Small Church Connections exists to help small churches develop a greater sense of their own potential and so to become more effective in serving their communities. According to founder Ron Johnson:
The small church has value in and of itself. While most of the attention is paid to large churches, the small church is making a powerful impact on Canadian church life.
While Ron’s passion focuses on the evangelical church in Canada, much of what he says about small churches applies to other church traditions and contexts as well. Today, I’m glad to share Ron’s thoughts on why small churches are important, originally published as Why I Love Small Churches and shared here with permission.
Why Small Churches are Important
by Ron Johnson
1. God made a lot of small churches
There are approximately 8,000 evangelical churches in Canada with a Sunday morning attendance of less than one hundred and fifty people. By far the largest percentage of churches in this country are small. Someone has said that God must love small churches because he made a lot of them.
This is true not only in Canada but around the world. The percentage of small churches in the United States is about the same as here in Canada. In much of Europe the percentage is higher. In Asia, Africa and Latin America there are thousands of small churches scattered across those continents.
The small church is not a new invention. Throughout our history the majority of churches have been small. I grew up in a small town in which all of the churches were small. There are very few large churches in rural settings. Looking back in our early history as a country, the majority of people lived in small town/rural settings which meant that most of the churches that served them were small.
I love small churches because there are so many of them.
2. A lot of people attend them
I don’t think that anyone has a definite number of the people who attend small churches on a Sunday morning but I do know that it is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. If you ever feel like your church is part of a dying breed, remember that there are a huge number of people all across our country that attend a church just like the one that you attend. You are part of a very significant group in the church culture.
There are approximately 8,000 small evangelical churches in Canada. If those churches average just fifty people at Sunday morning worship, there are about 400,000 people attending small churches. My sense is that the number is actually higher than that. On any given Sunday there are a lot of people attending small churches.
I love small churches because of all the people who serve in them.
3. Small churches provide a learning ground for future leaders
I heard of a church that was located near a seminary. They had made the decision that one of their ministries was going to be providing students with a place in which they could learn to be pastors. They would hire young students in first or second year at seminary, who would then serve for the remaining time of their studies. The church would live with their inexperience. They would help them through their mistakes. They would love them and encourage them and then send them off to other churches and hire other students. I never met any of those pastors but I think that church probably had a significant impact on their lives.
Small churches often provide a place in which teenagers and young adults can develop those first skills in the art of leadership. Many of them go on to play major roles in the larger church in Canada. In the small church they had the chance to try a variety of things, knowing that even if they failed they would still be accepted in their church home.
I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen years of age. I still have that sermon tucked away and every once in a while I will take it out and read it. If I had to grade that first sermon, I would give it “F” for content, “F” for delivery, and “F” for impact, but as I look back I would give it an A+ for encouragement received. I have preached thousands of sermons since then but without that first one, I might not have preached any of those that followed.
I love small churches because I and many other leaders got our starts there.
4. Jesus understood the importance of small
The church in Jerusalem is often held out as the example of what every church should be. Peter preached a sermon at Pentecost and in a single day the church grew from one hundred and twenty people to a church of thousands. People who advocate numerical growth as the measure of church success suggest that this should be the experience of every church.
Personally I don’t know of any church anywhere that has duplicated the growth of that early church in Jerusalem, but on the other hand I don’t know of any church that has experienced the special circumstances of that church. First, they had exceptional leadership – the twelve disciples, the brothers of Jesus, Barnabas – all were part of that leadership team. Second, Peter was preaching to people who had experienced Jesus. When Peter talked about Jesus’ death and resurrection, he was talking to people who had been there when it happened. There probably never was a better prepared crowd anywhere to hear the gospel message.
It is important to remember also that while the church certainly grew that day, it didn’t begin that day. Whatever your theological position might be on when the church began, I am sure that you would agree that for three years Jesus had been laying the foundation for what happened at Pentecost. For three years he focused on just twelve people because he knew that discipleship took place most effectively in a small group.
I love small churches because they provide a special setting for spiritual growth.
5. Jesus loves the small church & I need to love it too
The value of your church is not measured by its size or its budget or its programs. The value of your church is measured by its relationship with Jesus and that relationship is one of love.
I love small churches because Jesus loves them too.
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