A recent cover story in The Christian Century - a liberal Christian magazine read by many mainline clergy and lay people - addressed being Church in the land of Mega-Churches. It has many insightful comments and I'll blog on some of them in coming weeks, but the one that struck me most is this:
"Becoming part of a small congregation can look like a lot of work" (from the perspective of a visitor who has Mega Church expectations of a full array of services to meet a multitude of needs). The author of the article, "Oversized Expectations," a smaller church pastor added, "And it is."
He adds, "Their (guests looking for a church home) criticism (or leeriness) is valid. It does take a lot of work to be in a small congregation. Many people visit a small church thinking it will be simple and quaint, when the truth is that life in small churches in complex. Members of a small church have multiple roles and responsibilities..." And one example of the need for flexibility and to improvise: "On Sunday mornings it is not uncommon for a family to show up and have all its members drafted into roles they were not expecting to play when they left home."
Recent statistics indicate that 60% of churches in the U.S. have fewer than 100 members. A mere 10% of congregations - of every denomination or independent - have 350 or more members. A Mega Church is defined as having more than 2,000 in services over one weekend.
Mega Churches are not the norm, but they are becoming normative in terms of what prospective members consider important characteristics - multiple programs and specialized staff.
PHCC has around 150-175 members with an average of 82 (in 2009) adults and children on Sunday and we share all the joys of a small church - knowing many if not most people, easy to get involved - and all its challenges - seemingly never "enough" to do all the things we'd like to do.
Having always been part of smaller congregations, I wouldn't want to be the pastor of anything else. I feel blessed, if not at times stressed.