In a recent tweet, Justin Anderson linked to Karl Vaters article, “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Vaters makes some thoughtful points about what kind of church will effectively reach the Millennial generation that is (supposedly) leaving the church in droves. In particular, he says it’s a great opportunity for small churches:
Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.
But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.
So Millenials want the quality of the large church with the quantity (and, thus, intimacy of a small church).
Vaters argues that it starts with health — not glitz or showmanship — and that any small church can “get the basics right”:
Real-world Bible teaching
Practical ministry opportunities
Clean, safe childcare
And yes, competent musicianship on the worship team
But there’s one big problem with this line of thinking. As Anderson commented in his tweet, “Any church that can do these things well won’t be small for long.”
We’ve seen this dilemma at Redemption Gateway as, by God’s grace, our church has been able to nail these five things.
Early on we got people who would say that they came because they wanted to be part of a smaller church. They also loved our quality of ministry. But now we’re not a smaller church because we do these five things, and it leaves these folks in a tough spot. I hope they’ll stay with us.
I appreciate Vaters’ call to focus on quality and health rather than glitz or numbers. But a church that does these five things well will inevitably grow. Maybe fast, maybe not. But it will grow.
The lesson for leaders who want their church to grow: Focus on quality and the quantity will follow.
The challenge for leaders whose churches have grown: How will you keep these five things alive, especially the genuine relationships and practical ministry opportunities?