The news is astounding. Churches with fewer than 250 in average worship attendance account for 92 percent of all churches in the United States. At Church Answers, we call these congregations “standard churches” because they represent all but 8 percent of churches.
It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to discern what important trends and developments are taking place that have direct bearing on standard churches. Here are five major developments.
1. There will likely be a migration to neighborhood and rural churches. We are certainly aware that the greater majority of attendees are in larger churches. But we are also aware that the post-quarantine era introduced a greater desire not to commute as much, as well as not to travel as much for other activities. A number of people also moved to the quieter life of smaller towns and rural areas. The opportunity is great to reach both these new residents and those willing to go to a smaller church.
2. Larger churches are growing by getting smaller. The multisite movement is a dramatic shift from church practices 20 years ago. Indeed, almost all of the largest churches in America grew by increasing their number of sites rather than growing at one location. The leaders of these churches know that growth must be horizontal rather than vertical. They understand that attendees prefer smaller congregations or, at least, smaller gatherings.
3. One person can lead a dramatic and positive change in a standard church. We are incredibly encouraged to hear about one or a few people leading substantive changes in a congregation. Here is a comment from a recent article I wrote: “I prayed for five visitors to come to church and ten came. I confess, I was shocked and so were the people in my small church. I have renewed zeal for what God calls me to do. I listen to and read everything you guys put out. I complained no one is doing anything to help our church and I heard Sam say it starts with you! So, I am knocking on doors. You said if you invite they will come. They are! Thank you, Church Answers!”
4. Standard churches now have opportunities to educate and train their own members. Standard churches in the past had to hire people from outside the church if they wanted someone with theological training. There are now many options with digital resources to provide education and training on the church field (see our fast-growing Church Answers University, for example.
5. Evangelism is returning to many standard churches. These churches are reaching and will reach people with the gospel as the leaders and members respond in obedience to the Great Commission. Evangelism is not the purview of a larger church only; it is the command for all churches and all Christians.
Some see nothing but problems with many standard churches. I see an abundance of hope and promise.
God is not done with you or your church.
This article was originally published at churchanswers.com on December 19. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.