilling our mission.
Because we think measurement is valuable, we developed two tools to help us track data and evaluate growth.
Church Metrics makes it easier to enter and evaluate key numbers for attendance, giving, salvations, baptisms and more (ChurchMetrics.com).
Develop.me is a performance review tool that helps churches promote a staffwide culture of continuous, collaborative growth (Develop.me).
Both of these tools are available to churches everywhere for free.
Bobby Gruenewald is pastor, innovation leader at Life.Church. Connect with him on Twitter:@BobbyGwald