2) People should know they’re necessary. In congregations of 75 or fewer, people feel necessary when they’re serving and missed when they’re not around. They realize that it takes everyone to carry the load, so they tend to show up for “Cleanup Saturday” or give to a designated project, or attend a business meeting. In megachurches, most people don’t feel that sense of necessity. If they don’t serve, someone else will do it. If they don’t tithe one week, others will pick up the slack.
Remember the Johnsons. Ultimately, this family felt needed. I hope that all believers, regardless of church size, have a compelling desire to please Christ and serve Him. That’s why they attend church. Small churches that make their members feel needed cultivate that compelling desire more keenly than larger churches that allow their members to get lost in the crowd.
3) Relationships are key. Members of healthy small churches remain extremely loyal to their church home, primarily because they have relationships there. In a small church, it isn’t difficult to meet and get to know others, to learn names and find a basis to form relationships.
At a time when families are cocooning in front of computer screens, home theater systems and video games, the relationships with other Christians that a small church affords and nurtures every weekend become increasingly important.
Moreover, research suggests that the average small church is made up of five family groups, and usually someone from each family group is involved in the leadership or governing of that local church. What does that say about the small church? In blood family relationships, people know and relate to one another, accepting both the bad and the good of a person. Yet, when you move out of the small church environment and into a larger church, the “five-family hypothesis” loses its impact, and those familial relationships dissolve.
The nature of small churches encourages members to depend on other people and build relationships—and that dependency often cultivates loyalty and authentic community.
4) Accountability breeds spiritual maturity. Small churches understand that accountability to both God and others is essential to developing mature Christians. None of us want to lead or be part of a church that isn’t seeing their members grow into Christlikeness. A small church allows people to live life with each other, as members frequently see one another—each weekend at worship, during the week in a small group and often in a Bible study or ministry team meeting.
In a megachurch, face time is rare—usually once a week in a small group but almost never at worship. Ministry that is crowd-based, and usually crowd-directed, doesn’t typically reach to the personal relationship level. In a vibrant church that offers involvement, significance and relationship (the above three principles), people become accountable to God, to others and to their church.