How You Define a Small Church

Because I am a church-planter myself, and I’ve got to be around and talk to as many church-planters as I can, one of the things I keep hearing in our conversations is the description of these new, fledgling churches as “little church.”

When I hear that it intrigues me. What is a little church? Is it a few people? Small building? No building? Little budget? So a big church: lots of people, big building, big budge? I think we all can see that is an inaccurate and inadequate statement.

Let’s just think about what a little church is.

1. A little church is a church inwardly focused thinking only about the needs of the Christians who are already there.
2. A little church is a church that develops endless programs for the care and feeding of their own people, necessitating more time at the church and less time out in the real world engaging people who are far from God.
3. A little church is a church that does the same thing in the same way today that it did 3, 4, or 5 years ago.
4. A little church is a church that excludes anyone who is not the skin type or the political persuasion of those who inhabit the church already.
5. A little church is a church that let’s its buildings and grounds fall into disrepair, failing to realize that how we treat the spaces in which we meet has a lot to say about what we believe.
6. A little church is a church that doesn’t want difficult or broken people because they’re too messy.
7. A little church is a church that doesn’t welcome alcoholics, drug addicts, adulterers, prostitutes, or any of “those kinds of people.” We only want nice, clean, acceptable people who won’t be a bad influence on us.
8. A little church is a church that replaces the gospel with a long list of do’s and don’ts.
9. A little church is a church that compromises on their belief of the absolute authority of Scripture.
10. A little church is a church that hires a pastor to lead them and then fires him when he does.
11. A little church is a church that feels they’re in competition with the other churches across the street or across town and seeks to impugn or diminish the ministry of other churches so they themselves can look better.
12. A little church is a church that hijacks the gospel for a moral agenda or a long list of things they are against.
13. A little church is a church in which information is constantly disseminated but no lives are changed.
14. A little church is a church that neglects its children and sees its them as something to be out of sight and out of mind so that the real people (the adults) can worship.
15. A little church is a church that carries on its ministry week in and week out, year in and year out and has absolutely no impact with its surrounding community or its needs.

Well I could go on and on, but you get the point. If you are a pastor or a leader of a church, be careful if you judge it as a little or small church by its budget, or whether or not its pastor gets to speak at a church growth conference. God judges it very differently than we do. So should you.

11 thoughts on “How You Define a Small Church”

  1. forgot- A litle chuch is one that cuts ministry/missionary budgets to build a new comfortable building for the people.

  2. This is so very true. I have three friends and a mom who Pastor churches, all with congregations with fewer than 100 members and they hear a lot of these stereotypes.

  3. I do love the way you have presented this issue plus it really does present me some fodder for thought. Nonetheless, because of just what I have observed, I just simply wish as the responses pack on that folks stay on issue and in no way embark upon a soap box regarding the news du jour. Anyway, thank you for this superb point and while I do not really go along with this in totality, I value your point of view.

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