In my last post, Grow It or Close It? Is There a Third Option for Struggling Small Churches?, we established that there are more options for a struggling Small Church than to grow it or close it. We can help it become a healthy Small Church.
But there’s an inevitable question that follows, isn’t there? Namely, how?
How do we help a church move from small and struggling to small and healthy? Maybe even small and strong, small and innovative, even (dare we imagine it…?) small and world-changing?
Not surprisingly, there are as many ways, styles and methods to do this as there are churches. But there are some universal truths, too.
If we’re going to have any hope of leading a small, struggling church into becoming a small, healthy church, there is an essential first step we cannot avoid. (Don’t worry, you can do it.)
Step #1: Stop Assuming that Smallness is a Problem to Be Fixed
Yep, that’s it. Obvious, right? Simple, for sure. Easy…? Not so much.
This requires a change of mindset which may be harder than many of us realize. Especially since a lot of us may not consciously be aware we’ve been holding to this assumption all along.
As I outlined in The Grasshopper Myth, the toxic “small is bad” thought process took root in me as a result of 30 years of being told we needed to “fix” Small Churches by getting them to grow. Since you don’t fix something that isn’t broken, the unintended consequence of such teaching is that it leaves people, especially Small Church pastors, believing that small equals broken.
The biggest problem with Small Churches is not that they’re small. The biggest problem with Small Churches is that we think Small Churches are a problem.
But small is not the same as broken because small is not a problem.
The idea that smallness is a problem – is a big problem!
When we start with the assumption that smallness is a problem, it…
- Causes resources to be mis-assigned
- Stifles creativity
- Undermines leaders who function best in smaller settings
- Overvalues management gifts, while undervaluing shepherding gifts
- Under-utilizes the resources of 80-90% of the churches on earth
- Causes us to seek false success
- Blinds us to real success
- …and more
On the other hand, what would happen if we all took this first step together and stopped thinking of smallness as a problem?
What Might Happen After This First Step?
With the false “smallness is a problem to be fixed” premise put to the graveyard where it belongs, church leaders of all styles, denominations and non-denominations could move on to solving other real problems together. And we could step forward into all kinds of God-honoring, life-affirming, people-loving ministry.
- Find, create and share new tools to help Small Churches be healthy
- Look for ways that churches of all sizes can minister to people of all types
- Strategize about how to plant smaller under-the-radar churches into previously unchurched pockets
- Become more open to forms of church that can only work in a small setting
- Spend less money, time and emotional energy trying to grow churches that aren’t meant to be big
- Utilize the strengths of leaders who work best in smaller, more intimate settings
I know there are so many other things I’ve missed. What do you think might open up to us if we took this first step together? Tell us your ideas in the comment section below.
What Does a Healthy Small Church Look Like?
So what’s step #2?
Namely, if churches can be small and healthy, what are the elements that make a healthy Small Church?
I’ve been asked this question a lot. And I’ve answered it in bits and pieces on this site and in The Grasshopper Myth, but just like there’s a universal first step towards health, I believe there are a handful of universal ingredients that define a healthy Small Church, with one foundational principle underneath all of them.
You can read about that in my follow-up post, The Elements of a Healthy Small Church – And the Hidden Agenda that Can Kill It.
Some previous posts about helping struggling Small Churches become Healthy Small Churches:
- It’s Time for Small Churches to Become Great Churches
- Coasting is Compromise: Becoming a Proactive Small Church
- Why Be Innovative? The Amazing Advantage of the Small Church
- Your Church Is Big Enough
- The #1 Leadership Key to Spark Innovation In a Small Church
So what do you think? Do you have any other ideas about what we could do if we started with this step and re-thought about the value of Small Churches?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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