Lyle Schaller and the Small Church

Lyle Schaller Lyle Schaller is one of the best, most insightful congregational consultants I have ever heard.  His book, Small Congregation, Big Potential, is a great resource for ministry in the small church.  Here are the 12 assumptions he makes in this book:

  1. “Americans no longer live in a culture organized around scarcity [but] a culture overflowing with a huge variety of resources.”
  2. “The natural, normal, and comfortable size for a worshipping community in American Protestantism includes somewhere between 18 and 40 worshippers…”
  3. “…the vast majority of congregations …are not organized to welcome a flood of newcomers.”
  4. “…the possibility of merger with another small congregation should rank no higher than 28 [not a typo] on that list of 25 options open to contemporary small American congregations…”
  5. “…the combination of modern technology and affluence poses the greatest threat to the future of tens of thousands of small….churches.”
  6. …”affluence and modern technology have greatly expanded the list of options open to the vast majority of small….congregations…”
  7. “…the contemporary American economy has been creating concentrations in the marketplace.”
  8. “The differences among motor vehicles, houses, universities, retail stores, major league baseball teams, farms, shoes, aircraft, restaurants, physicians, elementary schools, churches, and people are greater than ever before in American history.”
  9. “…the recent trend toward an enterprise serving constituents at several geographically separate locations will accelerate.”
  10. “…ecclesiastical systems that set ministers up to fail rather than to create an ecological environment that fosters success.”
  11. “…American culture is increasingly organized around the value of long-term relationships.”
  12. “…traditional denominational systems…have two choices….to change…[or]…to be written off as obsolete or irrelevant…”

If you do not have this book, you need it.  Published in 2003, Schaller predicted that small congregations would sit and watch a preacher on TV!  Check out  in this issue of Outreach magazine for living proof that has come to pass.  Schaller also talks about multiple sites, why church trust-funds aren’t good, and a host of other stuff that small church folks need to think about. 

7 thoughts on “Lyle Schaller and the Small Church”

  1. Hi Chuck:

    Thanks for boiling down some of Schaller’s insights–still, in my opinion, one of the best church growth thinkers around. I appreciate your heart for helping leaders of smaller churches. And thanks for the Outreach magazine plug.’s story exemplifies to a T Schaller’s prediction. I hope people read their story…

  2. Lindy, thanks for checking in and I appreciate your encouragement. Schaller is one of my favorites, too. When I read this book several years ago, I thought, “No one will come to church to watch a preacher on video.” But then I thought no one would pay $4 for a cup of coffee either! Obviously, Nostradamus I am not. — Chuck

  3. Chuck, thanks so much for your kind words yesterday. I read your blog regularly, and when I read today’s post, I rushed to the Outreach library to find Lyle Schaller’s book–it must have been “checked out,” but I plan on getting my hands on it as soon as possible. Everyone here is thrilled with what you’re doing. All-around excellent work.

  4. Andrea, thanks for the encouragement. Might be fun to dig up “church of the future” predictions from a lot of sources and see which ones happened. I’m having fun doing this and appreciate the opportunity. — Chuck

  5. Point #4 is interesting to me. I’ve not read the book (but will!)–but #28 out of a top 25! That’s funny.

    Like on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the coolest a person could ever be…Chuck, you would be an 11.

  6. Brandon, okay where do I send the check? Thanks for your kind encouragement. Yeah, Point #4 is a good one! Schaller is the guru of gurus on church stuff. He used to do a newsletter, but I haven’t seen it lately — pre-internet (ancient, I know) but good stuff. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. Let’s keep the conversation going. Coffee’s on me!

Comments are closed.