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The Strong Little Church

"Natural church development" proponent says smaller congregations outperform larger churches in seven of eight categories.

Editor's note: Church expert Lyle Schaller predicted in the 1990s that churches would get larger or smaller, but that the numbers of middle-size churches would begin to decrease. Boomers, seeking excellence, encouraged their congregations to grow larger. Gen-Xers, seeking community, would begin migrating to smaller churches.

Recent studies by researcher George Barna bear out Schaller's forecast somewhat. Barna says there's hope for the smaller congregation, as the desire among younger people for authentic relationships becomes increasingly a factor in their selection of a church home. And many postmodern congregations eschew size as a factor in their sense of purpose or success.

So, how well are smaller churches doing?

Smaller churches do as well as larger churches in all key areas but one, according to analyst Christian A. Schwarz. That bodes well in the future for those in the shadow of mega-ministries.

Surveying 1,000 churches in 32 countries, he found eight principles of health in churches ...

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