Monday, September 22, 2003

Small Churches

I ministered this weekend in a small church in central Louisiana. How small? Sunday morning there were a dozen people in service. What struck me about the group, however, was not how small they were... but how serious they were about quality. This small group had a church building in which they had spent some time and money on presentation. Their outside facade was clean and inviting, giving the appearance of a more expensive facility... their foyer was beautiful... the sanctuary was small but well done... nice chairs... neat, clean... stage was well done... sound was good. Obviously these descriptions are somewhat relative to the church size and style but it was impressive for that body in that community.

I have been in so many small churches (and have pastored a few) where the lack of size seemed to give an excuse for sloppiness. I mean, if we're just a big (or small) happy family then we don't really have to focus on things like preparation, childcare, nice chairs, trimmed stages, quality lighting, starting time... since we all know each other we don't 'put on airs' and try to impress. We don't try to be something we're not.

The fact is that we will almost guarantee our church will remain small by adopting this type of attitude. There are, of course, many reasons a church doesn't grow... but chief among those reasons is the lack of expectation or commitment to growth... and that is going to be reflected in the way you prepare yourself and your church for newcomers.

I am a firm believer that you get a vision of the kind of church you want to be... or, better yet, that God wants you to be... and then you begin to act like that kind of church. If that means you're to be a small body that ministers to a finite group then start doing that. If you see a large body impacting the community in grand ways... then begin doing the things you see in that vision. Expectations for growth facilitate growth... do the things from the beginning that you want to be doing in the end. If you see 500 people with a powerful children's ministry then you need to start focusing on children's ministry while you're still 50 people. If ministry to the poor is a major piece of your plan then you need to start ministry to the poor the day you open your doors. It may not have the full scope you want to get to but you must begin building it into the DNA of your church.

I even believe that a church that believes in planting other churches needs to plan to do so even when they themselves aren't fully planted... it begins creating an expectation... this is what we do and its not so much at our convenience as it is our commitment to the ideal.

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