In a recent article by Neil Cole, he states “ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one church of 1000.”
He also quotes Christian Schwarz , who says:
“The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches, the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.”
While I found a lot of interest and agreement in the article itself, I became very interested in some of the comments. One of the commenters said “Please, please, PLEASE, for the love of all that’s holy, can we stop this ridiculous false dichotomy that EITHER small churches are better or large churches are better? There are some excellent small churches. There are some terrible small churches. There are some excellent large churches. There are some terrible small churches. I have seen amazing fellowship in 1000+ member churches and pitiful fellowship in churches of <100.”
I don’t think Neil insinuated a dichotomy, false or otherwise. I think that based on the statistics provided, he’s just making a reasonable conclusion. Whether or not those numbers are statistically valid can be verified with just a little bit of research. While I don’t have statistics, my experience would line up with Neil’s conclusions.
Ultimately he closes with this thought: “that smaller churches are necessary, needed, and often more fruitful than we have been led to believe. And they often feel less significant in the shadows of their much larger sister around the corner.”
As for being missional or organic in my approach to ministry, I don’t think I’m a good fit in either camp. This caused me to coin my own word, “Missiorganic,” and I’ve been flushing that out practically ever since. I would encourage you to read the article and the comments which can be found HERE
For my part, I’d say that if you want to build a machine instead of a mission, size won’t matter.
I would also recommend reading a lengthy piece by Ralph D. Winter entitled “THE TWO STRUCTURES OF GOD’S REDEMPTIVE MISSION.”
For now, I’d like to ask a few questions:
1. What is your experience? Does the size of your church or gathering matter when it comes to being effective in mission?
2. Do we create false dictomoties when comparing size and effectiveness of gatherings?
3. Should the MEGA-churches be broken down into mini’s to better serve God’s mission?