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Five Advantages of Small Churches

We talk a lot about growing our church, and so we should. It’s important to be clear on what we are trying to grow toward. For the past thirty years or so, the focus of most literature on local church ministry has been church growth. These all suggest that the small church is somehow deficient, ill-equipped to be stewards the Gospel. If a small church wants to be better, it has to be bigger. Small churches—which, by the way, make up the majority of churches—are uniquely equipped for ministry success just in different ways. Here are some strengths that I believe are inherent in small congregations.


Almost intuitively, church leaders recognize that their church needs to be perceived as ‘authentic’ if they want people to visit and come back. One poll reveals that the number one reason people return to churches after an initial visit is because they deem the church “authentic.” The next most popular reason is the pastor’s preaching. Church programs only pulled five percent of the vote. Our church has this one pretty much nailed down. We are welcoming in a genuine, authentic way whenever we have visitors. Two statements to keep in mind about what authenticity means and why smaller churches are at an advantage for putting it to work are:

  • First, be yourself. We are who we are. When folks do decide to come to a second visit, we must be the same all the time.
  • Second, make sure your behavior lines up with your stated convictions. Churches claim to be a family, but the larger the church, the more likely it is to be run like a business. Small churches, on the other hand, more often truly function as a family. We must convey our willingness to bring people into our lives.

Lean and Focused

One reason larger churches can attract attendees from across a region is because they have the resources to offer a little something for everyone. Smaller churches don’t have the financial resources or the volunteer pool to run a broad schedule of programs. Not to worry. Instead of running a multitude of generic programs, a better use of resources and energy in the small church is to zero in on one or two things that focus on the unique needs of your local context. Here in the Palos Verdes area, we have a large equestrian community and many civic groups of senior citizens. If we all look for ways to engage just these groups, we can be very effective.

Let’s get a church member to join one or more of these groups. You will enjoy the fellowship and be an ambassador for the church! Rather than pressuring church members to turn all their gifts and service inward, we can have a greater impact in the community when we equip and encourage our people to keep serving where they are already active.

Ministry on the Margins

According research, the largest churches attract a fairly well-defined demographic. The average age of a megachurch attendee is 40. Nearly a third are single and, on the whole, the megachurch crowd is more educated and wealthier than the average members of smaller churches. But which churches are reaching the people who fall outside this demographic and location? Small churches. Smaller churches can become an integral part of the local fabric of their communities.

None of these ideas is guaranteed to grow our church numerically (nothing is, in fact), but fostering the authenticity that comes more naturally to our smaller church will make our church a safe place for the disillusioned. Fostering people-powered ministry can make us a more integral, visible part of the local community. These efforts may not be as glamorous as church growth strategies. But they will equip us to participate in Kingdom growth—to watch how God can take our mustard seed and turn it into great harvest for his glory. We are a small church, let’s make the most of what we have and who we are.


Pastor Rich


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