Good Things Come in Small Congregations
A rant from the pastor of a small, organic, missional community.

Crack your knuckles and prepare to type your comments. Pastor/professor David Fitch is back with his take on why leading a small church is more difficult, and more rewarding, than being a mega-church pastor.

My recent conversation with Bill Kinnon over the big church superstar mentality spurred me on to think of my own experience as a church planter. I have often pondered the church planter's task versus the mega church pastor's. To me, what the smaller, organic, missional community leaders do is much more difficult. Here's why.

It is more difficult to take 10 people and grow a body of Christ to 150 than it is to transplant 200 or 300 people and then grow that congregation to 5,000. A crowd draws a crowd. From day one if you have all the bells and whistles, 5 full time pastors, a youth program, and a charismatic speaker with spiked hair (a shot not aimed at anyone in particular) and you don't mind putting the smaller community churches out of business, it will be harder to stop attracting a big crowd.

(BTW, did you know that statistics say that small church growth (from 10-150) is where the conversion growth, as opposed to transfer growth, occurs? Why then do evangelicals exalt the mega congregations as the answer to reaching those outside of Christ?)

It is more difficult to preach a sermon to 100 people than to 8,000 people. Of course, there are some of my emerging co-laborers who don't believe in preaching per se. I believe in proclamation of the new reality, the calling of truth into being, and my thoughts on expository preaching are already out there. My point here is that preaching to 100 people you actually know and live with is a lot harder than preaching to 8000 people, 99% of whom you don't know. It is not that it is harder to be vulnerable in a larger crowd. It is that in a space of 100 people you are more vulnerable when so many know you. You are naked.

And I might add, I've preached for our own congregation of 100+ and I've preached for 1000+, and my experience is that a joke is 10 times easier to pull off in a large audience than in a small one. (Not that I should be trying to tell jokes in my sermon but you all know what I'm talking about.)

It is more difficult to deal with conflict and leadership in a small church where our conflicts, our vision, our weaknesses must all be talked about and worked through. In small, organic, church leadership we must do the hard work of owning our weaknesses and speaking truth in love to other leaders. It's hard but we grow. In mega-sized corporate churches leadership and organization is much easier because you can just fire people/employees.

May 05, 2007

Displaying 1–7 of 7 comments

fresnodave

May 14, 2007  8:22pm

Steve Cuss Great thoughts. There is however another system than the two you refer to. Even 200 is huge and whole nother world compared to most of my friends and i whose congregtraions are under 70..and if its a church plant, that increases the difficulty a ton

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Keith Bailey

May 10, 2007  10:20am

I've been a Salvation Army officer for 22 years and have had 5 appoints where we have averaged 20-50 on a Sunday morning. It is very difficult work and can be very rewarding when someone begin's to understand the changes that Jesus can make in a person's life. I'm glad there are folks out there that understand how tough small church ministry can be

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Dave Datema

May 08, 2007  1:01am

No, its a good post. This is what it means to be part of the conversation. Rants often contain questionable ideas but they reflect what's going on inside, which is good. There's room for all of us at the table. Ultimately, we're all after the truth. I think there's truth in that post. Not all the truth, not the only truth, but truth just the same. Both roles are legitimate, and probably equally "hard". May God provide us with godly men and women in both.

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Tim Hallman

May 07, 2007  11:10pm

Being a pastor of a church under 150, I like hearing that my job is harder than the pastor of a church of over 1500. Helps me feel less guilty for only having one conversion last year when the larger church had 30. My sense is that both are hard, just a different hard. It sounds like Fitch has over-romanticized the wonderful organic communities of small churches, and has over-stereotyped larger churches to make his points. However, Fitch is on to something: there are certain ministry/relational/social dynamics present or lost depending on the size of the church. Both kinds of churches can be missional - just a different kind.

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Jason

May 07, 2007  10:36pm

I agree with Trisha!

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Carl Holmes

May 07, 2007  5:25pm

"true humility is being able to be who you are because you know who Jesus is and His call on your live-not judge who your neighor is and Jesus call on his or her life." Well said Trisha. I attend a "mega church" with a thriving small group ministry. In doing so I have no doubt I get the same accountability and one to one with spiritual people that I need in order to grow. Before going on a diatribe about mega churches, ask a few people about their experiences in one. I think you will find many of them extremely missional and extremely well run. Pastor of 100 or of 10000 it is the same thing, it is all about relationships.

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James Gibson

May 07, 2007  12:20pm

He's right. (There, how's that for succinct?)

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