Dan Kimball: Why smaller congregations have an edge.
If the people in your small church are loving and kind to others, you already have what so many are longing for.
We can talk a lot about the numbers of people who are part of our church, how many services, campuses or video venues we have, and how big we are growing. But I believe most church leaders would admit that generally the most important aspects of spiritual formation occur in some sort of smaller setting.
At Vintage Faith Church, we put a lot of effort into our three Sunday worship gatherings that have preaching and music. We hope they are as big as possible, and we are praying right now about adding another one. But when I listen to stories during baptisms of people who have become Christians or people who made major life decisions, they speak about the small meetings and relationships formed in them. My life also was changed eternally in a small church. As a local church body, we dream of seeing hundreds more become part of Vintage Faith, but we know that the “small” is where God really does deeper things and decisions are made.
It may sound strange, but big churches should strive to be “small” churches. I believe this resonates with emerging generations. I am in enough conversations with young adults to hear that “big” is not always better. They define “community” as much more intense, open and vulnerable than their counterparts in generations past. Emerging generations also generally are suspicious of church leaders. The smaller the church, the easier it can be to build deeper relationships and gain trust. However, the good news is that even megachurches can achieve this “small” feeling and experience, if they place a value on it and design things accordingly to see people get into small communities within the whole. A church of 10,000 can feel like a church of 100 if it emphasizes the “small” in addition to the “big.”
Growing the Kingdom
For small churches today, this desire for “small” is something to celebrate. If the people in your small church are loving and kind to others, you already have what so many are longing for. But while we fully celebrate being small, we can never lose the vision of becoming big. I don’t mean wanting to become a megachurch. I simply mean “big” in terms of the passionate prayer and hope of seeing someone come to know who Jesus is and put faith in Him that never fades. We can take pride in being small like the house churches of the early church, but it can’t be at the expense of failing to help new people who aren’t already in our small church come to know Jesus. Too many small churches today are staying small because they’re content with their tight community of believers, to the detriment of the people outside their church who don’t yet know Jesus.
In big churches, we need to remember the importance of “small” for life transformation. And if small churches don’t have “big” prayers and dreams about seeing someone who isn’t a Christian become one, we need to remember the truth that church is about mission, which includes taking action to see the Gospel proclaimed to people outside our small churches.
Having all kinds of churches of all sizes is wonderful. But no matter the size, may we be concerned with those following Jesus experiencing life transformation in community and those who don’t know Jesus coming to know Him. May our size never interfere with seeing people find and experience new life.