The smaller the church, the harder it is to incorporate new people.
The same dynamic applies to older and more established churches. Here's why.
Everyone who comes into your life changes your life.
The fewer people you know, the greater impact each person has. And the longer you’ve known your current friends, the harder it is for new friends to find where they fit.
In the same way, everyone who comes into a church changes that church.
The smaller the church, the greater impact each person has. The longer the church has been around, the harder it is for new people to know where they fit.
Welcome People, Welcome Change
This is why small churches have a reputation for being resistant to change. A reputation we must change.
It’s in the nature of smaller groups to find it harder to incorporate new people. Unfortunately, some churches make it harder than it needs to be by resisting even the smallest changes that naturally arise from welcoming new people.
No, we should never change on foundational theology. But we need to realize that everyone who comes into our church will change it a little.
Every mature believer.
Every long-time church-goer.
Every wide-eyed seeker.
Mature believers will change us in some ways – maybe with greater wisdom. Seekers will change us in other ways – perhaps to be more patient and loving.
But everyone will change us.
Even Good Change Isn’t Easy
Our church learned this a few years ago when a group of college students started attending. They brought new energy, which everyone welcomed, but they also brought new ideas, new songs and new messes, which not everyone was thrilled about. And they weren’t contributing enough financially to pay for the changes (they were in college, after all).
Plus we knew that, after coming in and upending everything, they’d be gone in four years with no guarantee that another group would take their place.
We were excited by their arrival, but I started noticing some resistance, so I talked with our church leadership about it.
Our leaders acknowledged that the changes weren’t easy, but we felt they were necessary. So we talked it through with the congregation as well. God bless them, they saw that the value of having the college students far outweighed the necessary changes.
We took the leap and welcomed them with open arms. And we were right. The blessings have far outweighed the challenges. (And that first group has been replaced by new blood year after year, by the way.)
Those college students changed our church. In ways both expected and unexpected. And they continue to change us. For the better.
It’s not easy, but it is good.
The Smaller the Church, the Harder the Change
Every church says they want to reach out to new people. But if your church isn't willing to be changed by the unbelievers who come to your church, they won't come.
Big churches find it much easier to incorporate new people because the bigger the crowd, the smaller the impact each person has. But in small churches, it's much harder because the smaller the church, the larger the impact each person has.
So how do small churches become more welcoming of newcomers?
We have to be intentional about it. We have to focus on friendliness. Not just with each other, but with new people. For a simple, practical way to start doing that, check out 4 Steps to a Friendlier Church (The G.I.F.T. Plan).
Part of that is being willing to allow them to change us.
Church leaders need to educate the congregation about the importance of being a welcoming church – and we need to lead by example.
The church needs to stick with and reinforce the eternal, unchangeable truths of God's Word. That’s what makes us a church, after all. Changing methods is not the same as changing core theology.
But we need to be open to the new ideas, sounds and customs that new people will bring with them.
We can't expect Christ to use our church to change them without letting Christ use them to change us.
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