Sure, there was a time when the embarrassment was well earned. For a few years, we were unhealthy, dysfunctional and hurting.
But even after we got healthy, I stayed embarrassed. Not because it wasn’t a good church. Not because I didn’t love the people in it.
I was embarrassed because it was small.
When new people would show up on a Sunday, I’d say hello, then start offering excuses. “A lot of people are gone on summer vacation today,” or “our youth group is at a convention this weekend” or “hey, it’s Arbor Day – hard to compete with that.”
They Knew It Was Small and They Came Anyway
One of the ways I learned to be OK with – and now celebrate – the value of a healthy Small Church, was when I started seeing it through the eyes of people who visit Small Churches for the first time.
The front door of a Small Church is not the wardrobe to the magical land of Narnia. No one expects that a church which looked small from the outside will magically grow huge once they step inside.
They’re not anticipating world-class staging and lighting, featuring a band that just put out a best-selling worship CD. They don’t expect multiple levels of programs for every imaginable need and age segment. They won’t be disappointed if the sermon doesn’t include a Hollywood-quality video segment shot by the church’s visual arts team.
People who come to a Small Church aren’t expecting a big church experience. But they have a right to expect a really good Small Church experience.
Yes, there will always be people who are surprised that a church of 50 doesn’t offer a more specific breakdown of age appropriate ministries. But they’re the exception, not the rule.
Let’s Do Small Church Really Well
So, my fellow Small Church pastors, today I have good news and bad news for all of us.
The Good News: They knew your church was small and they came anyway.
The Bad News: Many of them aren’t getting the healthy, friendly Small Church experience they came for. (Now that’s embarrassing).
Which leads to one more piece of
Good News: We can change the bad news.
There’s no need to be embarrassed by our Small Churches any more. We just need to do the Small Church stuff better.
Being Small Isn’t the Problem
There are many reasons some Small Churches are unhealthy. But being small isn’t one of them.
The main reason many Small Churches aren’t healthy is simple. They’re not acting like a healthy Small Church. Instead, they’ve been trying to act like a big church. And that’s not healthy. Because it’s not what they are.
So let’s lay aside the unreasonable burden of trying to be like the big church we admire and become a Small Church to admire.
Let’s turn up the volume on what people come to a Small Church for:
- Family-style friendliness
- Access to the pastor
- Cross-generational worship
- A chance to learn, grow and lead
- Personalized, relationship-based discipleship
- To know and be known
Big churches are great at doing what big churches do.
If you’re trying to act like a big church instead of behaving like a healthy Small Church, you should feel embarrassed.
But if you are a healthy Small Church, stand tall. Even if you stay small.
So what do you think? Have you ever pre-judged a church because of its size? Maybe your own church?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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