By Peter Meier | April 15, 2016
The most recent issue of Facts & Trends highlighted the theme, “The Power of Small.” Never underestimate the power of small was the message of nearly every article.
The articles covered a variety of topics of interest for small churches, but what caught my eye was the focus on church multiplication. I’ve written about small churches and multiplication before. You can read it from the archives on our website.
Here are some thoughts to ponder and discuss when it comes to small churches:
- All churches are small when they begin. The first Christian church was birthed from 120 people (Acts 2) and multiplied to thousands of people in many local churches.
- Today, nearly 58% of congregations in the US have fewer than 100 people in weekend worship services, up from 49% five years ago.
- Small churches can be great leadership developers, as otherwise reluctant volunteers have to step up to meet leadership needs.
- Smaller churches may have fewer ministries, but have a greater focus. They know they can’t do everything so they know their mission field and how to best effect people there.
- Small churches partnering together can overcome financial challenges. They can even partner to plant new churches.
- Small churches sponsor 1 in 5 church plants. 21% of churches planted since 2008 say that their sponsoring church had an average attendance of less than 100.
- Americans are open to small churches. Among all Americans. 88% would consider attending a church of fewer than 100 people.
- Millennials looking for personal relationships are receptive to small churches where they can get to know their neighbors and become personally involved.
- Small churches can’t produce elaborate performances; when you visit, you know what you’re getting week after week.
- Donations are higher in small churches. Average donation per regular adult attendee in evangelical churches of 100 adults is $1,750. In congregations of 400 adults the average is $1,480. In congregations of 1,000 adults, the average is $1,140.
- Small churches are not a problem that needs fixing, but rather a strategy God wants to use to bring His harvest home.
One of the newer ways large churches are multiplying is by “going small.” They are moving to smaller spaces in more places. Multi-site multiplication has been fairly common in recent years, but a newer trend is emerging. Larger churches are launching microsites. These meet in homes or other small spaces. They can pop up quickly with very little cost. What’s needed are local leaders and video for live-streaming worship services produced by the mother church. Fellowship, food, service and discipleship are done locally. In this way, a small or modest-sized church can plant many microsites in many communities which otherwise may not be reached.
Small churches have real potential for great impact!
Questions for Discussion
1. Would you consider attending a small church (under 100 average attendance) regularly? Why or why not? What would you look for in a small church?
2. Why might smaller churches consider planting new churches?
3. What would be some advantages to planting a series of microsites? What would their relationship be with your church?
4. If you belong to a “small church,” what are other ways you could “think big?”
Resources You Can Use
The Hartford Institute’s Faith Communities Today 2015 report provides insightful trend line data reflecting the changing landscape of congregational life in the United States. This research is not particularly positive about small churches and their vitality.
Facts & Trends, Spring 2016. Produced by LifeWay, this print and on-line magazine offers hopeful insights and helps for small churches.
The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us, Karl Vaters. Size isn’t necessary to do great things.
NewSmallChurch.com, Karl Vaters’ blog for leaders of small churches.
Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, Terry Dorsett. Practical advice to help small churches reach the younger generations.
Consider this list of 28+ Church Multiplication Models. Many of these can be done by small churches who have the passion to multiply. The key is to identify which might best work in your unique context.
Exponential.org has many free e-books which focus on multiplication for churches of all sizes. Especially check out these titles:
- Josh Burnett, Start a Movement – Plant Pregnant.
- Ralph Moore, You Can Multiply Your Church: One Journey to Radical Multiplication.
- Kevin Cox, Small Church, Big Impact: A Call for Small Churches to Multiply
- Larry Walkemeyer, Flow: Unleashinga River of Multiplication in Your Church, City, and World
- Todd Wilson, Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication
- JD Greear, Sending Capacity, not Seating Capacity: Why a Church Gains the Most When It Sends Its Best
- Dan Smith, Sending Church: Stories of Momentum and Multiplication
Becoming a Level 5ive Church. This free e-book, by Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson offers readers the rubric and language to help their churches (whether small or large) become more effective at multiplication of disciples and churches.
The Center for United States Missions offers several seminars to help congregations see the urgency and need for multiplication and to help them plan for multiplication in their unique contexts. Mobilizing the Mission of God is a one-day seminar which shares the basics of new church reproduction (for both new plants and new ministries). Churches Planting Churches is a two-day seminar which takes pastors and church leaders deep into the preparation to multiply and helps them to develop a basic plan toward the launch of a new church or ministry. For details on either or both of these trainings, contact Dr. Peter Meier.
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
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