How Church Growth Proponents Can Help Struggling Small Churches
These two pastors and the churches they serve reflect a problem that is far more commonplace than most of us would like to admit.
Many pastors feel pushed towards church growth, but they don’t feel like they get the help they need from church leaders when that growth fails to materialize. Which it doesn’t for over 90 percent of pastors and churches, no matter how much they want it, or how hard they work, pray, and follow all the church growth advice they can find.
So I’ve written a starter list for church growth proponents and denominational officials. When it comes to helping small church pastors, please consider these six principles:
1. Stop equating size with health
Big churches are great. But size is not the only (or even the best) indicator of health.
2. Stop pushing hurting churches to get bigger
The apostles didn’t push church growth on struggling churches.
When John wrote to the the small, struggling churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev 2 & 3), he didn’t give them church growth advice. He supported them in their struggles and encouraged them to be faithful.
As I wrote in 4 Proven Strategies for the Care and Treatment of an Unhealthy Church, we can’t hold stuggling churches to the same expectations as healthy ones.
3. Acknowledge that small is normal
Approximately 90 percent of churches are under 200. It’s always been that way. It’s time to stop making normal churches feel inadequate.
We should celebrate church growth when it happens. But we need to acknowledge that big churches are the exception, not the rule. We need to stop comparing other churches to the rare church that has exceptional growth.
4. Give us the training and tools to become healthy small churches
One of the reasons I wrote The Grasshopper Myth was because I looked for years to find a book that would help me pastor a healthy small church, but couldn’t find one. We need more books, seminars and other materials about pastoring from a healthy small church perspective.
5. Find ways to celebrate great small churches
Small churches don’t have the numbers to verify our successes. Not even per capita stats will show the results. But we have great stories. Give small churches a platform to tell them.