Big or Small?

12250036 I am a big fan of large churches.

I am a big fan of small churches.

For completely different reasons.

Small churches can bring with them a sense of family, close fellowship, and opportunities for inter-generational engagement, and close fellowship. They also bring opportunities to serve that allude some in larger churches.

Larger churches tend to offer better programming, higher spiritual vitality, the capacity to tackle huge challenges and opportunities. Frankly…tend to do more effective ministry.

Here's what I predict: those who hear those descriptions and prefer either large or small will think I'm generalizing…that big churches, for example, offer close fellowship as well. Others will say, "Small churches do just as good a ministry as the big ones." Let me say that these are generalizations.

I have served in churches with attendance of 70 up to 2000. All are awesome in their own way. Here's the question: What size, if any, should aspire to? My opinion is that it isn't a particular size that should be aspired to, but health, depth, and growth through conversions and "recoveries" (i.e, the "dechurched."). This should lead a church to grow with time.

Some believe that growth is virtually irrelevant. Some even believe growth can be harmful when it causes the church to get so big that the "family feel" goes away. What do you think? Is growth a part of God's plan for all churches, some churches, or no churches? And, is there a particular size that God prefers the church to be? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

The Turnaround Churches series will continue tomorrow.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

7 thoughts on “Big or Small?

  1. Jordan,
    I agree that people often try to grow for the wrong reasons. Interestingly, I’ve seen the other happen as well…people try not to grow for the wrong reasons. They either don’t want to be like so and so…they could care less about lost people, or aren’t willing to lay down their preferences of what church should be for others. It cuts both ways, I suppose. I’m totally with you on the Kingdom concept…especially as we remember that each church is supposed to be an outpost of the Kingdom…and it has a local purpose as well as one “over there.” Great comment, man.

  2. People often ask the question, “how do we grow our church?” The problem with this is that the question is usually rooted in some form of pride. Maybe its a prideful minister who wants a bigger name for himself. Maybe its a prideful group of people who just want to be part of the biggest and best church around. When we ask this question out of pride we get desperate and will take up any strategy that might result in church growth (which is mostly recycling church members from other congregations) and we end up with a watered down Jesus. Jesus said, men will hate you because of me. How many people hate your church because you are so much like Jesus?
    I wonder how our churches would look different if we instead asked the question, “how do we grow the Kingdom?”
    Thoughts?

  3. I think the question boils down to whether a church, big or small, is doing its job. Like reaching the lost, equipping and maturing the saved, reflecting our Lord well by works of service and compassion, upholding purity and holiness, pursuing love and peace, etc. If God “rates” churches based on how well they accomplish His purposes, then it would be all about how the that rating changes as the church grows larger. Attracting more and more people is great. But our task is to be proactive about helping them along their spiritual journey and not leaving them as spiritual babies or bench-warmers. As to how to make that all happen — well, maybe God led you to North County to help figure that out!

  4. I had grown up with people in my family saying “you see those big churches… they are just so liberal”. The people at big churches have said “those small churches are just behind the times… You even still sing with songbooks… come on”.
    I have come to the realization that God doesn’t care about the numbers because it is possible for a body of believers of 30 to be more powerful than a group of 40,000 doing nothing. Also if we have 50 small congregations staying in their boxes and not letting people come in… that’s worthless to the work of our Lord as well.
    To get to my answer… I agree with you Tim, 100%. the depth, spiritual growth, and relationships that move the body to become her best is the most important thing, not if a church has triple or 4 digit stats of attendance.

  5. That’s easy, Tim. Churches should always be the size of the church where I first became a Christian. If they’re smaller than that, they’re dead; if they’re larger than that, they must have sold out.
    😉

  6. That’s easy, Tim. Churches should always be the size of the church where I first became a Christian. If they’re smaller than that, they’re dead, and if they’re larger than that, they must have sold out.
    😉

  7. One of the reasons we chose NCCC is because of its size. We felt immediately welcome there and we got to know alot of people in a short period of time. This was important for our particular family as this would be the first time my kids went to church and I wanted them to make friends and feel good about going there. This was after attending, for a short time, two really big churches. I felt lost in the crowd and the floor to ceiling bulletin boards advertising about 100 Care Groups turned me off.
    I know we want so many more people to come to know Jesus and come to church, but sometimes I fear NCCC will become too big and lose the closeness we enjoy now. I am afraid it will become more of a “business” where all the things we used to try to scrape up volunteers for will be done by a professional, someone with a degree or by someone who gets paid to do it. I guess if I had my choice I would create another “branch” so to speak. Another place, the same as NCCC but with the same small family feel. NCCC II, perhaps 🙂
    I guess my concerns are purely selfish. There are so many people I pray for that they will come to Christ and be saved. On the other hand, I love the smaller size. I find it hard to justify the proprietary way I feel about NCCC. I love it there.