It encourages people to actually join the fellowship in their minds and in their hearts.
It avoids the old “join us for 6months before you serve”… as if going to 15+ sunday meetings is going to really help them understand what your church is on about, our help you know enough about them?
It allows people to opt-out early, rather than wasting 6-18months in your church, before they realise you believe in predestination, and they leave; that’s just wastes their time and your church’s time too.
It allows people to opt-in early. If people join you well; understanding all the things your church thinks is important, agreeing with you, and keen to share the vision you’re praying for… then, let them serve, get them involved.
It gives them an opportunity to meet the pastor/staff that just doesn’t happen easily on a Sunday; there really is so much happening on a Sunday, and if your pastoral staff are excellent, then the’ve probably at least said hi once… but a membership course allows them to have a conversation – maybe the only one they’ll get in years (depending on your church size).
It gives them enough information to start asking good questions. Most people don’t have questions about your church, because they don’t know your church, they don’t have any buckets of thinking to investigate. A course helps them see that they have questions/issues.
There’s probably many more…
So, following on from yesterday’s post about inter-church involvement, there’s a practical aspect to consider when it comes to church size (which I’ve alluded to earlier, but it’s worth exploring).
See, if you’ve got a quite small church, chances are you don’t need to run your own church conference – everyone already knows each other. Going away for 3 days isn’t really going to make that much of a difference. In fact, if your flock has been part of a small church for years, it would be a valuable reminder that Jesus’ church is massive by going along to a inter-church conference, and meeting all these other Christians and being encouraged that they’re not the only ones. Those conferences are usually smaller (50-500 people). If you’re organising a smallish inter-church conferences, that should be one of your goals… facilitating people meeting new people and having to chat.
But, if you’ve got a bigger church, chances are that many of the people DON’T know each other very well. Going to an inter-church conference is one of the last things they need – they already feel like they don’t know people! They don’t need to meet and chat with Christians from other churches, rather they need to get to people from their own church better. So you’ve got two options. 1) Run your own church-conference so they spend the time with each other, or 2) Take your church community to a very large inter-church conference AS A GROUP that sticks together (and while enjoying the larger group, doesn’t aim to build relationships with people from other churches) – this is how we’ve viewed things like Katoomba Men’s Convention.
This highlights a potential issue with any conference or inter-church event… people have many different reasons and expectations as they head into it. That means… if you’re not clear on the purpose, almost everyone will feel let down in some way, because they think everyone else should have the same inter-church goals that they do. You’ll hear things like, “I didn’t get to know anyone from my church – I may as well have not gone!” and things like, “I only spoke to people I already knew – I may as well have not gone!”. So be clear on the purpose and be cool if churches opt-out if that’s not what they’re flock needs at the moment.
Inter-church involvement is great – but it doesn’t make Christians united (because Christians are, by nature of our union with Jesus, ALREADY united) – but it is one (of many good ways) we can express the unity Christians have. Let me stress that it is only ONE possible way and that there are many other ways of expressing this, not the least through prayer… Some will say, “But people can’t see and experience the unity expressed through prayer! Our unity should be visible.” I agree, however, I disagree on to whom it should be visible. Our expressions of unity should be visible first to God, and second to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (who I assume see what we do in secret):
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus… this mystery was for ages past kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph 3).
So, care less about showing the world that the church on this street corner and the church on that street corner can “do things” together, and instead, live for the glory of the God who is showing you off in the court-room of heaven. Love Jesus, love people, love each other. Be united in eternal purpose and hope and faith. Don’t get caught up in some felt need to “look” united in the eyes of the world – they really don’t care.
There seems a common argument that small churches are – not just a valid alternative, but – a better alternative to big churches. Some of the arguments go…
- Myth: “Small-churches are more needy… Big churches have heaps of people!”
Really? This is an argument that small churches are “better”?!? From a church-leader’s point of view, surely you’d want to be in the less needy option?
But there’s an error in this perception about “neediness”… Big churches are in fact more needy that small churches. Big churches have more programs, more people, more gaps that need filled, more budget that needs to be met. They might not be as visible, but they are much greater. It’s like saying that a sparrow’s body is more needy than your body… because it doesn’t have a fridge. No. Your body needs more than the sparrow’s. The fact you have a fridge is a right reflection of that.
So, the large-church is harder to lead and it has more needs.
- Myth: “There’s no room for exceptions in big-churches”
Really? I’d say this is true of all church sizes, and just displays itself in different ways. If the ESL family arrives in a small church, and there’s no-one with gifts or time to welcome them and pastor them well, there’s no room for the exception they bring. However, in a large church, there’s a greater chance of already having people who have those gifts and time and can invest in that family. In fact, there’s a greater chance that you’ll have a structure or program especially set-up for those exact type of people. Its a simple fact that the bigger your church, the more “types” of people you can welcome better.
