Tag: megachurch

A Must-read Conversation With Rick Warren

You need to read The Future of Evangelicalism:  A Conversation With Rick Warren over at The Pew Forum.  It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but in it Rick talks about how megachurches do the small church thing (my words, not his).  Here’s a quick excerpt:

WARREN: For example, our church, while we have the big services on Sunday, we meet in homes during the week in small groups of six to eight people. We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.

CROMARTIE: How many again?

WARREN: Four-thousand-five-hundred. They meet in every city in Southern California from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. It’s a hundred miles distance in our small groups. So on Sunday morning they’re coming to Saddleback or they’re going to Saddleback San Clemente or Saddleback Irvine or Saddleback Corona, but during the week they’re in small groups.

And it is in that small group – when you get sick, you’re visited in the hospital. When you’re out of work, the people help you out. There is a real tight-knit community. There is a longing for belonging in our community, and large churches have figured out it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”

Bingo!  I love that line….“it’s not the crowd that attracts; its the stuff under the surface that attracts.” Of course, Rick points out that the largest churches in the world are not in the US, but in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Read the entire interview.  It’s good stuff about issues of interest to us all, no matter what size church you serve.

Shannon O’Dell Is Breaking All The “Rurals”

I admit to some ambivalence when I received Shannon O’Dell’s book, Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking All The Rurals.  I write for small church pastors and leaders, and one of the themes I keep hitting is “small churches don’t have to be big to do meaningful ministry.”

Then I got my copy of Shannon’s book — the story of how a small church became a multi-site megachurch….in a rural county….in Arkansas.  The dream of many small church pastors is to take their small rural church, and turn it into a multi-site, mega-congregation reaching thousands.

Continue reading “Shannon O’Dell Is Breaking All The “Rurals””

Megachurches Are Going Small….no kidding

Seth Godin said it first, “Small is the new big.”  Now it appears, big churches are the new small churches.

Let me explain. The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas is sponsoring Verge, a missional community conference.  Felicity Dale of simplychurch.com and a leader in the simple church movement, comments about the new interest megachurches are showing in microchurches:

Just over a year ago, within the space of 72 hours, Tony and I had three megachurches ask us about simple church.  We may be fairly slow on the uptake at times, but even we couldn’t miss the fact that this might be the Lord.  Since then we have had a two national meetings with megachurch and microchurch leaders meeting together, and even the theme of last year’s national conference “The Rabbit and the Elephant” reflected this potential.

Austin Stone Community Church is one of those megachurches interested in using microchurches (missional communities) to reach Austin.  So, small is the new big, as Seth Godin said.

Megachurches are coming to the realization that you can only build so many 100,000 square foot buildings and 1,000-space parking lots.  The economies of scale, both economically and organizationally, favor smaller groupings of people.  The original and most successful model of this small-to-big idea is Yoido Full Gospel Church founded by David Yonggi Cho in Korea.  Built on cell groups, Cho grew Yoido to over 700,000 members.  But the church’s goal now is to start 5,000 new churches, a kind of reverse of what Cho originally did.  Of course, not everyone likes Cho, but regardless of what you think of his theology, his organizational gifts are evident.

So, small is the new big as megachurches move out from their gigantic worship centers into neighborhoods, coffee shops, apartment complexes, and homes.  Is this a trend, or just an isolated example of the big church to small church phenomena? Stay tuned.

Barna Bungles Small Church vs Big Church Survey

imagesI first saw it on Twitter — “Big differences in what small churches believe vs. big churches” — or something like that.  Then, I saw it again a couple of days later.  So I clicked the link and found myself staring at a Barna Group survey turned into a nice bar graph compliments of Church Relevance.

Normally, I like Barna’s stuff.  I’ve got some of his books, and generally the Barna folks provide some helpful insights into the world of church and opinion.  But the more I looked at their survey, How Faith Varies By Church Size, the more concerned I became.  In short, Barna bungled this one.

