The Great Value of Churches Under 100

There is a certain beauty in churches with less than 100 people.

  • They possess an accessibility that is attractive.
  • They possess an element of simplicity that is appealing.
  • They possess a sense of potential that is alluring.

When I meet pastors of smaller churches who are on fire to reach people, I imagine the house churches we read about in Acts 2. Full of zeal, focused on the Word, embracing community, tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit, practicing generosity and seeing people saved.

This is a beautiful experience.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

I’m a believer in leadership and church growth. Big time.

My foundational biblical belief about the life of the church is that God intended all churches to grow.

However, God did not extend us the ability to determine how large our churches will become. Small churches fit in God’s big plan.

Good leadership certainly has a significant effect on that outcome, but ultimately:

We do our part; God does His. 

Church growth requires a Kingdom partnership.  

If you pastor a smaller church or volunteer your leadership, I know it’s easy to get discouraged, feel alone in the battle, and even wonder if what you do matters.  

Let me assure you, it does matter!

There is incredible value in smaller churches. It may seem like you are adding people relatively slowly. Hang in there. Stay in the game. We all want to grow faster, but there is no speedometer on the Great Commission. Stay focused on life change. That’s the primary measurement.

I’m certain God cares about one or two or five or ten more people who say yes to Jesus! That might happen in 2019, or it might take a long time, but everyone matters to God!

5 points of high value from smaller churches:

1) Large churches don’t appeal to everyone.

A frequent comment sounds something like this. “I appreciate the amazing things the ‘big mega churches’ do, but I’m just more comfortable in a smaller church. They’re not so intimidating, and they’re easier to negotiate.”

(I think that’s one reason why multi-site works so well. It’s the best of both worlds. A large church in smaller venues.)

Another common comment is that people say they grew up in a smaller church and miss it. They find their way to larger churches because of good leadership, but smaller churches can offer good leadership too. Simply put, smaller churches can reach people that larger churches can’t.

2) Some towns and cities can’t support a big church.

I’ve driven through towns that don’t have a hundred people. They need a church! There’s a huge amount of rural territory, and it needs good churches. Good churches where people can become part of the body of Christ and make a difference in their community, regardless of the size.

3) Small churches can move and respond quickly.

No one local church can do everything, but smaller churches can respond to personalized needs very quickly. For example, I heard a story of a neighborhood home that burned to the ground from a fire.

The family lost everything. A small church of fewer than one hundred people responded immediately providing food, a place to sleep, encouragement and raised a generous amount of money to help this family. They stayed with them through the process until they were able to get back on their feet.

4) Small churches can have a big impact from specialized ministries.

I get to hear stories of small churches in downtown areas, urban areas and otherwise out of the way and different settings. One church meets in a hair salon, one meets in a bar, and one meets in a movie theater. There are so many more examples, but the common thread is that the community knows they are there, and appreciates their presence.

One might focus on food to the poor, and another might emphasize connecting with people in the arts, or perhaps young single adults.

These are not missions, they are churches, and they are doing cool ministries that reach people who will never attend a big church.

5) Small churches can offer a personalized touch.

Don’t underestimate this point. The impact of “close and personal” shepherding, discipleship and spiritual guidance is huge. I’m not suggesting that you as the pastor do it all yourself. Raise up two or three volunteer leaders to help you.

The point is that your ability to come alongside people who are far from God, new Christians and maturing believers is a powerful force for Kingdom impact.

We all want our church to grow.

But God can and does use small churches in significant ways to advance His Kingdom.

What is one more point of high value from small churches you could add? If you have a minute, please leave a comment.

17 thoughts on “The Great Value of Churches Under 100”

  1. Somewhere I read ‘church means people’ and ‘church is the people and not the place’ your thoughts add clarity to both of these thoughts. Thank You Dan

  2. Kerensa McFrederick

    Though I don’t have data that supports this, I’ve often observed that smaller churches may excel in supporting/partnering with missionaries as well as in being sending churches for them. It seems that the majority of our colleagues serving around the globe tend to come out of smaller churches. Not sure why! Both my husband and I came out of smaller churches that had strong mission’s programs as well for which we are grateful.12 years on the field and our smaller churches, generally, are those that connect well, give well, and pray earnestly for us and the Work. We love our bigger churches too and how they get behind us! Thanks for this affirming and insightful post.

  3. Great post. Thank you for your encouraging words. Another advantage of a small church that it is easier to gain growth momentum, especially if it is new.

  4. I can see both sides of this discussion. I grew up as a PK (pastor’s kid) and my Dad was a bi-vocational pastor of small churches all of my life. Not until he retired from his secular job years after I grew up and left home did he devote full time to being a pastor. My wife and I on the other hand have always attended larger churches. Now that my children are grown, one attends a large church while the other prefers a small church. Both types of churches definitely have their potential strengths and their own unique challenges and I believe each requires a different leadership focus (as a senior pastor) to be effective.

    1. Eddie, thank you for your personal comments here. Even in one family, different needs are met in different size churches. You are right, both kinds serve their unique purposes! Blessings!

  5. My home church that I currently attend now is a church planter. My wife and kids where send to Florida to start a church from the very begining. We had the aportunity to see the raw sinner come to Christ. Something powerful to see and to help people develop in their faith in Christ. Forward ten years later, we saw men that became and prepared to take over the church as we came back to Texas.

  6. OK, everyone, I know you are all busy but I am going to throw this out hoping someone sees it that can provide suggestions or point me in the right direction. I live in Texas in the DFW area. My son is 24, recently married and is about to start a job search. Networking is not one of my strengths and I’m wondering if anyone can provide some direction on how my son would go about seeking and searching out companies who have strong growth and leadership cultures and place a high value on people other than by their words.

  7. Hi Dan, as always, great and insightful post. One advantage of small churches over big ones from my perspective is that there is a better chance of everyone getting plugged in to serve in a small sized church. Some people like the big churches because it provides the space to “hide” and pretend to be a christian without getting involved. A small church needs everyone and it is easier to get more people to plug in and be part of the change that is needed not only in the lives of members but in the community where the church is located. I guess the new testament “home” churches were more missional and impactful with the great commission because of their compact size. Thanks!

    1. I appreciate your thoughts here ‘Debo. I think you are right, in many cases a smaller church can get a higher percentage of the attenders involved serving in ministry… a great quality no doubt! Thanks for commenting. Dan

  8. Your insight on how multi-sites and multi-congregational models (like your church and mine) can at times bring the best of both worlds (big church and small church) together, and I think that is a key thought I’m chewing on… it is often about the big becoming small, and Jesus had a whole lot to say about “going small” (mustard seed, yeast, one coin, lost son, lost sheep, etc). Thinking.

    I also appreciate the gracious way an XP known for being at the helm of two of the fastest growing churches of their eras (Skyline back in the day, 12Stone in last decade), shared here about small churches in a unique way. I would love to read a blogger at the helm of a vibrant small church write a similar article on the great value of megachurches that was a response to this article. Thinking on this too. 🙂

    1. Thanks David. And I’d love to read that article you mentioned too… be fun to read that perspective. Maybe you “know a guy” . . . who you could nudge to write it. 🙂

  9. Pastor Roger Wright leads our group of pastors at Faith Community Wesleyan in Livonia, Michigan, where I was the senior guy for a number of years. He and his wife have an amazing ministry of prayer for missions. They have an entire wall of their home with pictures of missionaries from around the world. Just recently his wife, daughter and son visited Zambia in a supportive role. Faithfulness like this “holds the ropes” for those that go down to difficult places.

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