Small Churches

Can Small Churches Survive the Millennium?

Small ChurchesBackground

I’ve attended church all my life. As a child, I was made to go to church almost every Sunday with my mother, aunt or grandmother. As with most children, I sat there and listened, fell asleep, woke up and then left when it was time to leave. However, the one thing I truly remember is the relationship we had with the church. I knew a lot of people there and pastor knew me, personally.

I gave my life to Christ when I was 30 years old and I seriously started attending church. Over the years, I have attended many churches, some big, some small. Recently, I have noticed a decline in the membership of the smaller churches. With the advent of ‘mega churches’ and the way we perceive going to church; the landscape had changed.

The New Millennium

In this new millennium, the mega churches seem to be thriving. The definition of a mega church is a church that generally has a Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations.

You wouldn’t notice a decline in mega church membership, until it was vast. Another reason you won’t notice a decline in mega churches is because of the way people attend those services. Mega churches have services in a building, on the web, on television and on radio. This has caused many to choose to sit back in their homes and ‘watch’ church rather than attend. It’s like you’re waiting to watch your favorite television show or sporting event. Now on Sunday morning we don’t even have to get out of bed. All we have to do is cut the television on and tune in to church.

Where are the People?

I currently play keyboards at two different small churches. Each Sunday, I come out of my home and see a parking lot full of cars. Hardly anyone makes their way to church anymore. When I was growing up, almost everyone could be seen going to church each Sunday. It was a tradition. You couldn’t go outside and play with your friends until you served the Lord. However, today I have seen kids outside playing at 9:00 in the morning rather than going to church.

Small Churches and AttendanceSmall Churches

Once I’m at church, the number of people present is saddening. There are your loyal and faithful few but the numbers just aren’t there. Here are some reasons I believe the small church attendance is suffering:

  1.     As I stated earlier, the options to attend church is far more prevalent than in the past. When I grew up, the only way to attend church was to actually go to the building. Sure, you could hear it on the radio but most people didn’t care to listen to church. Today, you can attend church without ever leaving your bed. We are so technologically advanced that most have televisions in the bedroom, connected to satellite or cable. All they have to do is roll over and tune in to their favorite church. Some churches will even allow you to be a member without ever attending a service in person. It’s called eMembership.
  2.       Being associated with a mega church is more alluring to some people. I call this ‘social church’. When I got to the DC area and asked about a church, some people were quick to say, “I go to…” Researching these churches, I found they were very big (mega) churches.  I decided to go to one of them and see what the fuss was about. I found myself ‘caught up’ in the lure. Each Sunday, there was about 3,000 people who attended that church. I quickly joined and became one of those people saying, “I go to…”
  3.       Parenting has changed the way we think about church. In my day, we had no choice about church; we were going and that was it. I remember many Sundays at my grandmother’s house when I was made to go to church. But when I reached that point in my life when I felt my problems were heavy, I knew who to call. Today, it’s hard enough getting the parents to go to church much less the children.

The Question, Can Small Churches Survive?

But the question here is whether or not the small church can survive this new world we live in today? We are the church (1 Corinthians 12:27) and therefore the small church will survive as long as we survive. The ‘why’ is because in your walk with Christ, you will reach a point where tele-church won’t work, social church won’t work, and alignment with known church members won’t work. But, what will work is the word of God. You will find yourself hitting a point in your life where you will seek a place where you can build and have a close relationship with the leader of the church, other members of the church and you will want to learn as much as you can about His word.

When I was a member of that mega church, I got to a point where I realized that I didn’t know anyone there. 3,000 people attended the same church but I was alone in my worship. I also realized that I had never met the pastor. Even when I attended all the new member orientations, I never got an opportunity to even say “hi” to him. I also began to realize that I wasn’t being given enough, nor was I doing enough. Sure, I was being taught the word like everyone else in the service but I needed more.

Small ChurchesWhat I Needed

I needed that personal relationship with others who attended the church. I needed a personal relationship with the pastor. I needed to be involved. The mega church had a number of ministries but no opportunity for me to get in and do what I felt was my calling. When I had issues, I couldn’t call the pastor. I’m sure they had some sort of hotline or minister on call but I knew that person even less than the pastor.

When I moved to the small church, I found myself home. I immediately joined the music ministry, built several friendship with people that I am still friends with today and had a personal relationship with my pastor. If I have an issue, I know who I can call.


The small church will survive because more people will realize that ‘playing church’ won’t suffice. At some point the calling over your life will be too great and you will make changes in your life. You will go home like I did.

Be blessed