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Smaller churches are poised to make a comeback

I read an article recently by Thom S. Rainer, who is a church consultant when it comes to church growth and vitality, where he stated there are indications that smaller churches may be in a great position despite the declining numbers in worship attendance per Sunday.

He stated the median size church which use to be consider from 100 to 249 in worship has moved downward from 100 to 70 in the past ten years. And while that seems like bad news for any church, it means one-half of all American congregations have fewer than 70 in worship attendance. And yes, more people are attending larger churches than they were in the past twenty years, but he sees positive outcomes as a result of a few particular items small churches have to focus on.

Two-thirds of churches have an attendance under 125. The smaller church is the norm, not the exception.

Rainer stated that "though the news has not been that promising for smaller churches in recent years, I do see some very promising signs for the years ahead." Here are some reasons why he believes this:

  1. There is a revitalization of revitalization. The increased emphasis on church revitalization portends well for all churches, particularly smaller churches.

  2. More pastors are content in Christ at smaller churches. They don't see their present assignment and call as a stepping stone to something bigger. They love their churches and the communities they serve.

  3. The church replanting movement will help many struggling smaller churches. Instead of closing, these churches will be given new life with the leadership and resources of another church.

  4. There is a renewed commitment to neighborhood churches. Those churches were once the witness and ministry of Christ in a very specific area. There is a renewal of that emphasis.

I would add these to the list in relation to the situation here at Spring Creek:

  1. Stay focused on the vision. Decisions on programming, resources of money and time, leadership decisions must be focused on that vision (In SCUCC's case) our three vision points.

  2. Create family-friendly space and activities. Parents need their children to feel welcomed in worship and faith formation classes. (Note: Everyone must be focused on this. If kids are not welcome in worship, then we should not say, No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are loved and welcomed here.)

If noises of children being in worship bother members of a congregation, then simply don't claim to be welcoming toward ALL people, and soon you won't hear noises from any children because they will go with their families elsewhere. One of the best ways to be welcoming is for an adult or teen to sit down next to a child and help them worship in their own way. By doing this, you create a community and good relationships between not only the kids, but also their parents. Just ask yourself, "Who, in my childhood, helped to welcome me in class or worship so I felt safe and loved?" As a small child, there was a woman who always welcomed me with a warm smile and a big hug even when I was no longer in her class. As well, my Sunday School teacher in 5th-6th grade who had me as his only student, but always made feel safe from being "wrong" in my answers to Bible questions, and welcomed my "squirmy" demeanor every Sunday. When I reached high school age, it was my Sunday School teacher who allowed me to ask questions about faith without correction or rebuke. And believe me, I asked a lot of questions. And, it was my youth minister who accepted me even when I didn't "follow the program."

It is that simple folks. And perhaps, some misunderstood me when I preached the message of "All are welcomed here, but all behaviors are not." The behaviors I spoke of referred to adults who willingly and intentionally disrupt worship by their hurtful words toward those who do not "believe" like them. It was never intended to mean the behavior of kids in worship.

Sure, the large size churches can staff to allow a congregation to take kids out of worship. However, it is the smaller churches who can create a community in worship that encapsulates Jesus words, "Let the little children come to me... and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."

Smaller Standard

0 to 49 worship attendance

40% of churches in America

Larger Standard

50 to 124 worship attendance

27% of churches in America


125 to 249 worship attendance

18% of churches in America


250 to 499 worship attendance

8% of churches in America

Very Large

500 to 999 worship attendance

4% of churches in America

Mid Mega

1,000 to 1,999 in worship attendance

2% of churches in America


2,000+ in worship attendance

Less than ½ of 1%

Thank you to Gary Stillwell for leading worship this past Sunday. It was such a great experience to have our children and grandchildren all together for the first time to celebrate Aiyla's dedication.

I will be in the pulpit this Sunday, July 14th, and then leaving afterwards for a week's vacation. Rev. Becky Erbe from Second-First will lead worship on July 21. I will be back in the office on Monday, July 22.

Any pastoral emergencies, please call the church office.

Pastor Steve

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