I’ve been a part of churches from across the size spectrum. I have discovered a number of myths about large churches I’d like to cover here, as well as listing the correlating truths related to these myths.
Myth #1: They have an abundance of volunteers who can do it better than I can. Some people who take part in a large church love it because of the anonymity a large church setting can offer and the fact that they think they won’t be needed to be active in ministry, but this thinking is folklore. The volunteer leaders in the large church are the same as those who are leading in a smaller church–they have jobs, kids, limited time, and they are trusting God to stretch their efforts into meaningful ministry. What’s the truth related to volunteers in a large church?
Because there are more people and because the church reaches a large part of the community,
the need for volunteers can be even greater than in a smaller church.
Myth #2: A large church affords me the luxury of just being in large group events. The cool thing about a large church is all the awesome events that they produce. I personally enjoy our large events! For some people, however, the large events and the large crowd on Sunday morning become a way that they avoid the honest, transparent relationships that can and should result from a small group. People can, in a large church, sometimes imagine that the large events are enough for growth. What’s the truth if this is fantasy?
A person will grow closer to God by participating in at least four areas: regularly worshipping and hearing God’s word proclaimed on Sundays, studying God’s word and applying it to my life by being regularly involved in a small group, regularly serving in the church or one of its community ministries, and attending the large one-time events as much as I can. All four work together. By themselves, they are not enough.
Myth #3: Large churches always have loads of money laying around. Just look at the cafe, the stage, the children’s area, etc. There must be some deep pockets that attend this church, my little bit surely won’t be missed.
The truth is, giving to a church of any size is based on obedience to what the Bible teaches about giving. Furthermore, the large churches I have been around and large church leaders who are my friends seem to have the same experience–they run as close a margin as a small church. When they miss their budget by as little as 1%, it can be a lot that they will need to make up.
Myth #4: The large church’s pastor is not involved with people in the church. This is a major misunderstanding. Large church pastors have usually risen to the leadership they have because they truly love people. It’s true that their time may be more limited, but it is not true that the large church’s pastor is disconnected from people who are hurting the most in the church.
Even Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County and one of the largest churches in America, reports he still does hospital visits and funerals and weddings. The same can be said for every large church pastor I know.
Myth #5: They have compromised the gospel to grow the crowd. My experience in large churches has been the opposite of this oft-repeated myth. I have found that large churches have been careful to find ways to creatively challenge people with biblical truth. I have found that large churches usually steward the gospel carefully because they recognize that great churches are born and grow because of the profound transformation that happens in the people’s lives, and this guarantees a great future as a church.
Myth #6: A smaller church is a better place to get to know people than in a big church. I don’t believe a smaller church has any social advantages over a large church, provided that the large church offers small groups. As long as small groups are happening, and people are willing to find roles to serve in within the ministries of the church, they will find just as many connections in the large church.
I have found that people who claim social difficulty in a large church will find it in the small one also–small group commitment and willingness to reach out to others are indispensable issues for finding friends in any church. Whether the church is 50 or 5000, the key is the willingness of the new person to jump in, but this may be a subject for another post.
So what about you? What do you think are the myths and truths of large and small church dynamics? Feel free to comment below.