The 200 Barrier needs to be retired.
We have to erase it from our church leadership lexicon before it does any more harm to good churches and their pastors.
Yes, there is a difference in the way churches behave administratively under and over 200 (give or take 50). It would be foolish not to acknowledge and teach that reality. But that’s not a barrier. It’s an adjustment.
Calling it the 200 Barrier carries some dangerous implications – starting with the implication that a church over 200 is better than a church under 200.
What evidence is there, either biblical or analytical, that churches over 200 have greater value than churches under 200? Do they automatically have a greater impact on their community because of their size? Are they better at discipleship? Evangelism? Worship? No, no, no and no.
What is The Grasshopper Barrier?
The Grasshopper Barrier is the emotional/spiritual wall that causes us to keep believing The Grasshopper Myth.
What is The Grasshopper Myth?
Definition: The false impression that our Small Church ministry is less than what God says it is because we compare ourselves with others.
Origin: The Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land.
All the people we saw there are of great size. …We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. – Numbers 13:32-33
Symptoms: Lack of vision, faith, courage, effectiveness and freedom.
Prognosis: A lifetime of wandering, whining and placing blame. And yes, it is contagious.
– from the preface of The Grasshopper Myth, by Karl Vaters
The Grasshopper Barrier is a toxic mindset that keeps churches and pastors from recognizing The Grasshopper Myth for the lie that it is.
It holds Small Churches and their pastors hostage to the debilitating poison that they are less than merely because their church is smaller than. And it stops many of them from enjoying and releasing the blessings of being a healthy and healthful Small Church.
What’s Wrong With Breaking Through the 200 Barrier?
Of course there’s nothing wrong with a church growing bigger than 200. Or 2,000. Or 20,000. In fact, there’s a whole lot that’s right with it. We should always strive for and celebrate church growth.
But church growth is more than numbers. Many churches contribute to the growth of the church without seeing a corresponding numerical growth in their congregation. Despite what the 200 Barrier implies.
We need to end our obsession with the 200 Barrier because it has damaged a lot of good people.
- It implies that smaller churches are less valuable than bigger churches
- It belittles the valuable ministry of Small Church and their pastors
- It causes unhealthy churches to devote their limited resources to getting bigger instead of getting healthier
- It encourages pridefulness in pastors whose churches are bigger than 200
- It promotes a false view of success in ministry
- It reinforces The Grasshopper Myth
But mostly, the 200 Barrier needs to be retired because of one simple truth:
The 200 Barrier doesn’t exist! It has no biblical basis! We made it up!
200 is not a barrier. It’s just a number.
The fact that churches above 200 require a different administrative approach doesn’t make 200 a barrier. It doesn’t make churches above 200 better. And if over 200 isn’t better, then moving from under 200 to over 200 isn’t breaking through a barrier, it’s just getting bigger.
Why the Grasshopper Barrier Needs to Be Broken
The Grasshopper Barrier, on the other hand, is very real – whatever we choose to call it. Because it does the same damage to churches and their leaders today that it did to the Hebrews on the other side of the Jordan.
- It keeps Small Churches and their leaders stuck in a cycle of frustration, fear and self-despising
- It paralyzes more ministers and churches than it inspires
- It causes many good people in smaller ministries to quit too soon
- It encourages us to judge ourselves by unbiblical standards
- It is self-reliant, not God-dependent
- It induces guilt and shame when churches don’t get bigger
- It promotes pride when churches do get bigger
- It’s magnifies our fear, not our faith
Being small is not a problem until we think it is. And nothing makes us think small is a problem more than seeing a grasshopper in our mirror.
It’s possible for a church to break through the 200 Barrier without becoming healthier. But breaking through the Grasshopper Barrier is an essential ingredient to the health of any church – or any person.
God’s OK With Small
God is neither limited nor empowered by our size. He knows how small you and your church are. And he wants to use you right now at the size you are right now.
The only problem with smallness is when we think being small is a problem.
God doesn’t think smallness is a problem. And he doesn’t see 200 as a barrier.
But he couldn’t use a nation that saw themselves as grasshoppers. That’s the real barrier. And it needs to be broken.
So what do you think? What are your experiences suffering under the lie that 200 is a barrier?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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