Canon Fire – Why Small Churches Stay Small

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Updates

10 Reasons Why Small Churches Stay Small

Looking for something to write about for this month’s newsletter I ran across an article I saved about small churches. I thought I’d share the 10 reasons here and include the narrative on number 6 – No Plan. As I read the article Proverbs 29:18 KJV came to mind, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

If you’d like the whole article, email me and I’ll send it to you. The bishop has just appointed the members of a Strategic Development Committee for the Diocese which he will chair and Father Patrick Smith will serve as Vice-Chair (see article below). The mission of the committee is to help our churches engage in vision casting and planning and also to advise the bishop on a strategic plan for the diocese. Here are the 10 reasons for staying small, followed by the section on “No plan:”

1. Wanting to Stay Small.
2. A quick turnover of pastors.
3. Domination by a few strong members.
4. Not trusting the leaders.
5. Inferiority complex.
6. No plan.
7. Bad Health
8. Lousy fellowship.
9. Neglect of building and grounds.
10. No prayer


6. No plan:
“The typical, stagnant small church is small in ways other than numbers. They tend to be small in vision, in programs, in outreach, and in just about everything else.

Perhaps worst of all, they have small plans. Or no plans at all.

The church with no plan – that is, no specific direction for what they are trying to do and become – will content itself with plodding along, going through the motions of “all churches everywhere.” They have Sunday School and worship services and a few committees. Once in awhile, they will schedule a fellowship dinner or a revival. But ask the leadership, “What is your vision for this church?” and you will receive blank stares for an answer.

Here are two biblical instances of church leaders who knew what they were doing.

In Acts 6, when the church was disrupted by complaints from the Greek widows of being neglected in the distribution of food in favor of the Hebrew widows, the disciples called the congregation together. They said, “It is not right for us to neglect….(how they would fill in this blank reveals their plan)…in order to wait on tables.” And then, as they commissioned the seven men chosen, the disciples said, “We will turn this responsibility over to them and give our attention to….(fill in the blank).”

In the first instance, the disciples saw their plan as “the word of God” and in the second as “prayer and the ministry of the word.”

How do you see your ministry, pastor? What is your church’s focus?

Earlier, when Peter and John were threatened by the religious authorities who warned them to stop preaching Jesus, they returned to the congregation to let them know of this development. Immediately, everyone dropped to their knees and began praying. Notice the heart of their prayer, what they requested: “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to…..(what? how they finished this is how we know their plan, their chief focus).”

“…to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29)

When the Holy Spirit filled that room, the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (v. 31) Clearly, that means they spoke it into the community, the world around them, and not just to one another.

When I asked a number of leaders for their take on why so many small churches do not grow, several said, “They need to focus on the two or three things they do best. Not to try to be everything to everyone.”

Some churches need to focus on children’s ministry, others on youth or young adults, young families, or even the oldsters. (Tell me why it is when a church is filled with seniors, we look upon it as failing. It’s as though white-haired people of our society don’t need to be reached for the Lord.)

Some will focus on teaching, others on ministry in the community, someone jail and prison ministries, and some on music or women’s or men’s work.

One note of explanation: this is not to say that the church should shut down everything else to do one or two things. Rather, they will want to keep doing the basics, but throw their energies and resources, their promotions and prayers and plans, into enlarging and honing two or three ministries they feel the Lord has uniquely called them into.”

Food for thought.

Father Jim Fosdick SSC
Canon to the Ordinary

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