Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bigger, The Better?

I found this to be one of the most interesting results of the Natural Church Development international research project of 1000 churches.
Small churches grow 1600% more
When we compared all of the churches with less than 100 regular attenders (average size being 51 worshippers) with all of the churches that have a regular attendance of more than 1,000 (the average being 2,856), the result was striking. We discovered that "small churches" grow 16 times more than megachurches.

When doing such a comparison, we could not compare one church of 51 people to one of 2,856. We had to compare the results of 56 churches of 51 people each, to one megachurch with 2,856 people to come up with exactly the same number of people, just differently organized. On average, the small church category had a 1,600% higher growth rate. They one 16 times as many people! Interesting results, aren't they? Small churches really have no reason for a low self-esteem. (Color Your World With Natural Church Development, 34, author's emphasis)
Perhaps there is more to this than just helping small churches feel better. Maybe this statistic should tell us something about what size of churches we ought to be striving for. After all, a small church that experiences great growth will soon become a large church that grows more slowly.

Since organisms grow most quickly when they're small and young, the best way for God's churches to grow would be for them to multiply by dividing after they grow too large. As the author points out, it's "the same number of people, just differently organized." Perhaps we should say that they are organized for better growth.

I should say that I'm not totally against megachurches. Some people will be won by megachurches that wouldn't be won any other way. However I don't think that they are the model most churches should aspire to or emulate.

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