Jul 31st, 2009

Big Church or Little Church?

Some churches are big, other churches are little. Some churches are impersonal and difficult to get plugged into, others are friendly, and it’s easy to get connected .

In my experience, it’s not necessarily the big that are unfriendly and the small that are instantly engaging. I have been to churches that are massive and yet are warm and feel like a big family and small ones that don’t focus on outsiders to the point that they become clique-ish and cold. So you don’t have to choose between being big numerically and having a strong and thriving community. They aren’t opposites.  In fact, community isn’t really an issue of magnitude but mindset.  More intentionality than immensity.   It is something that must be fostered, developed, and pursued, regardless of the size of the church.  And it won’t happen on accident.

Now, I know some people are against “big” churches and like smaller ones better. I totally get that, and with the average church in America being under 100 people there are tons of small fellowships out there to plug into. For me personally, the question of big or little is answered with this question, “Do I want more or less people to go to hell?” And you know what–every time I ask myself that the answer is always the same, LESS!

So as we preach the word, worship, take communion and try to make Jesus famous, our prayer should be that the Lord would add to the church daily those who are being saved until every lost soul is found! (Acts 2:42,47)  By God’s grace, we have seen that kind of consistent growth at fresh life and we are pleased because we are passionate and intentional about evangelism. But as the numbers grow, so does the challenge of maintaining community. Like I said, it doesn’t happen on accident.

Can I admit something to you? We have not done a good enough job of that. As I evaluate our church, those who serve as volunteers tend to get plugged in the best.  Within the ushers, kids ministry, new believers counselors and other ministries there are essentially smaller groups of those that serve together.  In a perfect world, everybody that went to a church would serve–but even with 300 volunteers that still leaves 75 percent of our church out. (Btw if you are reading this and don’t serve at your local church–what are u waiting for?) And then we have had other little random small groups and niche ministries here and there, some that have done well, others so/so, some doing about as well as a screen door on a submarine but none affecting the whole church like we would want them to.  Overall, I’d give us a C+ in having a plan in our approach to community.  It’s been more buckshot than sniper-rifle (to use a very Montana analogy.) A little bit of everything and hoping to hit something.

Dissatisfied with this low grade, about two months ago I came into a pastors meeting and announced that we would take the whole summer to rethink, pray about, and retool our entire approach to community. As a result we have decided to simplify–aggressively. To prune back, even good ministries and events, so we can do a few things well. Some people will miss those good things. And, I’m sure that in the future people will come along and suggest other new and different good things. We will rememeber that we can’t do everything and are willing to scale back in order to strategically pursue greatness. We are defining greatness this way: a church-wide approach to small groups that will provide discipleship, meaningul relationships and accountability to the whole body. The entire staff is pumped up and we can’t wait till we launch in the fall.

So, back to my original question–big church or little church? I’d say it doesnt matter, do the best to pursue community with whatever size church God gives you.

Something to think about.

–I gotta go–i have been in line at the DMV this whole time and I am next up to renew my registration. Bye.

Posted in iPhone blogs, ministry, raw thoughts


  1. I have felt that I was “lost” in a big church I use to attend. But your point about getting involved is so true. The people in the church can not know you if your not approachable and let your guard down. I was worried that if people actually got to know me they would not like me. But Gods loves me no matter what. So my “excuse” has been tested. I have let down my guard @ Fresh Life and now folks at church call me by name and I am not as bad as I thought. Even if they do not know my name (I am bad at remembering names so I understand)I see a smile that is for someone they remember from a past meeting. God’s love heals if we accept it. Church should feel like a second home with a place setting left unoccupied for just in case someone stops by.

  2. Darlene Jacobson Says:

    I am so excited to see what you guys have planned for this fall and for our church. One of the things I love about Fresh Life is that no matter how much we have grown (and wow have we grown!) the love is still evident. We are family. Serving is such a vital part of worship and I think it creates bonds that are stronger than just shaking hands before the service. I can’t wait to see what this fall brings, and am super excited to be a part of what God is doing here in the Flathead Valley.

  3. Jane Ingebretson Says:

    I really appreciate this posting; it’s true that size is not as important as whether a church body intentially tries to promote a loving community for believers and non-believers alike. It’s not always easy, either, especially with 3 different services (maybe 4 counting Skull church) and, in essence, 3-4 different groups of people. I’m glad the church leadership is going to make this a priority; I agree that we need to work on this now; not just to be a community that is strong and thriving, but to offer some accountability – I think when we realize that who we are and how we are doing actually matters to other members of the Body, it helps us to live our lives more closely attuned to God. One reason I got into Children’s Ministry at Fresh Life, in addition to wanting to serve, was to get more plugged in and get to know some people at the church. My husband and I started going to Fresh Life this spring, so we are hoping to get to know more folks… probably need to attend one of those Bar-B-Q’s!!

  4. Lovedbyhim Says:

    both are good God is a blessing and it is good to be around God’s people to encourage each other

  5. Jayne Hartman Says:

    Hey Levi, Hope all is going good with you, Jennie and the kiddo’s. I have seen the struggle people have had to meet and find friends in church. We got involved pretty quickly after starting and I have learned to go out on a limb more than once and ask people for a phone number or strick up a conversation in hopes to make a friend. If I see someone that looks like they are my age and we could have something in common I try and talk to them or invite them to something going on at church. My motto is I can’t have to many friends.
    We are trying to figure out our schedual this fall to include the new small group thing comming up! So excited for it, it will be great. I have missed the interaction that interface provided.
    One thing I heard about was Mars hill has a web sight called “The City” I believe and it is kind of like a facebook for the church, that may be something to look into. Although you or one of your staff probably already has. Thanks for the write up.
    ~See ya in church.

  6. Danielle Josephsen Says:

    I am so glad to hear this and excited to see how God will work through this new approach.

  7. [...] a while back I blogged about our struggle to foster a sense of community in a growing church.  We also presented our [...]

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