Do smaller congregations and larger parishes have anything in common in respect to taking care of one another, having a sense of belonging, or sense of community for its members? Or is there a difference in caring and belonging based on congregational size? Do smaller congregations have more closer relationships with one another or not? Or do medium size congregations have enough critical mass for caring and belong to happen without being programmatic? Can bigger parishes provide a sense of community and closeness? Is there a particular church size when the congregational culture moves from relationships to programs? Are pastoral leader and congregant’s responses to caring and community similar or different?
I think some of the preliminary data from the National Survey will provide for good conversations. So far, the National Survey involved over 6100 participants belonging to 194 congregations/parishes. It is curious to see, in a very general way, the perceptions of pastoral leaders and congregants around caring for one another and the priority of community.
Figure 1- People Taking Care of One Another (Congregants)
Figure 1 indicates congregant’s responses to taking care of one another in the congregation. 78% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.
Figure 2- People Taking Care of One Another (Pastoral Leaders)
Figure 2 provides pastoral leader’s responses based on various congregational sizes. What grabbed my attention is in larger churches with an attendance of 500-999, almost 71% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, while churches of 1000-1999 approached 86% (understanding that the sample size is a bit smaller); compared to almost 79% of congregations under 100 who agreed and strongly agreed with this statement. Again, in a general way, although Figure 2 reveals pastoral leader’s responses to be in the higher ranges of agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement (Under 100= 78.95%; 100-199= 97.56%; 200-349= 89.97%; 350-499= 81.25%; 500-999= 70.58%; and 1000-1099= 85.71%), Figure 1 indicate congregant’s responses at 78% agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement.
Figure 3- Provide A Sense of Community (Congregants)
Figure 3 shows that almost 62% of congregants place a high and essential priority on community.
Figure 4- Provide A Sense of Community (Pastoral Leaders)
What is fascinating in Figure 4 from a broad perspective is regardless of church size, pastoral leader’s responses are always higher than congregant’s responses to a sense of community as a high and essential priority.
Again, this data is preliminary and further and deeper analysis and interpretation is needed. As mentioned in the beginning of this newsletter: Does congregational size matter when it comes to caring for one another in the parish and having a sense of community with each other? Further thoughts? If you have found this to be helpful, please share this post on Facebook or Twitter.
Five Reasons Why I Love Small Churches
Ron Johnston is Director, Small Church Connections
I have a passion for the small church. It is my hope that that passion is contagious because I would love to see everyone catch the bug. I believe that the small church has an important role to play in the church world in Canada. I appreciate this opportunity to share that passion in the Flourishing Congregations Institute’s newsletter.
Here are five reasons why I believe the small church is important.
God made a lot of them.
There are thousands of small churches in urban and small-town settings across the country. Someone has said that God must love small churches because he sure made a lot of them.
This is true not only in Canada but all around the world. The percentage of small churches is about the same in the United States as here in Canada. In much of Europe the percentage is even higher. There is a plentiful supply in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
I love small churches because there are so many of them.
A lot of people attend them.
I don’t think that anyone has a definite statistic for the number of people attending small churches on a Sunday morning but there are far more than we think. My personal estimate is that there are at least 500,000 people in small churches every week and it may be considerably higher than that.
If you are in a small church and feel like you are part of a dying breed, remember that you are not alone. You are part of a very significant group in the Canadian church culture.
I love small churches because of all the people who attend them.
They provide a learning ground for future leaders.
A few years ago, I conducted an informal survey of Canadian leaders who had grown up in a small-church setting. I received a response from a little over one hundred leaders serving in churches, denominational offices, seminaries and para-church organizations.
One of the questions that I asked was how growing up in a small church had prepared them for their leadership role today. The most common answer that I received was that the small church gave them opportunities in which to serve.
Small churches often provide a place in which teenagers and young adults can develop their first skills in leadership. Many of those young people go on to play an important role in the larger church culture in Canada. This point is personal for me in that I had the chance to preach my first sermon in a small church when I was seventeen.
I love small churches because they provide future leaders.
Jesus understood the importance of small.
The church in Jerusalem is often held out as an example of what the church should be today. Peter preached a sermon and three thousand people responded. In one day the church went from small to mega.
Is it really a fair comparison? The Jerusalem church had exceptional leadership that had been mentored by Jesus himself. The people who listened to Peter had heard Jesus teach and had seen his miracles. They had seen him die and had witnessed the events of that day. There probably has never been a better prepared crowd anywhere to respond to the gospel message.
On the other hand, Jesus wasn’t just focused on the big. He told his followers that whenever even a few people gathered in his name he was present with them. He understood that not all churches were meant to be the same.
I love small churches because Jesus is present in them.
Jesus loves the small church and I need to love it too.
The value of your church is not measured by its size or its budget or its programs. The value of your church is measured by its relationship with Jesus. That relationship is one of love. Jesus loved the church, whatever its size, and gave himself for it Eph, 5:25.
I love small churches because Jesus loves them too.It isn’t the size of a church that determines its value.
It is its relationship with Jesus and the impact that it makes as it plays out that relationship in the setting in which Jesus has called it to serve.
We’re Listening to…
Dr. Joel Thiessen
In this podcast, listen to our very own Joel Thiessen discuss questions such as: Have you ever wondered what makes a church thrive? Or wondered about the different data surrounding churches in Canada today?
Launched in Fall 2018, the New Waters Podcast goal is to help Canadian Christian leaders ask big questions and lead thoughtfully as they engage with faith and navigate the sea of change we find ourselves in. Our second season just launched and will look at how we can best navigate not only our present moment but the future as the church in Canada. To learn more, visit the podcast page.
The 2020 Pastor’s Conference in partnership with The Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University: Life Together: Discipleship in an Age of Distraction; Save the date for February 19, 2020.
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