By far, the most common question I’m asked about small church ministry is “if your church is healthy, why is it so small?”
It’s a valid question, for sure. And one that I’ve answered in several previous blog posts, including these:
Recently I’ve started responding with a question of my own. Namely, in addition to asking small church pastors “why is your church so small?” shouldn’t we also be asking pastors of larger churches “why is your church so big?”
After all, none of them became big without working extremely hard at it.
Certainly, we often ask “how did your church get so big?” That’s why there are so many books, blogs, podcasts and seminars dedicated to breaking growth barriers, getting unstuck, and so on.
But it’s always a question about how to duplicate that numerical increase, not about the value of bigness itself.
If numerical church growth was as automatic for a healthy church as the original question implies, why do we need so much help for churches to get big? Shouldn’t church health be enough to bust through those growth barriers all on its own?
Of course, we all know that bigness requires much more than health. It demands a relentless, purposeful push for size. So why have so few of us ever stopped to ask “what are the advantages of a church being big?” And is it really worth all the time, energy and money to get there?
As much effort we expend on increasing church size, the advantages of bigness should vastly and obviously outweigh the advantages of smallness.
Yet they don’t.
As much effort as we expend on increasing church size, the advantages of bigness should vastly and obviously outweigh the advantages of smallness.
Yet they don’t.
Certainly, there are some aspects of a big church that are appealing. Being able to pay a full-time pastor and staff, own a building, offer age- and situation-appropriate classes and more. But the jury is still out on whether-or-not any of those things actually advance the gospel better than the alternatives offered by smaller churches.
To be clear, I’m not against numerical or financial increase. I truly do not believe that small churches or big churches are inherently better.
But I do think we need to challenge our presumptions every once-in-a-while. Including the presumption that bigger is better. Or that better will always lead to bigger.
If the teachings of Jesus tell us anything, it’s that most of our presumptions about wealth, size and greatness are upside-down.
Instead of asking the almost accusatory questions
“why is your church so small?”or
“why is your church so big?”maybe we should practice some humility and wisdom and ask
“what can this church do because they’re small?”and
“what can that church do because they’re big?”
Questions like those might get us the answers we really need.