Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Does a church have to be big?

The median size of an American church size is 75. Nearly 60% of all American churches are less than 100. On the other end of the scale, only six percent of churches have over 500 in average attendance.

My own experience has been that you can have a healthy, effective church of between 50 and 100 people. Small churches can have an impact on its community. The church I was baptized in was smaller than 50. It had a big influence on my life and our neighborhood.

The church had a sizable building but had gone through a rapid decline when the interstate was built right across the street. The neighborhood transitioned from white, middle-class to impoverished and racially diverse. There was no sense of community as crime rose. Although the membership of Highland Park Baptist Church soon reflected the Neighborhood’s new demographics, it remained small.

No longer able to sustain traditional programs nor pay a full-time pastor, Highland Park partnered with suburban churches who wanted to work with the poor. One church helped with VBS each summer and another started an ESL/GED program.

Highland Park also hosted a Haitian mission that eventually took over the building but, in its final years, the struggling church saw three men surrender to ministry, started a new church, became the first pulpit for two ministry students and continued to be salt and light in its corner of Miami.

There are many churches out there like this. They are strategically located in areas of great need. They have no debt but few resources with which to minister to the community. These churches often pool resources to create a more effective ministry. They do youth ministry, backyard Bible clubs and other events together; some even share a pastor.

Other churches partner with better-resourced churches from more affluent areas that want to serve in needy areas. The less-resourced church offers a building and contacts in the community while the more affluent church brings material and human resources.

Partnerships among churches build up the workers and the Kingdom. It also demonstrates Christian community at its best. A church does not have to be big to be effective. By pooling resources a group of smaller churches can do the things the larger churches can do.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

My husband and I pastor a small church in Delaware, and it is hard. We wish to reach out to the community in which we live, but the resources (human and money) are sparse. However, we know that God is bigger than our circumstances; thank you for your blog, and may God bless you -- no matter what size your congregation. I think I'll follow it.