Perhaps nothing. God uses small churches to do His work. Most of my readers are currently attending or have attended a small church. Some of those churches are effective, and some aren’t. Although there can be a correlation between ineffectiveness and small attendance, many times size is circumstantial. Therefore, a church’s effectiveness isn’t (and shouldn’t be) defined by their attendance.
Many small churches are comfortable in their own skin. But problems can occur when a small church or its leadership begins to believe the grass is greener at a larger church.
This thinking can debilitate church effectiveness—and leaders who suffer from church leader jealously syndrome often chase cool, leading their churches to fruitless pursuits that hinder the Gospel and hurt those who attend.
Before I go further, three small church disclosure statements:
- The first half of my life, I was a part of smaller churches (one with attendance as low as 20 and one as high as 300).
- The second half of my life has been spent serving on staff at three separate larger churches
- Bottom line: I’m not an expert who’s compiled research on small churches*. These are just things I’ve noticed by watching and having conversations with those leading them.
Small churches that have succeeded (anecdotal evidence on my part) not only haven’t fallen into the “grass is greener” ideology, but they’ve also chosen to embrace what God has uniquely given them to do. And often, their smaller size is the very thing that enables them to do what God has called them to do.
No matter their size, effective churches accept the biblical mission of the church and ask the question: “What is it that God has called us to (uniquely) do?” Another way to ask that is: “What is it about our physical location, resources or membership make-up that God can uniquely use to change our community with the Gospel?”