What are we going to do about all those struggling small churches?
That question has been the subject of endless hand-wringing in the last several decades. A lot of time and money has been invested in conversations, books, seminars and classes attempting to fix this problem.
Struggling small churches are usually given two options:
Option 1: Figure Out a Way to Grow the Church
There’s been more information about how to grow churches than any other subject on pastoral ministry in the last 30-40 years.
Strategies for growth have included everything from praying longer and working harder, to changing the music, the methods, the denomination and/or the pastor. But when all the hard work, fresh strategies and prayer meetings fail to produce the expected growth, we go to…
Option 2: Close the Church
Grow or close.
So many small church pastors have felt, or are currently feeling the pressure to do one or the other.
At times, that pressure seems to come from everywhere. From our congregations, our denominations and – perhaps the toughest critic of all – within ourselves. Many pastors reading this right now have not been able to pull off the expected growth and are wondering if they should call it quits.
If that’s you, don’t quit yet. I have some good news. ‘Grow it or close it’ aren’t your only choices. There’s a third option. And it’s not a weird new method, a mystical ancient secret or a positive thinking, pie-in-the-sky, hope-against-reality dream.
It’s been sitting in front of us all along, but a lot of us have been so obsessed with ‘grow it or close it’ we’ve overlooked this alternative.
Option 3: Help Struggling Small Churches Become Healthy Small Churches
We live in a culture that is so obsessed with a bigger-is-better mindset, that we’ve allowed it to creep into the body of Christ. It’s become such an automatic part of our thought process, that many people in ministry can’t even see this obvious third option for small, struggling churches.
Before I go any further, let me be clear about this. When I talk about church health, I don’t mean helping churches become healthy as a stepping-stone to becoming bigger – although it’s great if that happens, too. I mean becoming healthy as an end in itself.