Two weeks ago I shared with you three strengths of the small church in Part I of this blog entry. Today I want to share two other strengths.
The small church allows leadership to know each person in the church
I was the brand new pastor struggling to remember the names and faces of those who attended the church. I was working in my office one morning, just a couple of weeks after my debut as pastor, when I heard a commotion outside my door. It was loud enough that I got up to see what was going on. There was a group of children who had decided that they were going to make the stairs right outside my office their play space for the morning. Their mothers were in a Bible study and the children sort of had the run of the building.
I thought about just closing my door and going back to work but I realized that this was a golden opportunity for me to meet some of the children. I sat down on the stairs and for the next ten minutes or so had a wonderful conversation with these children. From that day on those children spent part of their morning on the steps in conversation with me.
A few weeks later one of the families, whose child was part of the group that I met with, invited me over for supper. I was sitting in their living room in conversation with the father when the child came racing through. As he was passing, he looked over and called me by name and gave me a quick hello. The parent was pleasantly surprised that I knew his child well enough for him to greet me like that.
That could have happened to the pastor of a large church but it would be far less likely. In a large church it is doubtful that the children would be playing outside the pastor’s door. In a large church there would have been a more structured program so that it would be unlikely that the children would have had the run of the church.In a large church, the pastor would have been more focused on executive issues and might not have taken the time to talk to the children.
I valued that time because it gave me the opportunity to get to know those children. In the eight years that I was at that church I watched those children grow up. I like to think that I had a bond with them that I might not have had in a larger setting.
In a small church leaders get the chance to know not only the adults but the teenagers and children as well. I would suggest that every leader should not only know the names of the teens and children but should know something about them. In that same church, one of the elders who formed the leadership team made it a habit to ask one of the young people if there was something in that teenager’s life for which he could pray that week. Then he made it a habit of following up by asking the teenager about it the next week. That probably wouldn’t happen in a large church.
In the small church you are part of the majority
Someone has said that God must love small churches because he made so many of them. There is truth in that statement. If you are part of a small church, you are in the majority.
In Canada fifty percent of churches have fewer than seventy-five people in attendance on Sunday morning and seventy-five percent have fewer than one hundred and fifty. There are approximately 13,000 evangelical churches in Canada. This means that about 6,500 churches have seventy-five or fewer people in attendance and almost 10,000 have fewer than one hundred and fifty.
If you ever feel like your church is all alone, remind yourself that there are thousands of other churches across Canada that are the same size that you are and there are hundreds of thousands of people attending those churches. You are actually in the majority.
These numbers hold true not only in Canada but around the world. There are obviously many more churches in the United States but the percentages hold true there as well. All around the world the small church is the norm. As I said above if you are in a small church, you are part of the majority.
Unfortunately the small church is part of an often overlooked majority. Sometimes people think that we would be better off if all of these small churches simply closed their doors and started to attend the large church down the road. That is overlooking the impact that those small churches have had in the past and will have in the future.
Scores of Christian leaders grew up in small churches. Their impact will never be measured this side of eternity. Many ordinary Christians have been nourished and fed in those small churches and while the individual impact of anyone of those Christians might not be huge the combined impact is enormous.
As I look to the future, I can’t help but wonder what the combined impact of 8,000 churches would be if they were all set on fire by the Holy Spirit working in the lives of their members. That is my prayer as I look to the future that God will set each of those churches on fire so they impact the members that God has entrusted to them and the communities of which they are a part. My prayer is that you will be a part of that in the church that you attend.