Don't chase, attract.

If you spend your time chasing butterflies, they'll fly away. But if you spend your time making a beautiful garden, the butterflies will come to you.

When you focus on improving yourself, everything you want will come to you. We attract based on who we are, not what we want.

Don't chase, attract.


How Do You Measure a Church’s Success?

Religion News Service recently published an article “Why churches should not measure their growth against the economic boom.” The article suggests that churches are not a traditionally capitalistic venture and despite church leadership’s temptation to do so, they should not compare their church growth to economic growth nationwide. 

RNS reports that the average church has about 70 members, including children. Only 2 to 3 percent of churches have over 1,000 adult members. These megachurches might be replacing the “mom and pop” churches, smaller churches that simply can’t compete with the performance level of larger organizations. Indeed, RNS says that 50 percent of America’s churchgoers attend the largest 10 percent of churches. Meaning the remaining half of US churchgoers attend the remaining 90 percent of congregations.

Megachurches certainly get their fair share of media attention. With huge budgets, megachurches can afford to market what they offer to the general public. The lead pastors, like Lakewood Church’s Joel Osteen, become international celebrities in their own right. There is a level of success there that many small churches can only ever dream of replicating. But smaller churches should not consider themselves failures for not being able to reach such lofty goals.

Small Churches Are the Backbone of the Faith Community

Small businesses are considered the economic backbone of many communities. The US Small Business Administration released a report showing that there are 30.2 million small businesses in the United States employing 47.5 percent of the private workforce. The fact is, no one would call a small bookstore with a staff of two to three people unsuccessful because it serves a niche market to a local community rather than trying to compete with Amazon.

The same thing could be said of small churches- why should a small local church compare itself to a megachurch when they fulfill two entirely different needs? Christianity Today International published “The Main Way We’re Failing Small Churches” in February. Writer Karl Vaters makes the point that small churches can be and are effective at the size they’re at without growth.

Vaters says that much of the teaching aimed at pastors today is on breaking the “200 barrier”, that ever elusive 200 attendance mark that most churches never reach. Vaters suggests a change in the discourse entirely, and for pastors to stop treating a small congregation as a problem. Rather, he suggests giving each other the support and resources to succeed, however they may define that. It’s also important to note that small churches are often healthy at the size they’re at already, and even if the congregation is small, the reach within the local community is grand.

Smaller churches often have thriving small groups that provide important support for members. The megachurches struggle with personal connections that smaller churches have down pat. Most megachurches work hard to make individual connections, having pastors over certain segments of the congregation but it’s rare that the senior pastor would know each person in the church or have time to greet each and one every Sunday. But in most small churches, it would be rare that the pastor didn’t know each person.

What Makes Churches Successful?

Businesses create specific, measurable benchmarks that provide information about their success. Most businesses measure profits and sales to determine their success. Should churches measure success by the amount of money that comes in through the offerings? Or the number of people that are new?

In rural communities, these figures could be deceiving. Many smaller communities aren’t seeing growth in their population. Where do churches expect to get people from? Are churches that “steal” members from other churches more successful than ones that don’t?

Many of the things that make a smaller church successful are hard to quantify. Church members provide services to others, such as taking a member to a doctor’s appointment, delivering food to struggling families, or providing grief counseling. There’s no way to measure the economic value of this critical social support that keeps families secure.

While this can happen in megachurches, smaller churches can often respond much quicker to member’s needs. The larger the organization, the more bureaucracy involved in getting help. Just consider the difference between the Salvation Army and a local non-profit organization. The Salvation Army can help after a huge national disaster more effectively, but its services aren’t as personal as the local non-profit. It can take time for money to move into the hands of individuals.

Pastoring a church is a big job, no matter how large or small the congregation is. Regardless of size, churches can be effective if they choose to be. But perhaps we should be thinking differently about the definition of success.