When I lead my workshop on "The Healthy Small Church" I ask the attendees to share what people think of when they think of small churches. The answers I get are always the same regardless of the denomination I'm working with, and they are always negative. However, I believe there are some advantages found in smaller churches, and it are these traits that we need to focus on when leading our smaller churches.
Smaller churches offer a sense of community. We live in a time when people do not know their neighbors and often feel very alone. I am convinced that churches that offer a sense of community will be able to reach more people for the Kingdom of God, and smaller churches can naturally offer that community. Large churches have to form small groups to provide that sense of connectedness. Small churches are already a small group! Granted, there are some small churches that are very closed off to new people, but a healthy, small church will provide a sense of community to those who are connected to it.
People have an opportunity to serve in a smaller church. In fact, I often joke that a Baptist church will work someone to death until they learn to say no. Although it is true that people today are less likely to join an organization as a member, they are interested in being involved in things that are important to them. Small churches give people the opportunity to serve, to engage in meaningful ministry that makes a difference in people's lives.
A third advantage is that small churches communicate quickly. If there is a death in the church or community, that word gets around quickly. If someone needs help others soon know it. and people respond. I realize that negative communication also gets around quickly, but the positive aspect of this far outweighs the negative.
People in smaller churches share common experiences. This is one reason there is that sense of community. The church I served as pastor for 20 years was made up of blue collar, rural, mostly retired people. Those were the groups that we continued to reach throughout my ministry there. Because we shared common experiences it was easier to assimilate new people into the congregation. While there is nothing wrong with new people outside your demographic coming into your church, you will often find that those who share the most in common with you will be the ones most likely to become part of your fellowship.
Finally, people are more important than programs or performances. You normally do not have to try out to sing in the choir of a smaller church! Just show up for choir practice. Relationships are key in the smaller church. Everything else takes a back seat. Small churches are loathe to do anything that will damage relationships in their churches. While this can be a problem sometimes, it is also a strength of the church because it supports that sense of community that exists.
We could list many more advantages found in smaller churches, but these are enough to demonstrate that there are many positives to be found in such churches. Focus on these positives and build your ministry around them.