What about people who just don’t fit the mould? Again, I would suggest that the small church has just as much problem with these people as the big church does. A small church will usually handle the issue through one person (or family) bearing the full weight of responsibility to look after that person. A large church will try to encourage that person into existing structures that are slightly modified to suit their issues. Both options have pros and cons; the small church looses one of the their best people for (sometimes) years as they look after that person. The big church can struggle to modify existing structures enough.
But… I don’t mean this to sound unloving, but… in my experience, even after years of faithfully loving the “don’t fit the mould” people, many of them deep down just like the attention they get and resist changing and self-sacrifice for the sake of others and the church. It can regularly end up with one church member who’s very very exhausted after years of loving the “don’t fit the mould” person, and the “don’t fit the mould” person leaves to find another small church where they’ll get the one-on-one attention they want.
- Myth: “Only certain people can “do” big church – like extroverts. Introverts need small churches.” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches grow faster” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches see more conversion growth” (here)
I’m in no way against small church! Every expression of God’s people is valuable and beautiful. In fact, that’s why I’m writing these posts trying to debunk the idea that small church is not just different, but better.
- Myth: “Only certain people can “do” big church – like extroverts. Introverts need small churches”.
Really? There’s a few things to question about this idea…
The normal definition of an Introvert is someone who likes lots of time with a very few number of people (if any at all). That’s not a small church… in fact that’s not even a bible study group!
Introverts won’t like a church of 40-80 people either!! Sure, they won’t like a church of 1000, but using the introvert “card” to be with a group of 60 people doesn’t actually fly.
I would also argue that big churches can (not always) love introverts better than small churches. When you walk in the door of a small church, even up to 80 people, everyone sees you. You’re you still have to make small talk, you still have to fumble through chit-chat. You can’t go an sit off to the side away from people, because everyone notices you. It’s hell. But in a church of 200-1000, it’s large enough that you can “go-unnoticed” in the crowd – if you want to. You can join a small group of people mid-week to encourage each other.One more point… I would assume that extroverts are the best people to put in… small churches! They are really good at bouncing up to new people, having them over for lunch (in their own house – introverts hate that!). A small church full of introverts will always struggle to invite new people in and grow.
And as a final passing shot… should we really let a 20th century concept of “introvert/extrovert” have so great an impact on how we “do” church?!?! Methinks Satan is making a lot of ground through the selfish introspection such concepts promote.
- Myth: “Small churches grow faster” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches see more conversion growth” (here)
I’m not part of a big-church (although many readers may think I am). We have about 12 full-time staff, 8 MTS apprentices, and just over 500 adults in GrowthGroups. Compared to Acts 2, we’re a small church about 10% its size. And yet, I keep hearing the suggestion that small churches (even smaller than ours) are somehow “better” or “more desirable” or even “more effective”.
Let me (humbly) debunk some small-church-is-better myths:
- Myth: “Small churches grow faster”
Really? If a church of 20 people grows to 30 people in 12 months… that’s 50% growth. Huge, right? And a church of 200 might only grow by 5%!! So the small church has grown by 50% and the “big” church has only grown by 5%… so the small church is growing faster right? Wrong. That 5% growth in the church of 200 is 10 souls. The exact same number of souls that the small church grew by. 10.
Small churches only grow faster when you compare percentages, not people. Lets be more interested in people.
- Myth: “Small churches see more conversion growth”
Really? First, it’s worth applying the same logic as above and compare people saved, rather than percent of people saved. But second, our experience has been that the bigger the group doing the evangelism, the more effective it is.
If your small church runs an event, you might get 2 or 3 people there, and they know (and feel) the pressure that everyone knows them and that they’re there checking it out. It’s the reason even small churches tell people, only come if you’re bringing a friend.
But when you’ve got 100s of people inviting and 10s of non-Christians there every week, it’s easier to blend into the background and hear the gospel, hear other people ask the questions you’ve got.
It also gives the very timid Christians a way to grow in confidence. They can come and check it out first. They get a better idea what they’re inviting their friends to. They trust the program will not destroy their friendship.
By God’s grace, the reality is (even from a percentage aspect), we’ve seen more conversion growth as we’ve grown larger.
People often get these two categories mixed up. Resources and Needs.
That is, they’ll see a church that doesn’t have many resources; it doesn’t have a youth worker, it doesn’t have many staff, it doesn’t have growth group leaders; scripture teachers, etc… and they’ll think that means that church has a huge NEED. In other words, what they mean is, that church NEEDS a youth worker, staff, group leaders, scripture teachers, etc.
Now, that church could probably use those things, but they are not NEEDS. They are simply STRUCTURES.
How do you determine a churches NEEDS? Look at the number of people in it. They are the NEEDS.
The larger the church, the greater the needs.