Small churches receive a lot from our megachurch friends. We read their books, sing their songs, use their curriculum and attend their seminars. And we’re grateful.
But the benefits don’t have to flow only one way. There are important, though less obvious principles that megachurches can learn from small churches.
Healthy small churches have characteristics that make them work. It’s not a mistake that over half the believers in the world choose to attend a small church. These principles can be a blessing to big churches too. It’s not necessarily that they aren’t being done by bigger churches, but they’re more obvious in smaller ones.
As you read them, you’ll notice they tend to have one theme in common. Relationships.
1. Everyone Matters
The average person can have a greater impact in a small church. Your presence matters and your absence is noticed. People recognize your face and know your name – and not just your friends, but the pastor, too.
In a bigger church, a pastor can’t know everyone, or even most people. It’s the price of growth. But we need to be careful, as we grow, not to see people only as members of demographic subsets.
Big churches are fond of saying ‘every number is a person’, which is true. But when the crowd gets huge, sometimes people feel like numbers. In a healthy church, every person is a person, not a number.
This is why every church needs to grow smaller as they grow bigger. Big churches need systems in place, not just to keep the mechanics of the church functioning smoothly, but to let every individual know they matter.
Giving people a sense of personal value isn’t automatic, even in small churches. It takes work. But it’s worth it.
2. Friends are More Important than Friendliness
Josh Hunt wrote a terrific post entitled People Are Not Looking for a Friendly Church, in which he quotes Rick Warren saying “People are not looking for a friendly church; they are looking for friends.”
Josh and Rick are right. It’s nice when a greeter has a friendly smile and when an usher asks your name as they show you to your seat. But I don’t expect those people to think about me after I leave any more than the smiling barista at Starbucks does.
I don’t go to Starbucks for the barista’s friendliness any more than I go to church for the usher’s smile. I go to Starbucks for the coffee, and to church for the worship and teaching. But I hang out in each place because of the friends I meet there.