This material relates to my book "Holy Places, Small Spaces:
a hopeful future for the small membership church."


“What Makes the Small Church Small?”

Well, what then is a small church? This question is often answered by picking a number. Some would say that a small church is one which in which the worshiping congregation is less than seventy five people. Other writers place this number at a hundred worshipers, or at 125, or even as high as 200. By any of these figures, the small church remains the most common form of religious organization in America.

While the average congregation in America gathers fewer than 100 people for worship each week, the average church attendee participates in a large church. If this math feels fuzzy to you, imagine that I had five one gallon buckets with two trout swimming in each one. I also have two five gallon buckets with six trout each, and one twenty gallon bucket with 25 fish. My average bucket would only be one gallon, but my average trout would be in the largest bucket. You would have to ask the trout to find out which bucket was the best. When Jesus calls us to be fishers of men, he doesn’t tell us which size bucket to bring.

In the United Methodist church, the average congregation has a weekly worship attendance of 51. There are approximately 3,000 United Methodist congregations with less than 25 members on their roles. Typically these micro-sized churches will have another twenty to thirty constituents, that is, people who consider themselves to belong to the church even though they haven’t joined. Counting these people, one could say that the total nurturing footprint of the smallest churches of this denomination numbers around 150,000 people, or about the population of city such as Tallahassee, Florida or Springfield, Massachusetts. If all the United Methodist congregations that average less than 25 on a Sunday were to close their doors, it would be akin to seeing one of those cities disappear.

Hints for Understanding Small Churches

What we shall be has not yet been made known, but right now we are children of God - 1 John 3:2
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