Church Growth
Overcoming Confirmation Bias About Church Size, Health And Effectiveness
Confirmation bias causes us to see the successes of the big, fast-growing churches, but only the problems in the small, steady church.

Why do we equate size with health and effectiveness in the church?

One reason is our tendency toward confirmation bias.

When we want to know what church health is, we look at what’s happening in the biggest and fastest-growing churches.

On the other hand, when we look at a small church, we don’t look for signs of health, we look for what’s wrong.

And we always find what we’re looking for, don’t we?

We See What We’re Looking For

The reality is that big, fast-growing churches are making mistakes along the way, just like small churches are. Ask any of their pastors and they’ll readily admit that. No one does it perfectly.

We start with the assumption that if a church is small, they must be making more mistakes than the bigger churches. So we assess them based on their weaknesses.

On the other side, there are a lot of small churches that are doing great, kingdom-impacting ministry. But we seldom look to them for that because we start with the assumption that if a church is small, they must be making more mistakes than the bigger churches.

So we assess them based on their weaknesses (which all churches have), not on the their strengths (which they also have).

Confirmation bias causes us to see the successes of the big, fast-growing churches but only the problems of the small, steady church. Even though each one has both successes and failures.

A Different Starting Point

What we need is a different starting point.

Don’t look at large churches and ask how they got big.

Don’t look at small churches and ask why they’re staying small.

Start with a list of the attributes of a healthy church and look for churches displaying those characteristics, no matter what size they are, or what numerical growth track they’re on.

And if you’re in one of those small churches, don’t look at your numbers and ask “why are we so small?” Look at the attributes of a healthy church and ask “are we doing those?” (For a starter list on that, check out my previous article, 28 Non-Numerical Signs Of A Healthy Church.)

Then celebrate your strengths and get to work on your weaknesses.

And if you pastor a big and/or fast-growing church? Do the same thing.

Health And Effectiveness

Assume nothing.

Assess everything.

Fix what needs fixing.

Celebrate what’s working.

Start with health and effectiveness, work on health and effectiveness, celebrate health and effectiveness.

That’s how to have a healthy and effective church. No matter what size it is.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

May 10, 2019 at 11:34 AM

Join in the conversation about this post on Facebook.

Recent Posts

Read More from Karl

Follow Christianity Today

Free Newsletters

More Newsletters ...