You should probably know that technically speaking, I’m a megachurch pastor. And yet, in today’s post I’m going to argue that a smaller church has significant advantages over my church. In fact, I’m attempting to lead my church toward smaller expressions of church because I believe that in this cultural moment, smaller is better.
So, I share these ideas to encourage ministry leaders in small to medium sizes churches and also to challenge you to lean in and leverage your strengths. Here are 4 advantages of being smaller.
1. Being Known
Church always has been and always will be about relationships. Discipleship is life on life. People want and need to be known and belong. Smaller churches can naturally leverage their size to be more relational. Larger churches have to invent programs and structures to achieve any sort of true relational ministry. This isn’t to say that they can’t, but it does require an enormous amount of intentionality.
If you lead in a small to medium size church, you have an advantage. Leverage your size and flexibility to be as relational as possible. This is what people want and need and it’s an essential ingredient of discipleship.
Similar to being known is integration. What I’m talking about here is new families becoming connected and integrated into your church family.
A common story in my church goes something like this:
“We’ve been attending for a few months but are having a hard time getting connected.”
“We attended for a few months and just felt like it was too big.”
In order to integrate into our church, new families typically have to join a small group or volunteer. Otherwise, it’s pretty tough to get connected.
Smaller to medium size churches have an advantage here. You can spot new people in your atrium. If you are preaching, leading worship or giving announcements, you can see a new family from the stage. This is an advantage. Leverage it. Focus energy and resources to help guests connect and integrate.
As a large church, we lost something along the way. Back in the day, we relied on high capacity volunteers to lead significant ministries. These days, our natural inclination is to hire a staff person to lead each and every ministry.
Now, I understand that some of you are rolling your eyes right now and saying, “I would love to have the ability to hire a youth pastor or a worship pastor.” I do understand that there are scenarios where relying on volunteers can be a challenge, especially in a season of growth.
My point here is that in a large church, the volunteer roles are typically very narrow. You can lead a small group, greet people at the door and serve in children’s ministry. However, you can’t teach, lead worship, or lead a ministry. These are exaggerated generalizations, but you get my point.
If you are a ministry leader in a small or medium size church, you rely on volunteers and this is a really good thing! You have the ability to leverage high capacity volunteers. You can multiply ministry in ways that are more challenging for larger churches. Volunteers are often more bought in. These are huge advantages to be leveraged.
4. Flexibility and Change
Speedboat vs. Cargo ship. All I’m saying here is that small to medium size churches have a huge advantage when it comes to flexibility and implementing change. Let me give you one quick example: World events and cultural issues.
I can’t tell you how complicated it is for my church to address something that happens in the world on a Thursday in the following weekend service. This is a challenging and taxing pivot for large churches. Videos have already been shot and edited. There are multiple campus pastors to pursue conversations with. The worship plan is already set at multiple campuses. Any adjustment to the plan is a major process. I know it sounds silly but it is a huge thing in a large multi-site church. Honestly, what often happens is not responding to current events in a timely way.
At a smaller or medium size church, changing a weekend service is still painful, but it is much more doable.
This dynamic is true of changing the weekend service and it’s often true of changing church-wide programming or missional direction, although sacred cows tend to be, how shall we say this…more powerfully sacred in smaller churches.
Anyway, on the whole, smaller and medium size churches have an advantage when it comes to flexibility and change. You can leverage this advantage and be incredibly relevant to what is going on in your community and in your world.
My hope for this post is to encourage those of you who are ministry leaders in smaller contexts. I believe smaller is better in this cultural moment. My current growth strategy for my church is to launch a medium size community oriented campus or plant a medium size church. Why? Because right now, smaller to medium size churches have significant advantages.
Lean into this. Leverage your strengths as a church.