Alan Briggs: Is Bigger Actually Better?

Pastors constantly think about church growth. We read articles, hear stories and wonder, Why aren’t we growing more? 

We live in a culture of excess that constantly says, “Attain more! Grow at all costs!” Many of us have believed these whispers at some point and treated them as if they were the gospel truth. While it’s natural to want our church to grow, it can also be crippling. 

A larger church can have a bigger impact, but that isn’t a given. So, is having a larger church really better? This is a tough question that requires a lot of discernment and prayer. Carefully consider the following: 

* What will the cost be to sustain a larger church? Growth will require different costs: financial (annual budgets will increase), relational (staff and volunteer dynamics will change) and organizational (personnel, management and administrative needs will grow). You should account for these costs before you embark on a growth plan.

* What is the right size to accomplish your church’s mission? The natural corollaries of growth are complex, and can cause pastoral teams to lose sight of their mission and become less effective. Every church has unique marks in a unique context while fulfilling a unique mission to impact the world. Be careful taking advice on growth from those outside of your context. Sometimes a smaller church is better positioned to serve a unique niche with their unique marks and mission. 

* Is your church ready to care for more people? Think like a steward of souls. If your staff is depleted and the systems at your church are bursting at the seams, you need to strengthen both before you grow. 

* What is the sweet spot for your leadership? Some pastors hobble into leadership coaching with me because they blindly assumed that growing larger was the right decision for their church. However, they were blindsided by the challenges of growth, which zapped their quality of life and even their fruitfulness. 

I have met many pastors who stretched to grow a church larger only to end up feeling trapped inside of that church. I also have talked to pastors who have maintained a vibrant, fulfilling ministry with a consistent church size. Pray and seek guidance on the unique ministry God has entrusted to you. 

So, what can we conclude about church size? Bigger does not necessarily mean better, but it does mean more complex. Anticipate the challenges that will hit your church when it grows by discerning the financial, relational and organizational costs before you experience them. 

Bigger also doesn’t mean worse. Growth can be good, but it does require a constant cultivation of a healthy culture. Focus heavily on creating that culture now and develop a sustainable plan to continue developing it.   

No matter how big or how small your church currently is, understand that it has individual challenges and advantages. Name the advantages of your church’s size and live well into them.

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Alan Briggs
Alan Briggs

Alan Briggs, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is crazy about helping kingdom leaders uncover clarity, courage and health. He is a leadership coach, sabbatical coach, writer and podcaster. His experience as a pastor and church planting catalyst inform all of his work. Join the conversation at Stay Forth Leadership Podcast