A fallacy is most simply defined as a “mistaken belief”. People today believe many things mistakenly about small churches. Here are just a few fallacies that I often hear about small churches.
1. They are unhealthy.
Many small churches are unhealthy. Many large churches are unhealthy. Church health cannot be measured by numbers but by love for God and obedience to God. Some might assume that all small churches are small because something is wrong with them or because they have an unhealthy atmosphere or an unhealthy pastor. There are many things that can make a church unhealthy but some of the healthiest churches I have encountered in my life have been small vibrant communities of God loving, gospel centered people.
2. They are unhappy about their size.
With the rapid growth in the number of large churches, most people who remain at small churches are there for a reason. Though it may seem foreign to some, many small churches want to see growth, life transformation, more baptisms and conversions, but they don’t want to be large churches. They want to know everyone in their church. They want to notice new people and welcome them into the family. They want to actually share life together as a community. Of course small churches want to grow and see more people attend their church, but for a variety of reasons the members of small churches want to be at a small church.
3. They are unbending.
Though it is true that many small churches refuse to change or adapt and therefore refuse to make an impact, this is a common myth about small churches. Many small churches are trying desperately to make an impact on their communities. They are willing to try new things, make changes, and follow God obediently into the future. It is not easy to usher in changes in any church, especially small churches, but not all small churches are unbending or unwilling to adapt for the sake of gospel ministry.
4. They are unconcerned with making disciples.
Some churches remain small because they have little to no outreach effort or don’t much care for being uncomfortable. But most small churches are just as focused on disciple making and gospel proclamation as any other church. Many small churches simply do not have the resources or personnel to do the sorts of things that the majority of our American church culture has come to expect from churches. Almost all small church pastors that I know are the kind of people who lie awake at night praying and trying to think of ways to make disciples through their church community.
5. They are underdogs.
I have spent the last few years of my life immersed in the world of Chicago area church planting. One of the truths that I often hear is that small churches, primarily church plants (new churches), are more effective at winning lost people over to Christ. One study suggests that small churches are 16x more effective at making new disciples than large churches. Small churches produce more new believers, more new pastors, and more new churches than large churches do. In his little church planting manifesto, Tim Keller says, “Dozens of studies confirm that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.” Though many large churches are just as effective at making new disciples, studies prove that new, small churches are much more likely to reach the lost. Small churches are not underdogs.
What else would you add? What has been your experience, for better or for worse, at small churches?