Bryan, among others, has posted today regarding mega-churches. As a pastor of a small, rural church, I have heard my share of opinions on mega-churches from my congregation. As I mentioned on Bryan’s blog, it’s a bit ridiculous and absurd to think that God does not use mega-churches for his kingdom. In fact, we might say he uses them more simply because there are more people there to use!
While there are certainly many positives about a mega-church, there are downsides, too. Here are a few observations on mega-churches vs. smaller churches.
*Note: My thoughts here reflect an understanding of “mega-church” as one that has a membership in the thousands, whereas “smaller” or “average” churches have memberships only in the hundreds (or less, in my church’s case).
- There are more members to be about the work of the Gospel.
- There are more finances to fund the work of the Gospel at home and abroad.
- There are more resources and facilities for community ministry.
- There is a variety of areas for church members to be involved; this can be helpful for Christians to find a place they can work joyfully in ministry.
- There is usually a choice worship services depending on your preference of worship styles (generally).
- Usually there is a large staff, which is better suited to meet the multitude of needs that are invariably going to present with a large congregation
- From a pastor’s perspective, there is great opportunity to affect many lives with the proclamation of the Gospel.
- Large congregations are perfect places for people to “get lost in the crowd”; in other words, it’s harder to be called upon for service or ministry when you’re just one of many faces.
- Often the pastor of large or mega-churches only knows a small percentage of the congregation. This is partially due to the constant flux of membership in large churches, but also to sheer logistics—it’s impossible to initiate, develop and maintain close pastoral relationships with thousands of people and still manage other tasks of pastoral ministry.
- There is always the tendency for some churches to grow for the sake of growing—it is a sign of God’s blessing, right?
- It can help reinforce the stereotype of American Christianity as materialistic in nature—bigger is better. This is especially true of churches that have extraordinarily large “campuses.”
- Due to the large congregation and plethora of choices regarding study groups, it’s easy for “communities within the community” to develop, thereby creating a tremendous disconnect between members of the body.
- Smaller congregations are more conducive to a familial atmosphere—everyone knows everyone else (this is not always a good thing!).
- Similarly, the smaller church is often a very tight-knit community.
- The pastor is more able to develop and maintain relationships with all the people in the church.
- Smaller churches in small communities and towns afford the pastor and the congregation the unique ability to get to know more people in their area.
- The opportunities for service and ministry are decidedly fewer, though certainly not absent. Also, resources are decidedly more limited in smaller congregations.
- Many smaller churches tend to be more traditional in the sense of an unwillingness to adapt in certain ways to an ever-changing culture (especially regarding youth and young adults).
- There are generally fewer study group choices.
- Following out the previous point, there are generally fewer teachers and other volunteers to take on the various tasks of church life, thus sometimes overloading the ones who do give of themselves.
- Fewer staff mean more responsibility for the pastor, deacons, and others. This can be tough for the pastor, especially when needs/problems arise that are beyond his training (hence, the need for referral to a professional).
These are just a few thoughts that I have mulled over in my years as a pastor. Personally, if I could just be a church-goer again, I would prefer attending a larger church, simply because of the numerous opportunities for varied study and ministry. However, I have experienced the benefits of the smaller church, and am pleased to serve in this way as long as God would have me do so.
What are you thoughts on the issue?
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