The survey summary runs like this:

  • Of 17 questions about belief and behavior, there were significant differences between those surveyed who attended churches of 100 or less, and those who attended churches of 1,000 or more.
  • Both groups had in common that they prayed during the week.
  • Barna states: “On all 9 of the belief statements tested, attenders of large churches were more likely than those engaged in a small or mid-sized congregation to give an orthodox biblical response…”
  • And again: “On seven of the eight behavioral measures, attenders of large churches were substantially more likely than those of small churches to be active.”

Implication: People who attend small churches aren’t “orthodox” in their faith, and aren’t as involved as people who attend large churches.

But here’s the kicker: Barna acknowledges that “six out of ten” demographic attributes were not alike at the small versus large church.  Small church members were older; large church members were significantly younger.  Small church members were less educated, while large church members had more college graduates. Large church members had 16% more registered Republicans than small church members.  Barna states that “3,014 interviews were conducted” but the total respondent numbers in each column add up to only 1,334 — what happened to the other 1,680? I could go on, but you get the picture.

But wait, there’s more!  Barna uses the term “Protestant” to identify both small and large churches.  Well, that covers a lot of territory.  I would expect to see some theological and behavioral differences in my church (100) versus Joel Osteen’s church (30,000), and we’re both Protestant in some loosey-goosey sort of way.  My point is that if Barna had compared small United Methodist churches to large ones; or small Baptist churches to large ones; or small Assembly of God churches to large ones, his survey might (I think definitely would) have yielded a different picture.

Also, Barna doesn’t disclose the real questions, only his “description” of the actual survey questions, but they do admit that non-sampling errors could arise from question wording, question sequencing, and even the recording of responses.  To top it off, the survey is not reported by age or other personal profile markers like education, i.e., respondents from both small and large churches who are 40 years old. So, you can’t compare what one demographic in the small church believes versus the same demographic in the large church.  Barna is comparing apples to oranges to use a well-worn cliche.

Why am I so lathered up about this?  Because this “survey” implies that small churches aren’t as “orthodox” in the faith as large ones, based on Barna’s own definition of orthodoxy.  It’s a disparaging view of small churches, casting suspicion on them for belief and behavior of their members, and that aspersion from a flawed survey that is not fully disclosed.

The interesting footnote to all this is that house churches — under 20 in attendance — have results similar to mega churches.  Barna has a dog in the house church “revolution” fight with his book by the same name, so I question the validity of this conclusion, especially since he provides no place on his chart for detailing other house church responses.

One has to wonder what the point of this survey was if it does not provide any helpful comparison of large church versus small church life due to its flawed design.  Either Barna rushed this one out the door too fast, or there’s another shoe about to drop on small churches.  What do you think?

My church isn’t small, it’s mid!

I am proposing a new set of labels to describe a church’s size —

  • Mega-church.  Size: 1000+.  Everybody knows this term, because it’s already in use, so this is an easy one.
  • Meso-church.  Size:  300-to-999.  Meso, according to Wikipedia, means middle or intermediate.  So, this is the in-between size church.  In between mega– and mid-which I am now getting to.
  • Mid-church.  Size: 60-299.  This is “the-size-formerly-known-as-small.”  Mid- is a median size church according to A Field Guide to U. S. Congregations.  The median size church has 200 involved in church, and about 90 in attendance on any given Sunday.  That’s my church, and that size is the mid-point for all churches in the U. S., hence midchurch
  • Micro-church.  Size:  under-60.  This size includes a lot of family churches, and face-to-face groups like house churches.  NBC did a piece on micro-churches here.

Notice that we have four Ms here.  Could almost be a sermon.  But I think this new taxonomy will provide some relief to those of us in churches-formerly-known-as-small.  Now when you go to the pastors’ conference next week, you can exclaim — “I’m pastor of a mid-church.”  Sounds better, don’t you think?  Plus, it’s true, which is always a good thing.  Anybody want to join The Society for the Redesignation of Small Church to Mid-church?