Two Kinds of Medium Sized Church People

Here are some more thoughts on the medium-sized church crisis. My post the other day attracted a fair amount of comments and attention… and I was pretty frustrated that people jump to the issue of money.

I only think that the money problems of current are bringing the Medium-sized church crisis to the forefront. At the end of the day I’m meeting two types of churchoers. Once you cut past the nice fluff they say about their churches and preacher they are really either small church people or megachurch people.

What does this mean for medium-sized church? My experience in medium-sized churches is that there is a tension between these two types of people. One is resistant of anything “small church” so stuff that is appealing to the small church is annoying to them and visa versa. Eventually, misguided and unaccepted tension results in hurt feelings, bitterness, disappointment, and a range of other typical medium-church angst.

And that angst is why I’m saying the medium church is in crisis… Eventually, church leaders must chose to lead their church one direction or the other: Lead towards smaller environments or toward becoming a megachurch. The cultural division is causing this squeeze. The financial crisis merely accelerates the trend.

A Personal Example

In Romeo, we mislabeled these cultural issues as a “personal preference issue” instead of a cultural issue. Big mistake! Our small church folks didn’t mind if the worship team wasn’t professional sounding or if the church basement was a bit too homey for potlucks. Small church people find those things endearing… maybe even spiritual.

Meanwhile, the megachurch people wanted everything to be like the megachurch they used to go to and they wanted the church to become. Everything was compared to the megachurch down the road or the stuff they saw on TV or enjoyed at a conference or read about online. To the megachurch people, the failure of the small church people to realize all that Romeo could become was an abomination… a spiritual failure at worse and a lack of vision at best.

See… this isn’t about money at all. Maybe I’ll be called a heretic for this? But, I will tell you what 10 years of church ministry has taught me about giving. Giving has 0% to do with what people are taught from the Bible and 100% to do with whether or not they feel that their money will further a cause they believe in. People are just sophisticated like that. They see right through the pleas for cash to your motivation. When motivations converge they give. When they disagree they give somewhere else. Christians are extremely generous… but they won’t give to a church simply because they go there.

Next, let’s talk about money. I’ve only hinted at it, lets hit it straight away next time.

Then, I want to talk about the superiority of small church and megachurch missions in our culture. This is the core reason for the crisis.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

11 comments

  1. Thanks for this follow up post. We are experiencing this at our church. We have both groups as we are a old traditional church (UMC) that offers 5 services reaching all age groups. How do you get people from the small church view to join the big church view?

  2. How do you get city people to like living in the sticks? How do you get people who like rap to like Barry Manilow?

    Only three things from what I can tell.

    1. Love. I’ll change my culture for the love of ____.
    2. Earned respect.

    The long and short is simple though. Small church people aren’t going to become large church people any more than large church people are going to become small church people.

    Neither is better… if you were a missionary and these small church people were doing this, what would you do?

  3. I agree. This though isn’t any magic fix. Often the most misunderstood fact in church transformation is that it takes time. If we were to look at most churches that have gone from small church mindset to large church mindset, most are new churches. The church books out now are written predominately by church leaders of new churches. What about the churches that have members who have been there for 80-90 years? I’m not looking for an easy solution. Just more than normal answers of missional focus (which we are) or love (inward community) etc.

  4. My wife and I just had this same conversation last night. We’re seeing the same trends in business and technology. Everything is getting bigger or smaller. There seems to be very little in between. Look at the size of our t.v.’s, the standard sizes are 54 inches or cell phone size. It’s either Super-Duper Wal-Mart or Dollar General. There’s very little in between.

    I think it comes down to what the individual values…

    So, the questions I have are what are the governing values of a Mega-Church vs. a small church? And, is that a reflection of the individual that attends each?

  5. @kevin- I think some of the disconnect is this idea that small church people need to change! That is exactly the point, their ideal isn’t big. Their ideal is small. And in our American world something that is small is seen as bad. As Chris mentioned, there is a new draw to both large and small. I LOVE that the intention of the church we go to is to always be a neighborhood driven thing. We start drawing from a new neighborhood and we don’t think “how can we add those people here?” We start thinking, “who can plant a church in that neighborhood?”

    I’m saying that instead of wasting all that energy to try to convert small to big or big to small… just make a choice and let people move.

  6. Enjoying the conversation on all this Adam! As you know, I’m not a pastor or even an church elder, I’m just a guy who loves Jesus and the church where I was introduced to him. It’s a bigger church, mega (maybe?) but I’ve come to know a lot of people there. I do tithe based on biblical principle and give based on agreement with a cause that I feel furthers God’s kingdom. My ability to give has most certainly been affected by the economy. I hope that the fact that we’re all (small, medium and Mega) part of the same body, the body of Christ, is not lost in all this. Sometimes, I sense that there is some kind of “competition” for lost people between these “groups” or churches and that this “competition” is intensified in tough economic times. I don’t particularly like feeling that way! My hope is that we can all get just get along, support each other and further God’s kingdom. Am I off-base / cynical / naive?

  7. @kevin- as usual, you’re dead on. I do think biblical truth has “some” to do with the giving part of things. But mostly when it also rings true with who you are.

    Yeah, where you go is a place I’d call “mega.” My theory is that the big will keep getting bigger (and better!) and the small will explode in growth as well.

    It’s all just a theory… completely for the sake of a fun discussion.

    Love having you part of it!

  8. I totally agree w/ your thoughts regarding $. I’ve seen it in multiple churches. There are always a few who give no matter what, but the majority give only when they are motivated by what the $ is going to.
    I’ve seen churches behind budget on giving, but at the same time has no problem raising $ for special funds/ministry projects.

  9. Not sure the size of church matters… We as individuals are the church. God is not concerned with numbers. In God’s eyes there is no small, medium, or mega-church. The problem is not the numerical size of church, but the problem is the people that attend the church have taken their eyes off of Jesus and have begun to worry about things like numbers (money and congregation). A church leader should not choose what size of church he/she desires, but rather choose what type of relationship with God they desire. Heaven and earth shall pass away. I am sure God laughs at us as we merely attend our church’s and play church then leave and go right back to thing’s that God hates….. I could go all day here. lol. Good post.. Thought provoking

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