“Challenges Faced by Small Congregations”Categories: Christian Living, Encouragement, Joshuah Ellis, Preacher Life
First off, let me begin by saying that I have a deep love for small congregations. I have worked with congregations made up of less than 100 members for the vast majority of my career. There are many things that I love about smaller works. I love that everyone really gets to know everyone. There is an intimacy that can sometimes get lost among larger groups. Everyone really becomes like family to one another.
While all of these characteristics are positive and very encouraging, it is a bit naïve to ignore the challenges that come with being a part of smaller congregations. It is even possible to be so in love with the concept of a smaller congregation that biblical growth is hindered. The following are some of the challenges that I see in smaller congregations.
1. There are fewer people to “pick up the slack.” In a congregation of 200+ members, there is going to be no shortage of people who are willing and able to step up and do the work that needs to be done. If you decide that you do not want to participate, it’s no big deal because there are dozens of people who do. However, in a smaller group, you don’t really have that luxury. While no Christian should ever not be working (Romans 12:11), members in a smaller congregation have the added responsibility of stepping out of their comfort zones and seeing that the work gets done.
2. The “small congregation mentality” can be very toxic. When members of a small congregation accept that they are, and will always be, small; growth can be hindered. Even though the Bible is filled with passages, which teach us to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:35; etc…), members of a smaller work can easily shirk this responsibility. This is wrong! Some people might even oppose growth because to grow might mean to lose the small congregation feel that so many are fond of. Don’t forget what our goal is! It is not to be smitten with our own congregations. It is to get ourselves and as many people as we can to heaven.
3. There isn’t always enough money for exciting expedients. Maybe we visit other congregations and see the latest and greatest technology being used, or large, elaborate buildings. Then, next Sunday, we are back in our tiny building singing with 20 people all the while remembering how amazing it was to sing with 200 just 7 days prior. Don’t forget what God has done with modest resources. His own disciples were blue-collar workers (Matthew 4:18-22). Moses had a stutter (Exodus 4:10). The Messiah slept in a feeding trough (Luke 2:7). Remember, God can do anything with anything. Focus on serving Him and not on what you have to work with.
There may be more to discuss. However, I don’t want to give the impression that there is something wrong with smaller congregations any more than I am suggesting there is something wrong with larger congregations. Both have their fair share of challenges. I think the key here is to identify those challenges and then get busy working on them. At the end of the day, whether we shake 10 hands on Sunday or 500, our goal is the same.
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