Monday, December 12, 2011

Growth in the small church

In my files I have a cartoon of a church business meeting.  There are three people at the meeting.  Behind the pastor/moderator is an attendance board that shows attendance for this Sunday at 2, attendance the previous Sunday was 2, and attendance a year ago was 2.  The moderator is addressing one of the attendees and saying, "So you believe we should become a mega-church.  Would you like to elaborate on that?"

I think of this cartoon every time I hear of a small church pastor who tries to copy a model that they learn from one of the mega-churches.  Let me say upfront that I have absolutely nothing against mega-churches, and I believe that smaller churches can learn from the larger churches.  I used to attend a quarterly prayer meeting in a nearby mega-church, and I always made sure that I took a member of our church with me.  I wanted to expose them to the excellence in everything this church did.  But, I never once wanted to pattern our church after this mega-church.

Some members of a small, rural church recently told me that all their new pastor did was talk about what the mega-churches do.  He took several church leaders to meet with the pastor and other leaders of a mega-church in their state.  This mega-church church averages between 1/3 and 1/2 of the total population of the entire county where the smaller church is located, and yet this pastor has a vision of duplicating their growth and numbers.  While trying to become a mega-church pastor he is driving away several of the long-term members of the church who have become totally frustrated with this pastor's unrealistic obsession.

One of the qualities of a good goal is that while it should be challenging it must also be realistic.  I applaud this pastor's desire to have a growing church.  He has a passion for unchurched people and a deep desire to see people commit their lives to Christ.  I have no doubt that any church he leads will grow, but it is foolish to believe that the church he now serves will become the next mega-church.  His goals needs to be smaller, and as those goals are met he can begin to expand them.  Unfortunately, instead of doing that he is alienating the people who have been in that church for years and rapidly losing their support.  The minor growth their church has experienced is in danger of being lost.

If you are the pastor or a lay leader of a smaller church I encourage you to set some challenging goals for 2012.  Those goals should include reaching new people with the gospel.  However, at the same time it is important to remember those who are already part of your church family.  To ignore these people or to insinuate their needs are not important is poor pastoral ministry.

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