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Thinking Like a Great Small Church (Seminar) – Part 6

November 3, 2014

Sorry for the extended break. Now, back to our program already in progress.

I have been sharing—over an extended period of time—a seminar I presented at the 2014 National Association of Free Will Baptists convention. The seminar was sponsored by the Engage Leadership Network. Over the past several weeks we have introduced the concept of the great small church (Part 1); we took an overview look at some church statistics (Part 2); we pointed out three undeniable realities of pastoral ministry (Part 3); we discussed the importance of establishing and aligning our values, mission, and vision (Part 4); and we emphasized the importance of protecting our focus, as well as both human and financial resources, by adopting a “one in; one out” principle (Part 5).

As before, all footnotes are from the original seminar; all links were added for the sake of this post. I hope and pray this is encouraging and helpful in your ministry context, whatever that may be.


human numbersPeople Instead of Numbers

I don’t know a single evangelical pastor who would say having a large church is more important that the people who make up that church. The problem is that we often act like it is. We become so active building good ministry that we lose sight of who that ministry is to benefit.

Sometimes we begin to look at what that ministry or event or activity will do to benefit our church, especially in terms of numbers and dollars. Don’t get me wrong; we have to be concerned with numbers and dollars. But we have to be more concerned with the life-change that is produced in the lives of those we engage. This is an important principle. Make it a priority to invest in ministries that produce life-change even if they don’t add numbers. To borrow an illustration from the apostle Paul, “If anyone builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13, NIV) Be sure to use the gold, silver, and costly stones of life-changing ministry rather that the wood, hay, or stubble of crowd-building alone. There is nothing wrong with growing a large church or attracting large numbers, but that must not be our focus. Rather, life-change in our congregations and communities along with faithfulness to our calling must be the measure of success.

One of the ways we often try to build and grow is through the use of technology. Just earlier today I heard a purported leader say that if your church cannot be “Googled” it is dead or irrelevant or some such ridiculousness. Please do not misunderstand; I am not against technology. I utilize it regularly. But being a great small church is not dependent on your website, Facebook presence, Twitter followers, or any other measure of technological advancement.

Your community is not looking for the church with the best entertainment production value. Please do not try to even go there. If you have a smart phone in your pocket, you have more entertainment at a higher quality than anything you or your team at church can likely produce. Don’t even try to compete with that. What most members of your community are looking for is relationship. Realize that technological expertise is no substitute for genuine relationships. This is where the small church excels.

Faith Perceptions is a company that, among other things, operates a church Mystery Guest Program. A local church can hire them to send an anonymous unchurched person to attend their worship services and evaluate their experience. They recently released a study based on an analysis of data that covers surveys of 4,288 separate and unique church services using the same questions and criteria. Two categories, Micro Church (0-80) and Small Church (81-150), scored “Very Good” or “Good” in the following categories: Greeting Upon Arrival, Pre-Service Atmosphere, Seating, Post-Service Atmosphere, and Friendliness.[1] In other words, every category that was relationally driven, small churches score well in; and this was recognized by the unchurched individual sent to evaluate. When people need relationships the small church can be, and should be the answer. This can be the case when we focus on people rather than numbers.

[1] http://www.faithperceptions.com/files/CHURCH_INDEX_Summary_June_1,_2014_FINAL.pdf. Accessed July 23, 2014.

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