4 Lessons That Megachurches Can Learn From Churches Of 50
By: Vanderbloemen June 2, 2015
Megachurches don’t get to be “mega” by accident. Beyond establishing clear vision, building great teams, and creating an environment people are drawn to, megachurch leaders and teams work strategically and hard – and, of course, God is in control of church growth and he reaps the seeds we sow. Megachurches have had many blessings and truly occupy – as all churches do – a sacred space.
As times change, however, some large churches can stagnate, alienate current members, or repel newcomers. In our work with churches all over the world of every size, we’ve spotted 4 lessons that megachurches can learn from churches of 50.
1. Look out for the little guy (or gal).
Perhaps the most apparent lesson that large churches can learn from small ones is the feeling of not being noticed that many visitors and members can feel when attending a megachurch. Though there is a large number of people that are in attendance, making consistent efforts to touch lives are easy to implement and can go a long way. You can accomplish this with simple steps like increasing your number of greeters, providing members to be available for prayer, and encouraging high interaction with people around your welcome and coffee stations.
If you already have practices like this in place, take some time to examine them. Do your volunteers and staff feel cared for? Are their personalities in line with the job they’re doing? Do they have the resources they need to succeed? Often, megachurches let small details fall through the cracks that churches of 50 take time to address. While your coffee bar may look beautiful and your greeters might show up sharply dressed with a smile, are they achieving their desired goal, or do people leave your services feeling unnoticed?
2. Service is good for the soul.
People like to feel plugged in. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, created the human heart to find great significance and joy in service to others. Beyond the obvious benefits of helping others, acts of service bind people together and enrich their lives in big ways. The person that gives the blessing ends up being the person that receives it.
Even though service is something that grows our soul, we usually will try to find excuses not to serve. At megachurches, it can feel overwhelming to find a place to serve. Joining a team of strangers who are doing something that you’ve perhaps never done before (even if it is just brewing coffee) can be scary and is all the excuse someone needs to not get involved. Make sure that you care for your newcomers and existing flock by removing the barriers to service!
Beyond simply communicating to your congregation that there are ways they can serve, try to remove your typical entrance barriers. Give them an online signup form, make training simple and personal, set up a signup table with friendly, outgoing people to assist in getting people plugged in.
3. Small groups are vital.
My friend and co-worker Rusty Gates and I have talked at length about how there are many pieces of community in our lives that round out to fill our need for “church” and, ultimately, spiritual health. There is community in the Sunday gathering, definitely, but there is great staying power in the small group, and, in turn, the smaller group.
At a small church, joining a small group is easy. Likely, you’ll be invited by someone you meet during the service and that group will be one of only two or three that meet. Within that group, you’ll likely make some friends that will gather outside of that small group (in a smaller group) for dinner, etc. These groups and friendships all fuel our need for Christian community.
At a megachurch, however, people often show up with a seeking heart, but they get trapped in anonymity and settle for only coming to the Sunday gathering. It’s not surprising that they feel a lack of connection to the church. In order to care for your flock, get intentional about your small groups.
Mobilize volunteers to reach out and plug people in to small groups. Set up a system of small groups that meet with regularity and then make them easy to find. Put them on your website with the contact information of the leaders. Talk about them during your announcements or even make mention of them during your message.
Community groups can fail at megachurches because they aren’t managed properly, leading to spotty meeting times, inconsistent practices, and poor attendance. If you’re a Lead Pastor, take an interest in this! Do not just put this on the plate of an Associate or Small Groups pastor and then ignore it. Make small groups a priority item. Failing to take the pulse on community groups means failing to monitor a key aspect of the spiritual health of your flock as well as a key piece of your volunteer pipeline.
4. Celebrate the small victories.
At a small church, it’s likely that you’d have a meal or a celebration to accompany even one baptism. Also at a small church, it’s common to see a new member pulled on stage to share their story and be blessed by the pastor and congregation. These, and acts like them, help to bind the congregation together. Taking part in a celebration or a blessing or hearing someone’s story personalize the experience of church for members of your flock.
In megachurches, however, the sheer number of members and “small victories” is overwhelming. Financially, it’s almost impossible to have a banquet for thousands of people for every baptism. However, there are many ways to take notice of the practices of smaller churches in celebrating and find ways to adopt those on a larger scale. Perhaps an in-person interview on stage is better done with a video. Perhaps a day of baptisms is accompanied by cupcakes or a night of worship. Make it a point to celebrate the way God is working in the lives of the members of your congregation and you’ll give those in your congregation a personal stake in your church.
What other lessons can large churches learn from smaller churches?
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