Thursday, September 25, 2008

Growth in the Small Church

I just read an interesting article by Lewis Parks, who is a professor at Wesley Seminary, on the types of people who visit small membership churches.

Church growth can be a touchy subject for clergy and laity in small membership congregations because most of the rhetoric among the church growth crowd tends to have a "bigger is better" mentality, where people not-so-subtly suggest that if your church is small you're doing something wrong. That's kind of like saying "you're not rich because you don't work hard enough" to someone with a back breaking minimum wage job.

At the rick of oversimplifying Dr. Parks' argument, those who need the small membership church are often those who are turned off by and/or have been hurt by mega-churches where they have felt lost in the crowd, and who seek the type of intimacy that it can be difficult (though certainly not impossible) to find in large churches.

It bears mentioning, of course, that not all small membership churches offer the kind of intimacy that these people are looking for. Lots of people visit smaller churches where they are obviously the only non-member, and yet no one says hello to them. Some small churches are comfortable being their own little religious club and have no interest in helping others grow in their relationship with God.

What Parks' article does do is remind us that not every church visitor (I intentionally avoid the term "seeker") is looking for the same thing. Perhaps before churches decide they want to advertise themselves they should evaluate their strengths, have a good sense of who they really are as a community, and seek to put that image out there instead of simply trying to replicate miniature versions of mega-churches.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Good commentary and observations. I agree with your conclusion. And definitely there is a place and need for both small and large churches. Laura